Agoraphobia, Panic, PTSD
Hello Readers! I am a graduate from the University of South Florida in the U.S., with my bachelor's in psychology. I specialize in Borderline Personality Disorder, and I am working on advocacy websites to fight the stigma attached to psychiatric illnesses, especially BPD. I especially like to educate my readers with reliable information concerning the latest research. You can send me a message on facebook and I can add you to my BPD group! Happy reading and learning!
You can find the abstract of an article about a meta-analysis performed on treatments for panic disorder with or without agoraphobia at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19775792.
I know there is a lot of medical jargon there, but basically, lots of studies were analyzed together. They showed that the best type of therapy for panic disorders (some of the participants had agoraphobia, and some didn't) is a combination of exposure therapy, relaxation training, and breathing retraining. Unfortunately, exposure therapy, the most frightening thing you can probably imagine, can be amazingly effective in treating panic disorders and PTSD. However, these therapies MUST be used with combinations of relation training. You have to be able to focus your mind and relax during your exposure to your fears. It takes practice and hard work but it can be wonderfully effective if you are willing to face your fears (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20056195).
I find it interesting that breathing retraining is included in this list of treatments for things like agoraphobia. When the body goes into fight or flight mode, it immediately affects your body in countless ways, one of which is shallow breathing, sometimes even holding your breath. Your brain gets less oxygen, contributing to a lessened ability to think clearly and focus, and also to form memories. Not only can this contribute to impulsive behaviors (like immediately escaping the situation), but failing to create memories can affect your learning processes as well. You begin to "unlearn" the safety or comfort of the situations you are afraid of, and so begins a downward spiral into panic disorders.
In my opinion, to treat agoraphobia you would be best off to have a therapist willing to work with you out of your home or willing to do exposure therapy in multiple places and situations so as to generalize your learning. Make sure you are comfortable with your ability to calm yourself (as comfortable as you can be, considering you are facing your phobia). Push yourself!! It takes courage and willingness and strength, and you have all these things!!! And don't give up.