Agoraphobia and panic attacks are two separate but related conditions. Phobias are fears of specific situations or objects. Agoraphobia is the fear of being in locations where the person thinks that dangerous or anxiety-provoking events could occur. Locations could be open spaces, in a busy city, inside tunnels, on bridges or on the open road – anywhere in which the person fears they could not escape the ‘danger’ and get to a place of safety or back to their ‘comfort zone’.
A panic attack is the occurrence of overwhelming fear. The person senses impending danger or disaster, feels they are ‘going crazy’, losing control, might be humiliated or attacked, rendered helpless or even die. Sufferers may experience an accelerated heart rate, rapid breathing, dizziness or shakiness.
Panic attacks can be triggered by agoraphobia. Agoraphobia is not the only cause of panic attacks – other things could cause them also. And not all agoraphobics have panic attacks. Each condition can occur independently of the other. But one (agoraphobia) can sometimes cause the other (panic attack).
The agoraphobic perception of possible danger or disaster is out of proportion with the realities of the situation. Relief can be gained by practicing techniques to manage the over-reaction, and by learning how to more accurately perceive the supposed danger, leading to a diminishing, and ultimate extinction of the fear and over-reaction.
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