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- Treatment Overview
Agoraphobia Treatment Overview
First steps to consider
- It’s important to see a healthcare provider to get a diagnosis of agoraphobia and discuss a treatment plan. See a primary care provider, psychiatrist, or a behavioral health provider (psychologist or social worker).
- Agoraphobia is often best treated with a combination of talk therapy and medication.
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When to see a healthcare provider
Consider seeing a healthcare provider if you have symptoms of agoraphobia. You can see a primary care provider, psychiatrist, or a behavioral health provider (psychologist or licensed clinical social worker).
People with agoraphobia often need prescription medication and therapy to control their symptoms. Without treatment, the condition can cause major distress and interfere with your ability to perform everyday activities, like attending work or school. In severe cases, you may not be able to leave your house.
It’s also important to see a healthcare provider because people with agoraphobia may have other mental health conditions that need to be treated, like panic disorder or depression.
Your provider will make a diagnosis based on your symptoms. They will also do a physical exam to rule out other conditions that may be causing or contributing to your symptoms.
What to expect from your visit
Your provider or therapist may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or exposure and response therapy.
- CBT helps you change your thoughts and behaviors in order to reduce your fear and anxiety. A therapist helps you notice and change negative thought patterns and helps you slowly face situations with coping tools.
- Exposure and response prevention is a type of therapy that’s used to treat agoraphobia. With your therapist, you make a list of situations—from the least anxiety-provoking to the most. You first imagine a mildly anxiety-provoking situation and practice relaxation techniques to calm yourself. Once you master that, you move to the next slightly more anxiety-producing situation and use your relaxation techniques. You continue until you can feel relaxed imagining any situation on your list. Some people get better after only a few sessions, depending on the severity of their symptoms.
Your provider may also recommend medications to help with agoraphobia.
- Antidepressants are often the first medication your provider will try. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) like fluoxetine (Prozac) and sertraline (Zoloft) are most commonly prescribed.
- Other antidepressants include serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like duloxetine (Cymbalta) and tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) like nortriptyline (Pamelor).
- Anti-anxiety medications called benzodiazepines can be prescribed to treat anxiety on a short-term basis. These can be habit-forming and are avoided in some situations.
Prescription agoraphobia medications
- SSRIs: fluoxetine (Prozac), paroxetine (Paxil), sertraline (Zoloft), citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro)
- SNRIs: duloxetine (Cymbalta), venlafaxine (Effexor), desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
- TCAs: nortriptyline (Pamelor), amitriptyline (Elavil), imipramine (Tofranil)
- Benzodiazepines: alprazolam (Xanax), clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), diazepam (Valium), chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
Types of providers for agoraphobia
- A primary care provider can diagnose agoraphobia. They may prescribe medication.
- A psychiatrist can diagnose agoraphobia and prescribe medication.
- A behavioral health provider (psychologist or licensed clinical social worker) can provide therapy.
How to help manage agoraphobia at home
It’s important to see a healthcare provider or mental health provider if you have symptoms of agoraphobia, like fear of certain situations (open spaces, being in a crowd) and intense fear of leaving your home. They may teach you strategies for controlling your symptoms that you can do on your own. Some strategies include:
- Learn calming skills. Deep breathing, meditation, and visualization are simple relaxation techniques that may help. Practice these techniques when you aren’t worried, and use them when you feel anxious.
- Join a support group. Support groups for people with anxiety disorders can help you connect to others who have similar struggles.
- Don’t use alcohol, nicotine, or other drugs. It may seem like these substances are helping, but they actually can make anxiety worse.
- Limit caffeine, which can increase feelings of panic and anxiety.
- Get enough sleep. Being tired increases anxious feelings and related symptoms.
- Exercise. Walking and running can lower anxiety, lessen stress, and boost your overall mood. Yoga offers similar benefits while also showing you how to calm your body.