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Tuesday, March 5, 2013

CBT For Agoraphobia: Progress With Treatment Awaits

 by Dr. Craig April, Director of The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

Many view Agoraphobia as a complicated phobia, due to its tendency to permeate so many aspects of the sufferer's life.  In fact, in my field it is labeled as a "complex phobia" as opposed to a "simple phobia".  However, it really isn't that complicated or complex, just involved. Recently, I wrote a blog post on what Agoraphobia is about, in addition to its typical symptoms.  If interested, it's entitled Agoraphobia, Panic Attacks and You.  In this post,  however, I'll be focusing on treatment. 

CBT for Agoraphobia is the key form of treatment and the only one that is research proven.  Unfortunately, rather than receiving phobia treatment from an anxiety doctor or specialist who can provide it, many with this phobia are still wasting time with traditional therapy that has not been proven to work.  As far as CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is concerned, it easy to see why it has been scientifically shown to help those with this anxiety disorder make progress.

Why CBT works for Agoraphobia and all other phobias:

The only way to overcome fear is by taking action, not by talking about it and reviewing why you have it.  CBT is about ACTION.

"What kind of action?"

The action of CBT takes many forms.

One form of action is identifying the perspectives that encourage one's Agoraphobia.  These perspectives, because they are false and only lead to fear, need to be changed.  Working on changing these perspectives and seeing one's life experience differently is one form of taking action.  For example, Agoraphobic thoughts tell you that you are trapped with no easy escape or without any help easily available.  This then encourages a panic attack or leads to panic attack symptoms.  However, CBT can help you shift your perspective in these anxiety producing moments, so that you realize you're in no present danger.  This perspective shift is one aspect of the Cognitive Therapy piece of CBT. 

Another form of action is the type that most associate with CBT.  This is called Exposure therapy.  In order to truly overcome Agoraphobia, one must face fear and anxiety.  You might anxiously be asking, "But is CBT going to force me to face all of my anxiety at once?"  CBT doesn't force anyone to do anything they're not ready and willing to do.  Also, based on how quickly an Agoraphobia sufferer is ready to move forward, Exposure therapy is best done gradually.  Each step builds confidence as one begins to face panic attack symptoms and situations they have been avoiding.  Taking action in this way is empowering and a great confidence booster.  Once you begin, you'll see that progress can provide comfort with:

standing in lines,
being stuck in traffic,
being on a crowded elevator,
driving out of your comfort zone,
being alone without a support person . . .

and all the other classic symptoms of Agoraphobia you thought you could never face.  More importantly, once your brain adapts to your anxiety provoking stimuli (your scary, anxious situations), it will no longer trigger the fight or flight response and adrenaline surge that encourage panic attack time!

Agoraphobia, though involved, is just like any fear.  And fear can be conquered!

For information on our treatment options for Agoraphobia at The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management, just follow the link.

 All the best,

Director of The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles

P. S.  Don't forget to sign up for my anxiety newsletter on my website's home page where you'll receive free anxiety tips!

photo credit: Kaptain Kobold via photopin cc

The April Center for Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles and The South Bay

The April Center for Anxiety Attack Management is committed to helping you remove the destructive barriers of anxiety, so that you may lead a calmer, healthier, happier life.

Take a look at our website at or give us a call: (310) 429-1024
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