Many people live in loneliness and isolation because they suffer from the phobia known as Agoraphobia. The word Agoraphobia’s translated meaning is “fear of the marketplace.” In modern society, the pressures of a fast-paced world may cause some people to withdraw from human contact. They begin to feel safe only when they are within the confines of their own home. This phobia can impact career, relationships, and the ability to raise and care for a family. It also has grave psychological consequences when it goes untreated.
Why Does Agoraphobia Happen?
This phobia can be a response to many different anxieties. Agoraphobia is triggered by stress responses to situations that occur in specific locations. For example, work stress may trigger a fierce desire to avoid the source of one’s worries. Even entering the office or work location will cause fear and a feeling of doom or ill health. Therefore, the person may decide to change their life in order to avoid the intense anxiety they feel at work. This can lead to true Agoraphobia, as well as financial and emotional problems.
The “fear of the marketplace”, or “fear of open spaces” can refer to any location that causes the symptoms of Agoraphobia. Some people become afraid of so many different places, and the emotional reactions that they provoke, that they become “textbook” Agoraphobics, and live the lives of veritable shut-ins.
Symptoms Of Agoraphobia
There is a sense of “sealing oneself off” in those who suffer from this phobia. They will start to suffer panic attacks when they are not in situations and places that they consider “safe”. Whereas, in the beginning, someone who fears going outside may really fear criticism or mockery from people in a certain place, such as school or work, eventually, the mere act of going outside will trigger this same stress reaction. At this level, therapy is required to resolve the issues of the person who suffers from Agoraphobia.
Childhood trauma, or traumatic incidents in later years, can also cause a desire to withdraw from society. Any abuse, acts of violence or sexual molestation, or harrassment at work can contribute to a feeling of panic in certain situations. While it is understandable that people who have gone through these experiences seek to leave the rigors of the outside world, it is also very unhealthy in the long run.
Why Is This Phobia Harmful?
Agoraphobia will cause personality changes over time. The longer the person withdraws, the more fearful they will be of the world outside. Any social skills and coping skills they developed before becoming Agoraphobic may erode due to relentless isolation. They may retreat into a world of fantasy, aided by television, film, and the Internet.
Depression often afflicts those who suffer from the fear of going outside. They will be wounded emotionally by their loneliness, and by the terrible anxiety they feel when faced with tasks that must be done outside. All of these factors will hurt their emotional health, and inhibit the natural growth and maturity that should occur through all the decades of life.
Personality Disorders and Agoraphobia
Certain pre-existing mental health issues can exacerbate fear of going outside. Personality disorders such as Avoidant Personality Disorder and Schizoid Personality Disorder will make this phobia a stronger possibility. In persons with these disorders, the personality is affected by social fears and maladjustments that make coping with the outside world very difficult. Therapy for personality disorders is generally long-term, and may help to stave off Agoraphobia.
Treatment Of Fear Of Going Outside
Most phobias benefit from psychotherapy, and this phobia should be addressed by a mental health specialist. Getting at the underlying sources of one’s stress and anxiety will be the best solution for dealing with Agoraphobia.
Alternative therapies such as “tapping therapy”, where gentle tapping of the forehead helps to retrain the brain, have been used with some success. Hypnotherapy, while controversial, has also been used to treat Agoraphobia.
Anti-depressants can ease fears and depression, and make the fear of going outside lessen. Over time, a combination of therapy and medication can help to “open the doors again”, and free the person who suffers from this isolating disorder.