Agoraphobia And Addiction: Examining The Links

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 substances can create feelings of numbness or a false ability 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.

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.

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Often, people who suffer from this disorder have lived with abuse, have a family history of mental illness, have spent time in jail for their actions, or have a history of substance abuse. Drugs and alcohol can play a big role in antisocial personality disorder. This is 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 and how they are treated. Read on to find out how agoraphobia, addiction and related disorders can go hand-in-hand.

Self-Medicate

Because the symptoms of agoraphobia can be difficult to deal with, many sufferers feel the need to numb themselves. This is easier said than done. Drugs and alcohol can have that effect and can make the individual feel more in control of the situation. The consequences of which is a major contributing factor in anxiety attacks. While substances can make the user feel more comfortable and better able to maneuver in social situations, it’s only a temporary fix. This method of coping can actually lead to a heightened sense of anxiety down the road.

Depression

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 only feel comfortable going out if they are with a trusted friend. Or they 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 cause the individual to feel like a burden, which can eventually result in depression.

Suicidal Thoughts

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 a burden to their loved ones. In some cases, they may feel that they have no support because a lack of understanding for their condition.

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There are many ways to treat these disorders, including therapy, counseling, support groups, and medication. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has also been very effective in treating agoraphobia. CBT focuses on helping the individual find ways to cope with their feelings rather than worrying about the past or future. This way, they can find 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 the first steps to get help and contact us today.

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