Understanding Panic Disorder & Agoraphobia


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Understanding Agoraphobia

Many people have what are called "specific phobias" (e.g., air travel, enclosed spaces, heights, snakes, spiders, etc.).  These phobias are called “specific” because they relate to only one type of situation.  Usually, they don't greatly interfere with daily life.

Agoraphobia, on the other hand, affects many different types of situations and greatly interferes with daily life.

A large proportion of people with panic disorder develop agoraphobia, which results when the individual restricts his/her activities in an effort to avoid panic attacks.

For example, if the first panic attack was on a freeway, the individual might avoid that particular freeway.  Later on, he/she might experience near-panic on another freeway.  So, he/she starts avoiding all freeways in an effort to avoid panic.

Unfortunately, the panic response is located inside the mind and body, not on the freeway.  So, the pattern of avoidance and withdrawal continues.  The association of panic and anxiety to many different situations is called agoraphobia.  Most often, these situations have to do with being away from home, being away from a "safe" person, or being in situations in which a quick “escape” could be difficult.

This website often refers to "panic disorder and agoraphobia," since the two conditions often go together, like two sides of a coin.  Agoraphobia is also very common among people who have social phobia, also known as "social anxiety disorder."  Social phobia differs from panic disorder, and the best treatments differ as well.  If your greatest anxiety is triggered by social situations, take a look at our Social Phobia Resources page.

What Does the Panic Monster Really Look Like?

Using CBT to Overcome Panic Attacks, by Roger Tilton, Ph.D.



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