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In a large number of cases, following the occurrence of multiple panic attacks, a person may begin avoiding the situations in which the panic attacks occurred. For example, a person who has had multiple panic attacks when away from home may increasingly avoid leaving their house due to the rewarding feeling of eluding further panic attacks. Unfortunately, this maladaptive coping mechanism for avoiding future panic attacks can create an entirely new set of problems. Specifically, the person is now moving closer and closer to becoming housebound by avoiding leaving the house. So, when the panic attacks return in the “safe” confines of the home, the person is now left with far greater difficulties than before.

Agoraphobia is characterized by a marked or intense fear triggered by real or anticipated exposure to a wide array of situations such as:

  • Avoiding using public transportation (buses, metros, planes)
  • Being in open spaces (parking lots, large open highways, bridges)
  • Being in enclosed spaces (shops, cinemas, crowded board rooms, tunnels)
  • Standing in line or being in a crowd
  • Being outside of the home

People with Agoraphobia fear or avoid these situations because they worry that escaping from these places might be difficult or impossible. They will also avoid these situations because they fear that help might not be available in the event of a panic attack or other embarrassing or incapacitating outcomes such as becoming incontinent, vomiting, fainting, having gastrointestinal symptoms, losing control of themselves or dying.

As with many of the other anxiety disorders, Agoraphobia responds very well to scientifically-established psychological interventions such as Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy.

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