Solutions to overcome agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces

If you suffer from panic disorder with agoraphobia, a precise evaluation will be necessary on your history, the circumstances in which your first panic attacks appeared, the importance of the avoidance behaviours generated, the duration of the evolution of the disorders. Your therapist will be sure to reassure, inform and support you during the consultation. Here are some solutions to overcome your agoraphobia


Medication to treat agoraphobia

The sudden onset of a panic attack is extremely difficult to experience, but it is absolutely safe. The sensations are very intense, but you won’t die or go mad from them. To help you, your therapist will be able to show you breathing techniques and use the right strategies to divert your attention from your physical sensations when you feel you are close to having a panic attack. The primary aims of treatment will be to help you reduce the frequency and strength of these attacks and to change the psychological representations that result from your attacks.

Short-term medication may be prescribed to manage your panic disorder. Most often, antidepressants and/or anxiolytics (such as benzodiazepines) are prescribed to complement the therapeutic treatment. For your information, you should know that in this indication it is not necessary for depressive symptoms to appear for antidepressants to be prescribed. They have been shown to be effective in treating panic attacks, but they also alleviate all anxiety-related symptoms.

Freeing yourself from panic attacks with cognitive and behavioural therapies (CBT)

Cognitive and behavioural therapies (CBT) for panic disorder are also widely used and have been shown to be highly effective. They consist of progressive exposure to the physical sensations that are associated with panic attacks while using relaxation techniques and breathing training. Progress and difficulties are discussed with the therapist after each session. In general, 10 to 25 sessions of in vivo exposure are offered depending on the progress made.

Virtual reality exposure therapies to treat fear of open spaces

To save time and avoid the hazards and complications of real-life situations when you are gradually exposed to your phobia, your therapist may suggest therapy through gradual exposure in virtual reality (TERV). Virtual environments specifically designed for agoraphobia with panic attacks are then presented to you via the headset. This could be, for example, a driving situation in an isolated space, a train or plane journey, or a projection in a large shopping mall for shopping. Although virtual reality essentially uses only visual and audio channels, it works because the individual unconsciously reconstructs the information that is missing. This suggests that the person may be able to inhibit their presence in the real world to immerse themselves in the virtual world. We all function differently and we are all more or less willing to immerse ourselves in the virtual. We can see this in the cinema, some people are so immersed in the action that they might think they are on the set of the film, while others are much more detached…

Virtual reality offers the possibility of taking advantage of safe environments to acquire lasting tools for managing your emotions. When you are confronted with situations that frighten you and generate anxiety, you can use methods to control your emotions so that they no longer overwhelm you and prevent you from living normally. However, to be fully effective, it is necessary to practice in virtuo, preferably first, and then in vivo once these techniques are well learned and mastered. This work has several positive effects: first of all, it should help you to overcome the difficulties linked to your agoraphobia and to regain your autonomy of functioning. Secondly, it will also be an effective way of regaining your confidence and self-esteem. Since agoraphobia affects a large number of different everyday situations, it affects your perception of your ability to carry out even the simplest tasks, especially those that you could do easily before. These repeated failures will eventually impact on the value you place on yourself. Recovering your ability to act with emotional management techniques can reverse this process and you can once again enjoy a more positive self-image.

Calming the fear of the great outdoors with alternative medicine

There are also other solutions to help you relax and overcome agoraphobia. These may be more based on physical exercises (such as yoga) or techniques that focus on dissociative processes to depotentiate the conscious mind and access the person’s resources (EMDR, HTSMA or hypnosis). They assume that you have all the resources within you to solve your problem. There are also various other treatments such as phytotherapy, sophrology, kinesiology, etc. Try them, you’ll feel better. Try them out and see for yourself.

Other preventive treatments have been shown to be effective. If CBT is not effective, a psychoanalytical approach can be offered. This will focus on your motivations and your history and will allow you to better understand what worries you in order to free yourself from your anxiety disorders.


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