Agoraphobia–a condition in which an individual has an intense fear of being in open or closed spaces, or feels anxious in a situation with no visible exit
–affects nearly one out of every three of the six million people in America who suffer from a panic disorder. It’s a condition that causes anxiety and often leads to physical symptoms, which can be very scary in the moment and can even make the individual feel like they’re dying.
Because of these symptoms, an individual who suffers from agoraphobia may try to self-medicate with substances such as drugs or alcohol. Unfortunately, even though these substances can make the user feel numb or able to cope, they also greatly alter the mind and can exacerbate the negative feelings that agoraphobia produces. According to the ADAA, about 20% of people who suffer from an anxiety disorder also battle a substance problem, and vice versa.
Suffer an Anxiety Disorder & Substance Abuse
Agoraphobia can also be linked to other mental health disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder, which is characterized as a lack of regard for right and wrong, a history of violence, arrogance, impulsive behavior, and dishonesty. Often, people who suffer from this disorder have lived with abuse or have a history of mental illness in their family, and many of them have spent time in jail for their actions and have a history of substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can play a big role in antisocial personality disorder because the individual may be involved in illegal activity and have constant access to substances, or they may become tired of not being able to fulfill family or work obligations because of their disorder. Fortunately, these conditions are treatable, but it’s important to know what the symptoms are of each one and how they are treated. Read on to find out how agoraphobia and addiction can go hand-in-hand.
Because the symptoms of agoraphobia can be so difficult to deal with, many sufferers feel the need to numb them or push them down. This is easier said than done, but drugs and alcohol can have that effect and can make the individual feel more in control of the situation, the loss of which is a major contributing factor in anxiety attacks. While substances can make the user feel more social and better able to maneuver in those situations, it’s only a temporary effect, and can actually lead to a heightened sense of anxiety down the road.
Individuals who are living with agoraphobia often also suffer from depression, as it can be difficult to live what they see as a “normal” life due to their symptoms. Being unable to go out and interact with others can take a toll; some people are even confined to their homes for great lengths of time. Others can only feel comfortable going out if they are with a trusted friend, and will designate a specific person to be their companion because they feel safe and comfortable with them. This can lead to feelings of guilt and can cause the individual to feel like a burden, which can lead to sadness and depression.
Individuals who live with agoraphobia sometimes also suffer from suicidal thoughts, especially if they are battling depression or have PTSD. They may feel as though there is no way out of what they’re feeling, or they may feel like they are a burden to their loved ones. In some cases, they may feel that they have no one to support them because of a lack of understanding regarding their condition.
There are many ways to treat these disorders, including therapy, counseling (to take a look at the underlying reasons for agoraphobia), support groups, and medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has also been very effective in treating agoraphobia, as it focuses on helping the individual find ways to cope with their feelings in the moment rather than worrying about the past or future. This way, they can find the best ways to become more social and return to places that once gave them anxiety.
If you or a loved one is suffering from agoraphobia, take action now to get help.