There are a variety of treatments available for agoraphobia, including specific kinds of psychotherapy as well as several effective medications. A specific form of psychotherapy that focuses on decreasing negative, anxiety-provoking, or other self-defeating thoughts and behaviors (called cognitive behavioral therapy) has been found to be highly effective in treating agoraphobia. In fact, when agoraphobia occurs along with panic disorder, cognitive behavioral therapy, with or without treatment with medications, is considered to be the most effective way to both relieve symptoms and prevent their return.
In fact, sometimes patients respond equally as well when treated with group cognitive behavioral therapy or a brief course of cognitive behavioral therapy as they do when treated with traditional cognitive therapy. Psychotherapy for agoraphobia has even been found to be effective for many people when they receive it over the Internet, which is optimistic news for people who live in areas that are hundreds of miles from the nearest mental-health professional.
Another form of therapy that has been found effective in managing agoraphobia includes self-exposure. In that intervention, the person either imagines or puts him or herself into situations that cause increasing levels of agoraphobic anxiety, using relaxation techniques in each situation in order to master their anxiety. There is increasing evidence that exposure therapy can also be done effectively through the Internet.
Regarding medical therapy, agoraphobia is usually treated in connection with panic disorder. Commonly, members of the serotonin selective reuptake inhibitor and the minor tranquilizer (benzodiazepine) groups of medications are used in treatment. Examples of SSRI medications include sertraline (Zoloft), paroxetine (Paxil), and fluoxetine (Prozac). The possible side effects of SSRI medications can vary greatly from person to person and depend on which medication is being used. Common side effects of this group of medications include dry mouth, sexual dysfunction, nausea, tremors, trouble sleeping, blurred vision, constipation or soft stools, and dizziness. In very rare cases, some people have been thought to become acutely more anxious or depressed once on the medication, even trying to or completing suicide or homicide. Children and teens are thought to be particularly vulnerable to this rare possibility.
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