Depression and Anxiety

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other staff.


I have been diagnosed as an agoraphobic. In spite of various treatment approaches I find myself housebound. I have read recently that agoraphobia and panic-related illnesses are caused by some form of chemical imbalance. Can you tell me what types of treatment are available in light of the new research about this problem? I am especially interested in more natural, drug free forms of treatment.


Feeling trapped at home is a common dilemma for those suffering from panic disorder. Your question raises a commonly heard issue with this painful condition--the question of chemical imbalance. For you and for many, this focus upon the biochemical perspective offers two primary advantages: first, it helps lower the sense of self blame often involved with panic episodes; and second, it gives a sense of hope for new ways to treat these painful, limiting conditions.

In fact, medication may relieve the immediate symptoms of panic disorder. However, when the avoidance reactions we term agoraphobia are strongly developed in reaction to the fear of further panic episodes, medication or any short-term intervention often feels ineffective. Also, many of the drugs used to treat anxiety have either negative side effects, or are can lead to dependence.

There are exciting new developments in the psychological treatment of these painful symptoms. Using cognitive/behavioral techniques combined with actual coaching out on the street, in the office, or at home, psychologists are helping individuals with panic disorder learn how to gain control of their lives with greater comfort. Recent treatment guidelines from the National Institutes of Mental Health support the use of these psychological techniques.

You are wise in your commitment to find out more about panic disorder and agoraphobia. There is a wealth of information available on the internet. First, check out our links under anxiety and panic disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health offers information about anxiety disorders. Also, general information about the treatment of panic disorder is available at the National Institutes of Health. This information is quite technical and a little dated, but gives a good overview of treatment options. Finally Noodles Panic and Anxiety Pages has an incredible amount of information.

Thank you for writing. Panic and other anxiety related conditions are among the most treatable emotional disorders. So you can be positive in your search for some resolution of your pain.


Dr. Kenneth Dutro is a licensed psychologist in California. He is a member of the faculty at Humboldt State University, Arcata, California. He has been faculty member of a medical school, and worked for years as a psychologist in university-affiliated teaching hospitals.


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