What is Agoraphobia & Can it Worsen Post-Pandemic?
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that affects 1.7 percent of the general population.1 Characterized by fear and avoidance of places or situations that might cause panic and feelings of being trapped, agoraphobia can be extremely isolating and interfere with a person’s relationships, work, and overall health.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, lockdown protocols and social distancing led many people to stay home for an extended period of time. For some people with agoraphobia, the pandemic validated the urge to stay home. But now that these protocols have lifted and we’ve entered the post-pandemic era, agoraphobia symptoms have worsened for some and appeared in those who never had a history of the anxiety disorder before.2
Find out more about how to identify this disorder, agoraphobia treatments to consider, and how to deal with agoraphobia in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Defining Agoraphobia: Types & Causes
The DSM-5 defines agoraphobia as a marked fear or anxiety about actual or anticipated exposure to public spaces with varying levels of severity.3 A person with severe agoraphobia may be unable to leave the house, while someone who has mild agoraphobia may be able to travel short distances without problems.
The typical onset of agoraphobia is in the mid to late twenties. Contributing factors include:
- Parental overprotectiveness
- Childhood fears or night terrors
- Grief or bereavement early in life
- Unhappy or traumatic childhoods
- Genetic predisposition
- Having another type of anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder or obsessive compulsive disorder
How Do You Know If You Have it?
To meet the criteria for an official agoraphobia diagnosis, an individual must experience both fear of public places and the avoidance of them. This fear should not be the result of a rational or realistic threat, or occur in the context of substance use or withdrawal. Your symptoms must be present for more than six months.
Agoraphobia is related to other disorders, such as social anxiety, panic disorder, and claustrophobia. These disorders are not the same, but they can occur together. For example, though people with social anxiety and agoraphobia may both fear social situations, people with agoraphobia fear having anxiety attacks or losing control in specific situations, while a person with social anxiety worries about being judged or feeling embarrassed in social situations. A person with agoraphobia may panic in public places, but a person with panic disorder has specific triggers. For instance, a person with panic disorder may avoid an activity (like watching a particular kind of movie) that may induce a panic attack, but not fear going to a public place like a movie theater.
Signs & Symptoms to Watch Out for
Common agoraphobia symptoms include fear (and avoidance) of:
- Leaving home alone
- Crowded places like stadiums or concert halls
- Enclosed spaces, such as elevators or small stores
- Open spaces, such as parking lots or malls
- Using public transportation, such as a bus, plane, or train
Physical symptoms may include:
- Elevated heart rate
- Hyperventilation or trouble breathing
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Sudden chills or flushing
- Excessive sweating
- Upset stomach
Dealing with Agoraphobia Post-Pandemic
In addition to being a global health emergency, the COVID-19 pandemic had significant psychological ramifications, with a rise in fears related to contracting the virus. These fears were present both during the height of the virus and afterward when new strains continued to trickle in despite regulations around social distancing being lifted. Some researchers have coined the term coronaphobia to describe this new fear specific to COVID-19.4 In some cases, agoraphobia symptoms were suddenly present in those who did not have a history of the disorder before and exacerbated in those who did. These elevated worries and avoidance behavior were attributed to being exposed to catastrophic visuals of infections, deaths, and separation from family.
Though it was expected for people to be scared of contracting the virus or one of their family members being ill, in some individuals these fears seemed to go too far. According to experts at Harvard, you may be struggling with agoraphobia or another anxiety disorder if you feel your response is not in line with the potential threat of danger, if your loved ones are concerned about the level of your worry, and if you feel you are avoiding more people and situations than necessary.5
Agoraphobia Medication: Homeopathic Solutions
If you feel that COVID-19 pandemic has affected your mental health and you are exhibiting symptoms of agoraphobia, there are a number of ways to get help.
Talking to a therapist, especially one who specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you understand the triggers of your anxiety and agoraphobia as well as the internal thoughts about the situation that is creating the fear. They can also help you build skills to better tolerate your anxiety while slowly and safely facing your triggers in a controlled environment.
Taking medication is another option. Before resorting to antidepressants and anti-anxiety medication, which are associated with a number of harsh side effects and may lead to dependency, we recommend trying a non-prescription homeopathic option like Brillia first. Consisting of antibodies to the S100 protein, which plays a crucial role in various different intracellular and extracellular brain processes, Brillia targets anxiety symptoms without harsh, synthetic chemicals or harmful side effects associated with popular anti-anxiety medications.
Without masking your personality or affecting any other systems in the body, Brilla offers a gentle, safe, and impactful route to addressing anxiety and can be started and stopped at any time without causing any withdrawal symptoms. Even more, if you are already taking prescription medication, Brillia can be safely added to your regimen without worry because there are no contraindications associated with the medication. This can be useful if you feel your agoraphobia symptoms have worsened but are reluctant to increase the dosage of your current medication.
A unique aspect about Brillia is that it relies on a holistic approach. It works best when combined with healthy lifestyle factors that have been proven to reduce anxiety, irritability, and restlessness, such as following a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep, controlling screen time, and practicing mindfulness. This strategy, referred to as the 5 Pillars, offers a foundation of support you can lean on as you learn to deal with the new post-pandemic reality.
Find out more about how Brillia works and explore more resources on managing anxiety at the Brillia(nce) Resource Center.
Get a whole bunch of support right in your inbox.