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
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.