Agoraphobia can occur alone or concurrently with panic disorder or any other mental health illness.
Agoraphobia may affect up to 1% of individuals over the course of their lives and is more common amongst young adults and teenagers.
The primary symptom of agoraphobia is anxiety about certain situations where escape may be difficult or unavoidable. This then subsequently leads to avoidance of such situations to reduce anxiety or panic symptoms.
Examples of common situations that cause anxiety for people with agoraphobia include:
Anxiety can affect the body in a number of ways and each person may experience anxiety very differently. Common symptoms include:
The treatment options are dependent on any specific symptoms a person experiences and how severely they are affected.
Simple approaches; including exercise, relaxation techniques, improved sleep hygiene, identifying and removing stressors, and spending time with natural support groups (family and friends), can improve symptoms and reduce the impact on quality of life.
Most patients will also benefit from an element of psychological therapy, including cognitive behavioural therapy.
Medical management primarily involves the use of anti-depressants (e.g. sertraline, fluoxetine). Beta-blockers (e.g. propranolol) can sometimes be useful for controlling symptoms experienced with panic disorder if this is present alongside agoraphobia.
Medicinal cannabis can be considered when first line therapies have not achieved adequate benefit.