Mental health information – About 30 percent of people in any given year will experience having at least one panic attack. Those who suffer from frequent reoccurring panic attacks and obsessively fear future panic attacks have the clear signs of agoraphobia from panic disorder.
Panic Disorder is one of the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorders, occurring in about 1.7 percent of people between the ages of 18 to 54. And of those people diagnosed with Panic Disorder, a substantial 36 percent further develop Agoraphobia.
How does Panic Disorder develop into Agoraphobia?
It begins with the first panic attack. Most of the time, the individual can recognize what will cause the panic attack and can avoid it. But sometimes, a panic attack can happen unexpectedly and without warning and this is when the individual is at high risk of developing Agoraphobia.
Lets give a sample scenario. A single unwed woman is expecting her first child. She also has to deal with the high expectations from her work and her overzealous boss.
In the meantime, her family is pressuring her to find a suitable father for the unborn child and to do well in her career at the same time.
The woman is trying to handle and cope with all these stresses by herself, thinking that she is perfectly capable of doing so.
One regular day of shopping at a grocery store, the woman suddenly experiences an increase in heart rate, chest pains, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, tingling in her hands, and difficulty in breathing all symptoms of a panic attack.
The woman is rushed to the hospital and all sorts of tests are conducted on her and she is made to take various medications. These worrisome examinations could heighten her anxiety and fear about the panic attack that she just experienced.
If she leaves this first panic attack untreated and the doctors merely treat her symptoms, then this is where the problem begins.
Instead of identifying the true causes of her panic attack (stress from pregnancy, work, and family), she could become confused and associate the grocery store with the panic attack. She might begin to think that what caused her feelings of anxiety, fear, and panic is the grocery store.
From here on, the woman might experience panic attacks even when she just knows that she will be going to the grocery store.
The woman will begin to fear the anxiety and panic that she might experience once she goes there. The woman could then begin to avoid going to the grocery store entirely or would only want to go there when she is with a support person.
The fear and avoidance could become so severe that the woman could eventually become confined to the house or housebound.
Panic attacks, fear of experiencing anxiety and panic, needing the assistance of a support person, avoidance, being housebound these are classic symptoms of a case of Agoraphobia.
This is how a relatively harmless panic attack can become a full-blown Panic Disorder and even develop into Agoraphobia.