Monday, October 3, 2011

What is Panic and Agoraphobia?

When I told someone that I was a psychiatric APRN, she asked me why her husband gradually stopped driving for no apparent reason and rarely left the house. She was baffled at what was happening to him.

There could be several explanations for this. One explanation could be that while away from home or while driving, her husband experienced extreme anxiety and had a panic attack. A panic attack can come without warning. When a person experiences a panic attack, it can feel as if they are going to have a heart attack and die.

Some people have a panic attack, never experience it again and are fine. However, some people start to avoid the situation that caused them such distress. They may be anxious that it is going to happen again. They may be worried that they will have a panic attack in public. Their avoidance is rewarded with a decrease in anxiety. In order to keep their anxiety at bay, they begin to avoid more and more until they can’t leave the house. This is called agoraphobia.

In general, the problem with avoiding in order to decrease anxiety is that fear can begin to grow. In this situation, fear could be making her husband feel as if it is impossible to leave the house.

The good news is that panic and agoraphobia are treatable. A type of therapy that is frequently used is called cognitive behavioral therapy. Medications in addition to therapy can also help. If a person gets treatment for their panic disorder early they can often prevent the progression to agoraphobia.


The information contained in this website should not be considered by anyone viewing the website as a substitute for appropriate diagnosis and treatment provided by a licensed health practitioner. All content is for general purposes only. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website. Mary Anne Zeh, A.P.R.N., C.S., LLC is not responsible or liable for the content of any site accessed through this website.

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