Agoraphobia is intense fear or anxiety triggered by at least two different situations. Examples of triggers could be using public transport (buses trains, planes), being in open spaces (eg. parking lots, bridges), being in enclosed places (such as shops or cinemas), standing in line or being in a crowd, or being outside of the home alone (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). The key aspect is that the person fears that escape might be difficult or embarrassing, or that help might not be available. Agoraphobia can be very debilitating, to the point where individuals can isolate themselves and not leave the home.
How can a psychologist help?
Treatment for agoraphobia may involve a range of approaches, depending on the needs of the individual. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy is an evidence-based treatment that involves teaching coping strategies to manage anxiety (eg. relaxation training, mindfulness skills) as well as learning more helpful thinking style. Treatment is likely to focus in part on how the person is thinking about the situation and what predictions they are making. Treatment would proceed to the person gradually exposing themselves to the feared situations from the least fearful to the most fearful (graded exposure). Developing other skills such as assertive communication may also be a component of treatment if relevant. It may also be beneficial for some clients to talk to their GP about whether medication could assist.
How a psychologist can help
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC.
Perina, K. (Ed.) (2016, December 29) Agoraphobia. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/agoraphobia
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