Agoraphobia Without History of Panic Disorder

Agoraphobia refers to a particular type of anxiety that occurs when someone is faced with a situation that is difficult or embarrassing to leave, or where help would not be available if they were to experience panic symptoms.

The essential features of Agoraphobia Without History of Panic Disorder are similar to those of Panic Disorder With Agoraphobia except that the focus of fear is on the occurrence of incapacitating or extremely embarrassing panic-like symptoms or limited-symptom attacks rather than full Panic Attacks.

Agoraphobia without a history of panic attacks is not commonly diagnosed, and to meet the criteria for this debilitating dysfunction, there cannot be a prior history of Panic Disorder. Most individuals who suffer from Agoraphobia will avoid situations that they deem fearful such as leaving their home, riding in elevators or on escalators, staying at home alone, or being in a crowd. People with Agoraphobia often learn to cope with these anxiety-provoking situations by being accompanied by another person, often referred to as a “safety person.” While a safety person may help to limit the magnitude of dysfunction, it also serves to maintain the disorder.

Symptoms

Panic disorder is characterized by severe anxiety, often commencing without warning, that produces sometimes alarming symptoms like heart palpitations, shortness of breath, chest pain, fear of dying and numbness.

An agoraphobic person may experience any or all of many physical symptoms including:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Trouble breathing,
  • Dizziness
  • Excessive sweating,
  • Rapid heart rate,
  • Nausea & upset stomach,
  • Diarrhea
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble swallowing

Many of these symptoms may occur with other illnesses and disorders. What associates these symptoms with agoraphobia is that they only occur when a feared situation is experienced or contemplated.

Diagnosis

To be diagnosed with Agoraphobia without Panic Disorder, an individual must suffer from unexpected and recurrent panic attacks along with at least one of the following:

  • Persistent concerns of having more panic attacks
  • Concerns about the meaning or consequences of the panic attacks (e.g., loss of control, feelings of going “crazy”, or of having a heart attack)
  • Significant behavioral changes related from the panic attacks.

Treatment

Similar to the treatment used for panic disorder, Agoraphobia without history of Panic Disorder includes psychotherapy or medication. Existential therapy focuses on the present and on the future, and teaches patients that one is responsible to shape his or her own life. The therapist tries to help the client see that they are free to make their own choices and recognize positive possibilities for their future. Another common and effective treatment used is Cognitive-Behavioral therapy, which helps to eliminate thought patterns contributing to the patient’s symptoms while aiming to change his or her behavior.

Anti-anxiety medications have also been proven to be effective for individuals who suffer from Agoraphobia without Panic Disorder including Xanax, Valium, Ativan, Paxipam, Klonopin, Alzapam and more.

Review Sources

  • Psychiatry Online – this link provided information about the differences between Agoraphobia with & without history Panic Disorder
  • Livestrong – this link provided information about the symptoms associated with Agoraphobia without History of Panic Disorder
  • PsyWeb – this link provided information about types of treatment

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