Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What Causes The Personality Behind Agoraphobia?

The agoraphobia personality I described in the last post isn't just genetic. A number of factors might conspire to create it. If you have agoraphobia, check out the list below and see if you can relate:

1) A parent who models anxiety. Role modeling by a paret can have a powerful influence on a child. If a parent models the anxious personality traits, the child is likely to devlop them as well.

2) Critical parent. If a child has an overly critical parent that places unrealistic expectations on them, this can lead to the child developing a perfectionistic personality.

3) Overprotective parent. An overprotective parent shields their child from life's hardships, acting as if their child couldn't handle life on their own. Overprotection on the part of the parent teaches the child that taking risks in life is too dangerous and that risks should be avoided. It also teaches the child that he or she is fragile and not equipped to face challenges independently. As a result, children of overprotective parents are likely to fear taking risks ad feel anxiety and unsure of themselves in the face of a challenge.

4) Approval based on peformance. Parents who only show approval for their child when he or she does something that pleases them. This type of parent does not make a distinction between what the child does and the child's worth as a person. Children with parents like this may also grow up failing to make that distinction, and feel they must always perform well to be a valuable person. This leads to the anxiety that comes from always having to strive to achieve something to maintain a sense of personal worth. Perfectionistic parents who only give approval based on performance are even worse. Not only do their children learn that they have to perform well to be loved, they must perform perfectly. When a child feels like his or her worth is riding on being perfect, this can lead to a lot of performance anxiety and fear of losing the love and approval of significant others.

5) Rigid family rules. Children who grow up in families with overly strict rules tend to become black-and-white thinkers. As adults, they may end up creating their own set of rigid rules about the way things "should" be, and feel anxiety when these standards are not met.

6) Rigid belief systems. Children who grow up in families that hold rigid belief systems also tend to become black-and-white thinkers becuase parents with rigid beliefs usually model this type of thinking.

7) Surpression of feelings. When children grow up in families where they are taught that it is not ok to express feelings (example: being told not to cry or not to feel a certain way) , they are prone to holding their feelings in as adults. Parents may teach a child that it is not ok to express feelings in several ways: 1) telling the child directly not to feel a certain way, 2) ignoring the child's feelings, 3) reacting with violence or anger when the child expresses feelings. All of these cases lead to adults with bottled up emotions that could cause anxiety or panic.

8) Alcoholism, physical abuse, or emotional abuse. Children from homes with alcoholism or abuse tend to feel anxiety from the insecurity of having an unstable emotional environment. They grow up to become ustable emotionally as adults and are more prone to having an anxiety disorder.

9) Sepration from parents. Children who are separated from their parents for long periods of time without knowing why develop anxiety over separation and loss. This may happen if a parent is sick or in the hospital for a long time, goes on a long business trip, ignores their child for lon periods, gets divorced, or dies.

10) Having to play the parent role too early. When children who are forced into the parent role too early due to a parent being sick, busy, or absent they may develop a a rigid set of rules for themselves in order to survive. This may be the only way they can cope with having adult responsibilties before they are developmentally prepared to handle them. In adulthod, this can lead to many of the agoraphobia personality traits; black-and-white thinking, a high need for control, perfectionism, and unrealistic expectations.

I'm not saying that these factors cause agoraphobia in all cases, but the more of these factors a person experiences in life, the more likely they are to develop the personality traits of agoraphobia.

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