Agorafabulous: Coping With Agoraphobia.

Regions of the brain affected by PTSD and stress.

Image via Wikipedia

Agoraphobia should not be confused with Argylophobia, the specific fear of argyle socks (I made that up, don’t get phobophobia- a fear of phobias).  Agoraphobia is a fear of social situations but it goes a bit further than that.  The NIH defines it as: “a fear of being in places where escape might be difficult, or where help might not be available.”

For many people, that can include their homes.  But for author Sara Benincasa, her bed at least was a safe place.  Now she can write about spending years in her bed, in her new book Agorafabulous.  The exciting intro blurb talks about her “relieving herself in cereal bowls” to avoid getting out of bed.

I myself have been blessed with a number of patients who have emetophobia, the fear of public vomiting.  It’s an extraordinary thing to realize the number of disabling phobias I do NOT have.  Wiki and other places provide us with lists.

When we look to treat these phobias, conventional medicine does not have great options.  One recent case note discussed a successful case of phobia relief…using electroshock therapy.  The patient improved after a mere thirteen sessions of having his body convulsed and his brain fritzed.  Sign me up!

As I know in my own practice, we don’t really have a clear handle on agoraphobia.  In the book’s case, the illness worsened after 9/11.  I suspect there are literally millions of people still suffering from the effects of that day.  The entire country got PTSD.

But if someone hates their work and has no friends, does that make them agoraphobic or just sane when they don’t want to leave their houses?  Aren’t there whole neighborhoods where being agoraphobic is a lifesaving adaption?  I can just see a newly medicated agoraphobe “reaching out” to his or her neighbors.  Yikes!  That only works out well in the Brady Bunch reruns.

So until we redefine agoraphobia as something that means something specific, we’ll keep lumping it in with “panic attacks” and throwing medication at it.  It occurs to me that for a true agorophobe numbing them is only a temporary step to get them to the redefining stage.

From an alternative standpoint, we have lots of options for helping, but the first and most important thing is to address the who, what, when, where, and why of the thing.  Then you get to the how to treat effectively.  Don’t just start throwing inositol or kava at it.



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  1. #1 by hannah on March 8, 2012 - 2:28 pm

    Firstly – thanks for an informative site.There are many types of disorders linked with anxiety and depression, a very common one being emetophobia(fear of being sick). There is a brief, completely anonymous on-line survey at .If any readers are sufferers, please spend 2 minutes to complete the survey

  1. AGORAPHOBIA | A Beautiful Rainy Day
  2. dealing with anxiety, dealing with panic, dealing with phobias, dealing with fear
  3. Assertiveness training & agoraphobia

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