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Question and Answer with Author Blaise Dismer L.C.S.W. about Agoraphobia

Q. Define agoraphobia.

It is a fear of venturing forth from one’s “safe place” or home. Based upon an
irrational but overwhelming fear, the sufferer feels trapped at home lest he/she
Be engulfed by panic symptoms.

Q. What are some symptoms of agoraphobia?

Fear of crowds
Fear of public transport
Restriction to the home or neighborhood
Social isolation
Unable to leave home alone
Panic attacks

Q. How do I determine if I have agoraphobia?

After experiencing one or more panic attacks, it may begin as a reluctance to
go to certain places, drive a vehicle from home or to use public transportation,
for example. Eventually, it may progress to avoidance behaviors that keep the
victim away from numerous situations and locations. Ultimately, it can resolve to
the complete inability to leave the confines of a house, apartment and to interact
socially in an extremely limited way.

Q. What is the difference between agoraphobia and a panic attack?

A panic attack is a precursor to agoraphobia. It is an “attack” comprised of a
series of frightening physical symptoms worsened by irrational ideas such as fear
of going crazy or impending death. Agoraphobia is an enduring phobic avoidance
pattern characterized by being stuck in one’s home for fear of encountering more
panic attacks.

Q. What are Blaise Dismer’s credentials for discussing agoraphobia?

Blaise Dismer is a recovered agoraphobic as well as a Licensed Clinical Social

Worker (L.C.S.W.). He also has a Masters Degree in Clinical Social Work and
three years additional post-graduate work in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Q. Are there tests to confirm a diagnosis of Agoraphobia?

There are certain cognition tests and anxiety scales which are useful in
identifying certain types of anxiety disorders including panic disorder with
agoraphobia. Generally speaking, the following symptoms are the best indicator,
often more readily identified by friends and family members:

Fear of crowds
Fear of public transport
Restriction to the home or neighborhood
Social isolation
Unable to leave home alone
Panic attacks

Q. What causes agoraphobia?

Specifically, the condition arises as an unconscious response to fear and an
attempt to avoid the unpleasantness and dread associated with panic attacks.
It is difficult to convey the terror associated with experiencing a “full blown”
panic attack. However, the attack itself is thought to be caused by a combination
of factors- some genetic and some learned- that result in a minor (ironically)
malfunction in the “alarm system” of the brain and central nervous system.

Q. Can agoraphobia be cured? How?
Yes! Agoraphobia is a highly treatable condition that can be overcome. A
combination of education about the realities of the condition and a program
of behavioral changes can restore the life of an agoraphobic to normalcy.
Sometimes medication is useful in the initial stages of recovery, in particular.
The help of a trained cognitive-behavioral therapist is especially indicated in
treatment of many anxiety disorders including OCD, PTSD, and social anxiety
disorder.

Q. Are there treatments for agoraphobia/anxiety disorder/panic attacks?

There are a multitude of scientifically verified, successful therapies. They may be
used individually or in combination, based upon the particular symptomology of
the disease and its progression. These include:

Gradual exposure therapy
Cognitive therapy
Systematic desensitization
Stress management and relaxation
Drug treatments
Eye movement desensitization and reprogramming (EMDR)

Q. Where should I go for help if I think I have agoraphobia/anxiety disorder/
panic attacks?

An excellent start would be to visit the website: http://www.paniccure.com. Also,
the Anxiety Disorders Association of America offers a state by state listing of
qualified therapists at http://www.adaa.org.

Q. How have people overcome agoraphobia/anxiety disorder/panic attacks?


Individual recoveries have emerged from a number of sources. Some are
based on science, others on religion or spirituality. Many have been assisted by
friends and family in the motivation to change ingrained, fear-based behaviors.
Neal Sideman lists several examples under the heading,”Stories of Healing” at
http://www.paniccure.com.

Q. What are the symptoms of a panic attack?

There may be both physical and cognitive symptoms. These symptoms can
occur spontaneously at any time, even when the victim is sleeping. Conversely,
they may build gradually as one anticipates or dreads an upcoming event. The
physical ones may include:

Shallow or rapid breathing
Accelerated heart rate
Profuse sweating
Light headedness
Rubbery legs

Thought-based symptoms are known as agoraphobic cognitions and may
include :

• The feeling that you’re going crazy
• Fear that you’re about to die
• The feeling that you’re going to harm yourself
despite not wishing this

Blaise Dismer