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Panic Attacks can be a Causal Factor for Developing Agoraphobia, and Successful Therapy Methods do Exist
Panic Attacks can Lead to Avoidance which can Lead to Agoraphobia
“A panic attack is a sudden surge of overwhelming anxiety and fear. Your heart pounds and you can’t breathe. You may even feel like you’re dying or going crazy. Left untreated, panic attacks can lead to panic disorder and other problems. They may even cause you to withdraw from normal activities. But panic attacks can be cured, and the sooner you seek help, the better. With treatment, you can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of panic and regain control of your life” (Smith & Segal, 2017, p1). A panic attack usually occurs when the person is awake. These attacks come from nowhere. One minute the person is calm and relaxed. The next minute intense fear of the panic attack is occurring to the individual who has these attacks. If left untreated, panic attacks will most likely continue begin to occur more often.
When panic attacks continue over time, a person may develop agoraphobia. In the beginning, the reasoning was given that this word meant fear of the marketplace or fear of open spaces. “If left untreated, panic disorder can sometimes lead to agoraphobia, an intense fear of being outside or in enclosed spaces” (Webmd.com, 2017, abstract). Yes, these attacks can come over a person without warning, inside a grocery store, or anywhere else for that fact. Agoraphobia is best described as leading a reclusive and as safe a life as possible to avoid having another panic attack. Panic attacks invoke this kind of fear because they put such an intense fear in the person at the time the attack is occurring. If this all continues without treatment, agoraphobia will set in. The person’s life will become smaller and smaller meaning that the person stops doing things and going places they use to enjoy going to and doing.
Agoraphobia is a fear of having a panic attack again, and holing yourself up in your home or another of your safe place(s). Agoraphobics do this so as not to have the intense fear, intense physical symptoms, and intense psychological thoughts wash over them again. To avoid panic attacks, people who are agoraphobic always try to be in places where they can escape quickly, quietly, and unnoticeably when they feel a panic attack coming on them.
Not everyone who has or had hyperthyroidism will develop panic attacks. Not everyone who has panic attacks ever had hyperthyroidism. The overproduction of hormones into the body by hyperthyroidism is one causal factor for a person developing panic attacks. Panic attacks lead many people to seek avoidance measures to stave off future panic issues. This avoidance can cause a person to become agoraphobic.
Recommended Treatment for Panic Attacks with or without Agoraphobia
Treatment is available for treating a person who has panic attacks with or without agoraphobia. People seek treatment so that they can lead more fulfilling, more enjoyable, to feel better, and to lead more productive lives. For the treatment to be successful, the patient must participate in their in-office therapy and their homework.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the typical treatment method for panic attacks and agoraphobia. The number of visits that take place in the treatment of panic attacks and agoraphobia is 10 to 20 visits with a licensed, trained, mental health specialist. The client should visit the therapist for a one-on-one treatment session at least once a week on up to 10 to 20 weeks.
Cognitive behavioral therapy teaches a person how to think in a positive manner, one that does not encourage panic attacks or fear. Positive thinking and having confidence in yourself is the key to success. Training is undergone in the office with the therapist teaching the client how to meditate, how to relax, and how to stop the unending cycle of negative thoughts that the person is having. These negative thoughts that are repeated over and over again by the individual are just what keeps the person in a state of fear, phobia, panic, and even avoidance. With avoidance, comes agoraphobia. Hopefully, patients will see a professional mental health person before their symptoms get this bad, but even if the symptoms do get this bad, therapy can still enable a person to get control and begin enjoying her life again.
The meditation and relaxation techniques are very beneficial. Learning how to do relaxation techniques enables a person to invoke the relaxation response whenever needed. One thing nice about many of the relaxation techniques and meditation is that you can do these techniques without anyone else even knowing. These relaxation techniques can stop a panic attack from occurring. When panic attacks stop happening in places where panic attacks used to happen, the phobia becomes lessened to the point of extinction. Then, the person is free to do the things that she once enjoyed and that the fear of having more panic attacks had taken away from her life. Being free of panic, fear, and agoraphobia enables a person to enjoy her life and to be able to be there for special moments in the lives of her family and friends.
“The following are benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy:
-Gaining understanding and control of distorted feelings or views of stressful events or situations
-Learning to recognize and replace panic-causing thoughts
-Learning stress management and relaxation techniques
-Relaxing, then imagining the things that cause the anxiety, working from the least fearful to the most fearful (called systematic desensitization and exposure therapy)” (New York Times, 2017).
Cutting down or even eliminating caffeine and sugar from our diets also helps to stave off panic attacks. Both caffeine and sugar cause a spike in our metabolism and our adrenaline flow. This increase causes more of a likelihood of having panic attacks. Eat nutritional meals, and eat at the right times so that your system is not depleted. Proper nutrition, a proper amount of good rest, and regular exercise help us to maintain good health – physically and mentally (New York Times, 2017).
Smith (M.A.), M. & Segal (Ph.D.), J., (2017, Apr.) Panic attacks and panic disorder.
HELPGUIDE.ORG, p. 1. Retrieved online at https://www.helpguide.org
webmd.com, (2017, Jun. 20). Panic disorder: What it is and how to get help.
Abstract. Retrieved online at http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/mental-
The New York Times, (2017, Jul. 12), Rogge, MD, Medical Director, Family Medical Psychiatry Center, Kirkland, WA, & Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc. (2012, Mar. 25). Retrieved online at http://www.nytimes.com/health/guides/disease/panic-disorder-with-agoraphobia/overview.html