Friday, March 03, 2006

Agoraphobia Treatments

Today I just want to introduce the major forms of therapy for agoraphobia. Basically, psychologists and psychiatrists are most likely to combine three types of treatment for agoraphobia:

1) Behavioral Therapy: Focuses primarily on changing avoidance behavior that results from anxiety.

2) Cognitive Therapy: Focuses primarily on changing anxiety-producing thought patterns.

3) Medication: Focuses on changing physical processes on the brain through chemical intervention.

So which treatment for agoraphobia is most effective according to research?

Although research results on the effectiveness of each form of therapy varies from study to study, behavioral therapy has proven to be the most effective treatment on its own. Cognitive therapy has not been proven successful when used alone, but agoraphobia patients who undergo behavioral therapy increase their chances of recovery when cognitive therapy is added.

In fact, studies have demonstrated that the combination of behavioral and cognitive therapies (or cognitive-behavioral therapy) is up to 90% successful in reducing the occurrence of panic attacks associated with agoraphobia.

Medication, of course, is also highly effective in reducing the occurrence of panic attacks and the other anxiety symptoms of agoraphobia. The problem with medication, however, is that the symptoms are only reduced while you are taking it. In other words, medications only mask the symptoms of agoraphobia and are not a real cure or long-term solution. Also, some medications can be addictive or have negative side effects.

Due to the drawbacks of medication, most psychologists and psychiatrists prescribe medicine as a temporary means of reducing agoraphobia symptoms while cognitive-behavioral therapy is practiced. Once a person begins to feel successful with cognitive-behavioral therapy, the goal is to gradually reduce reliance on the medication for anxiety relief.

I will talk more about my experience with each of these types of therapy in later posts. Plus, starting a running program really helped me overcome agoraphobia, too.