This is an anxiety disorder that raises perceptions of fear towards the environment. Individuals suffering from this disorder perceive the environment as dangerous be it open places, shopping areas, public transit etc. Such individuals only consider their homes as the only safe place they can be. In serious cases individuals suffering from agoraphobia may not leave their homes at all and this may last for more than six months. Agoraphobia is categorized as a phobia under social phobia. Affected individuals are susceptible to depression and substance use. It is a combination of genetic and environmental factors (Robert, 2008).
This conditions subjects victims to fear in unfamiliar environments. It arouses feelings of anxiety and sufferers have little control over themselves when exposed to their external environment. The following are the signs and symptoms of agoraphobia
- Fear of social embarrassment
- Fear of death
- Distraught in public places
- Victims may suffer from temporary separation anxiety disorder
- Susceptibility to panic attacks
Individuals with this disorder always want to dissociate themselves from people just to satisfy their emotional comfort. Short panic attacks are common for victims of agoraphobia and they can hardly control themselves during such attacks. Their fear of public embarrassment may trigger temporary separation disorder where they resort to solitude.
Agoraphobia affects adults and it begins ate early adulthood and ends at old age. It is more common in women than in men. Women are affected twice as much as men. Children are hardly affected by agoraphobia. About 3.2 million adults in the United States aged between 18 and 55 suffer from agoraphobia. This translates to 2.2 percent of the population of this age group. This statistic is derived from the annual diagnosis rate of agoraphobia (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Potential impact at workplace
It is a general tendency for victims of agoraphobia to abscond their work and sometimes for long periods of time. It is difficult to manage such employees because one cannot predict their future within an organization. Additionally, after agoraphobia attack, it is very unlikely for such individuals to re-establish contact at the places of work. It is therefore important for employers to keep in touch with such employees and make adjustments in their working environments to suit their conditions.
More often than not, individuals suffer from agoraphobia after a panic attack. It is the subsequent anxiety and fear after a panic attack that triggers agoraphobia. This means that treating panic disorder can prevent agoraphobia. The most common treatment method of this disorder is therapy. Exposure treatment and systematic desensitization may also be used to treat agoraphobia. However, most patients are likely to recover faster under exposure treatment as compared to other forms of treatment. This treatment method works best when the victim is in the company of their trusted friend. The treatment method that that has proved successful is cognitive restructuring. This involves psychological therapy whereby victims are taken through dianoetic discussion with the aim of replacing irrational beliefs with rational and factual beliefs. This cognitive restructuring has proved to be a successful method of treatment because it changes the mindset of agoraphobia victims and brings them back to normalcy.