Agoraphobia is a fear many people have heard of but in reality is more than an anxiety of open space as is the commonly-held perception.
It can be debilitating and extend to embrace other phobias such as monophobia – the fear of being on one’s own.
Agoraphobics are likely to be anxious of any number of situations, such as being in public places, including shops; travelling on public transport; using lifts; crossing bridges; venturing further than a certain distance from home or being in a building which might seem to have no easily accessible exit.
The phobia affects women more than men and is found most commonly in those aged from 25 to 35, though this is by no means an exclusive age range. If left untreated it can develop into a lifelong condition.
Home is usually regarded as a safe haven by agoraphobics and all the anxieties that arise from the underlying fear of being away from this place of safety.
Symptoms can include dizziness, breathlessness, a raised heartbeat, sweating, trembling nausea and headaches and such symptoms can be so severe in some people as to trigger panic attacks. Fear of such attacks can then prompt panic, making it a self-fulfilling condition.
However, the extremes of the condition vary greatly between sufferers with some people being able to manage the phobia by sticking to certain routines or, for example, travelling with another person such as a relative or friend when out of the house.
For others, though, the condition can result in that person being ‘trapped’ in their own home, unable to socialise or hold down a job and reliant on others for everyday needs.
Hypnotherapy and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help sufferers overcome the condition