Addiction And Agoraphobia: Dual Diagnosis

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on April 19, 2021

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is rare but can be very debilitating. Agoraphobia and substance use disorders are often co-occurring and should be treated together to avoid relapse.

Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on April 19, 2021
Dual Diagnosis Agoraphobia And Addiction

Agoraphobia is a rare type of anxiety disorder that only about 1.3% of American adults will experience during their lifetime.

While some phobias can be easily avoided, agoraphobia is one that will most likely affect nearly every area of a person’s life.

Some who suffer from it will find it difficult to leave their homes, and it is not uncommon for those with agoraphobia to also be diagnosed with depression or a substance use disorder.

Agoraphobia can lead to a substance use disorder, but the opposite is true as well. It is important to treat both conditions at the same time, and dual diagnosis treatment is an excellent method of doing this.

What Is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is a type of phobia, and more generally a type of anxiety disorder. It is often misunderstood as a fear of open spaces or crowds, but it is actually quite a bit more complex than that.

Agoraphobia involves a fear of anticipated situations that might result in a panic attack or make the person severely uncomfortable in some way.

This includes public places and crowds but also includes situations like traveling or being in empty, wide-open spaces.

Common fears associated with agoraphobia include:

  • open spaces
  • enclosed spaces
  • public transportation
  • crowds
  • leaving the house alone

Signs Of Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is a very complex phobia, but like many other phobias, it is closely tied to panic attacks.

It is believed that agoraphobia starts for many people after they experience a panic attack in a certain situation.

After this, they develop an irrational fixation on avoiding that situation or other situations which might cause another panic attack.

Signs of agoraphobia include:

  • fear of leaving the home
  • avoidance of particular situations or environments
  • panic attacks when faced with triggers
  • social detachment
  • anxious nature

Any case of agoraphobia can range from mild to severe. Some people can even overcome the disorder completely, while others will find it hard to lead normal lives at all.

The Relationship Between Addiction And Agoraphobia

Someone with a severe case of agoraphobia may find themselves suffering a great deal. They may be spending a lot of time at home or alone and find themselves turning to drugs or alcohol for relief from their symptoms or simply as a way to pass the time.

On the other hand, someone who is dealing with substance abuse may start to experience panic attacks as a result of their heightened state of stress, eventually leading to agoraphobia.

How Are Addiction And Agoraphobia Diagnosed?

To be diagnosed with agoraphobia, a person must exhibit persistent symptoms of the disorder for a minimum of six months.

The doctor will also want to rule out any other mental disorders or phobias. This will usually include a few interviews and possibly some physical testing.

Agoraphobia is somewhat rare, affecting between 1% and 2 % of adults in America each year.

It is usually diagnosed in the early twenties, though it can appear at any age. It is also more common in women than men.

Treating Addiction And Agoraphobia

When someone has both addiction and agoraphobia, it is very important to treat both conditions simultaneously. Unless both are treated in unison, a relapse becomes more likely.

Dual diagnosis treatment is a type of addiction treatment that attempts to treat both a substance use disorder and any co-occurring mental health disorders at the same time.

In addition, treatment for any phobia usually involves some type of exposure therapy, a type of therapy that encourages the patient to face their fears.

Dual diagnosis treatment can include the following:

  • medically monitored detox
  • group therapy
  • medication
  • psychotherapy
  • exposure therapy
  • cognitive behavioral therapy

When treated, there is a high success rate for overcoming both agoraphobia and addiction. If left untreated, both conditions will likely get worse and recovery will become more challenging.

Finding Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Addiction And Agoraphobia

For more information about addiction and agoraphobia, or to find a dual diagnosis treatment center in your area, please give our helpline a call today.

Agoraphobia and addiction can be difficult to live with, but, with an individualized treatment plan created just for you, recovery is possible.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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