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While the literal meaning of agoraphobia is "fear of open spaces," this is not the actual problem with this form of anxiety disorder. Agoraphobia is the term used to describe individuals who suffer from severe anxiety or panic attacks at the thought of being someplace where there is no escape or no help. This general anxiety disorder may manifest in different ways, depending on the person. There are several forms of help for agoraphobia, including medication and psychotherapy. Choosing the best one may depend on the exact manifestation of the condition as well as a trial and error approach, as not all treatments work for all individuals.
One of the most common ways a doctor tries to treat agoraphobia is to lessen the symptoms with medication. Anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medications, such as selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), are often used to provide help for agoraphobia and its symptoms. These medications can lessen panic attacks and anxiety, but some medications are considered addictive and others may have unwanted or intolerable side effects. Patients may be required to try several different types of prescription drugs in different combinations and doses before finding the right prescription drug therapy.
Many doctors also suggest psychotherapy as an additional form of help for agoraphobia. Patients suffering from anxiety disorders may find it difficult to even schedule an appointment with a therapist, so it might be easiest if a family member or close friend accompanies the individual to his or her first appointment. In order to benefit the most from psychotherapy and counseling, it is essential that the patient feel comfortable with the selected therapist. Again, it may take several visits to different therapists before finding the right one.
There are also natural, alternative forms of treatment help for agoraphobia, including herbs that are purported to reduce anxiety. While there may be some benefits to certain types of alternative medicines, it is always best to discuss them with your doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist. Some herbal supplements have been clinically shown to interact with prescription medications, making it important to inform a prescribing physician of your intent to try something new. In addition to herbal supplements, alternative forms of therapy such as meditation and hypnosis may also provide help for agoraphobia treatment.
Agoraphobia is a psychological condition that causes physical symptoms and requires professional diagnosis for treatment. Where possible, choose a doctor and therapist who will work together. Keep in mind that many licensed psychologists can provide excellent psychotherapy resources, but are not licensed to prescribe medication.