Panic attacks often occur in combination with other mental disorders, one of the most common being the anxiety disorder agoraphobia. Interestingly enough, while agoraphobia has long been believed (both medically and commonly) as the fear of public places and crowded spaces, more and more medical experts are changing their stance to one that says agoraphobia emerges as a consequence (and possibly even a complication) of panic attacks. This is because the gist (and genesis) of agoraphobia is an irrational fear of experiencing a panic attack in said public place or crowded space.
Regardless, however the two may be linked, agoraphobia combined with panic attack symptoms can show up as a number of different avoidance patterns (in other words, by avoiding one or more of a wide variety of circumstances).
People who have panic disorder with agoraphobia may avoid:
• situations in which they have to be far away from their home for any period of time
• going places without the accompaniment of a known and trusted individual
• exerting themselves physical for fear it may trigger panic attack symptoms
• attending social gatherings where experiencing a panic attack would feel humiliating
• going places where it would be difficult to make a “clean getaway” if it got to be too much (i.e. theaters, public
• driving a vehicle
• consuming foods and beverages they may associate with triggering a panic attack
• taking medications, out of anxiety over what the medicines might do to them besides (or rather than) what the doctor intended; or, for that matter, out of distrust for the doctor
This last one is a particularly tricky scenario to deal with because a person with panic disorder with agoraphobia who has a deep-seated distrust of doctors or the health care system in general, might not find any doctor they trust to help them. In fact, failing to seek appropriate medical help is unfortunately an all-too-common problem for agoraphobics. What then?
What then, indeed. One option is to bring with you a trusted friend or loved one to all your medical appointments. Whenever you feel distrustful of the doctor, you can always bounce your fears off your chaperone and get immediate feedback from someone you do trust.
When exposed to any of the above situations, a person with panic attacks and agoraphobia may feel trapped, “backed into a corner”, with no foreseeable routes of escape to safer sanctuary. A sense of helplessness and hopelessness often accompanies panic attacks with agoraphobia.
Panic disorder with agoraphobia must be dealt with if the person is to live any semblance of a normal life. Otherwise, they will only end up avoiding more and more situations until they have little remaining but the bare trappings of a life. Avoiding cars, trains, subways, and planes severely restricts a person’s ability to travel and see the world, or even to leave the home for work or shopping. Avoiding stores, theaters, sports arenas, and night clubs does the same, prohibitively limiting a person’s social opportunities and perpetuating a panic inducing lonely existence.
To end this piece on a hopeful note, people suffering from agoraphobia should realize that 90% of their peers achieve a complete recovery.