Agoraphobia belongs to the group of anxiety disorders. The main characteristic of agoraphobia is the overwhelming fear of situations or places from which there seems to be no escape.
One of the best ways to overcome this anxiety disorder is by talking to a licensed therapist.
In this article, we’ll review the two best platforms to connect you with an agoraphobia therapist. We’ll also explain the best type of therapy for this anxiety disorder.
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Agoraphobia therapist near me
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In this section, we’ve looked at the three best online therapy services that offer agoraphobia treatment.
BetterHelp is an online therapy platform that provides mental health services. Thousands of licensed therapists use the platform to provide online therapy, which you can access for a weekly fee.
This online therapy platform offers help for a range of different issues, including agoraphobia and panic attacks. As anxiety is one of the predominant mental health issues that people currently experience, BetterHelp has a variety of clinical therapists specializing in this area.
BetterHelp is basically therapy in your pocket. You can find professional help wherever you are, at any time, by phone calls, text messages or video chat. They have a website, as well as a mobile app, which you can use to get support.
The basic plan includes all services listed below, but the main, and most significant one, is weekly therapy sessions one-on-one with your assigned mental health professional. This service is similar to face-to-face therapy, but you can talk to your therapist even when you’re on vacation, traveling, or simply don’t want to go to an office.
With BetterHelp, you also get access to unlimited messaging with your therapist, over live chat. Using this, you can share your thoughts and feelings and get a response whenever you feel like you need support or advice, rather than having to wait for your next weekly session.
All BetterHelp therapists are licensed, accredited professionals, each of whom offers different types of therapy. Specifically for agoraphobia and other anxiety disorders, BetterHelp therapists offer cognitive behavioral therapy, which has been proven as one of the most effective treatment options for these types of disorders.
The process of joining BetterHelp is quite straightforward. When you sign up, you’re asked questions about your issue, and what you’re looking for in a therapist. The questionnaire may seem long, but it’s designed this way to ensure that the BetterHelp team understands your situation thoroughly. Then, using this information, BetterHelp matches you with a suitable therapist.
Not “clicking” with your therapist, or feeling like you need someone else, is one of the possible problems that can occur on this platform. However, this happens all the time in traditional therapy as well.
On BetterHelp, if you’re not satisfied with your current therapist, you simply use the online portal to ask to change social anxiety counselor, and you’ll be immediately assigned another one. Even though a mismatch is possible, BetterHelp gives you the opportunity to switch therapists at any time, and for any reason.
Another online therapy site you might find worth exploring is online-therapy.com.
Suitable for agoraphobia, online-therapy.com is entirely based on cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), one of the most effective psychotherapeutic approaches for this disorder. The goal of CBT is to help you recognize, reevaluate and overcome distorted thoughts and unhelpful behavioral patterns.
All therapists on online-therapy.com are licensed CBT specialists with a minimum of three years of experience. You can read each therapist’s biography upon signing up, to ensure you find someone experienced at providing agoraphobia therapy.
With online-therapy.com, you can communicate with your therapist over chat, a phone call, or a video session. Whichever subscription plan you buy, you’ll also get access to their online tools, such as worksheets and online journaling.
Although you don’t have to use these online treatment tools if you don’t want to, they can be useful, because cognitive behavioral therapy often relies on self-reflection, which the worksheets can be very helpful with.
The long-term goal of cognitive behavioral therapy is to help you become your own therapist, to be able to recognize the disorder and learn how to control it. This process takes significant practice, which homework and worksheets can be very helpful for, in conjunction with sessions from your licensed therapist on this website.
Which is the best type of therapy for agoraphobia?
Cognitive behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, is one of the most effective types of therapy for agoraphobia.
Anxiety is the predominant symptom of agoraphobia, and CBT focuses on teaching you how to better tolerate anxiety by directly challenging your worries and gradually returning you to activities you’ve previously avoided. Cognitive behavioral therapy can teach you which factors trigger a panic attack, as well as techniques that can help you stop them.
CBT is commonly used when treating an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, panic disorder, panic attacks, and phobias, including agoraphobia.
The core principles of CBT are based on the idea that psychological problems emerge from unhelpful and distorted ways of thinking, as well as conditioned patterns of unhelpful behavior. CBT relies on the fact that people can learn better ways of coping with their psychological problems, reduce their suffering, and live better, happier lives.
CBT works on changing thinking patterns. This psychological treatment teaches you how to recognize cognitive distortions, reevaluate them, gain a better understanding of your own disorder and your thoughts, and use problem-solving skills to cope with difficult agoraphobic situations.
Patients who go through CBT feel more confident that they can control their own disorder, instead of their disorder controlling them.
CBT also helps you change your behavioral patterns – facing fears instead of avoiding them, and role-playing to prepare for difficult interactions. Sometimes, this type of treatment involves exposure therapy, which involves slowly introducing you to the source of your fear, helping you to eventually overcome this anxiety trigger. Exposure therapy is typically used in the later stages of your treatment program.
CBT may also involve cognitive restructuring techniques, which help to gradually alter negative thoughts and attitudes you may have, especially around social situations and being in open spaces.
Benefits of online therapy for agoraphobia
People with agoraphobia sometimes have a very specific problem. Patients might experience panic and fear while in open spaces or crowded places, or on public transport, possibly leading to a full-on panic attack. Those with severe symptoms might not even be able to leave their own home for fear of panic attacks.
If you’re experiencing these behavioral agoraphobic symptoms, online therapy could be a good place to start. For people who experience extreme anxiety upon leaving their house, merely going to face-to-face therapy can be daunting.
Online therapy reduces exposure to anxiety at the early stages of therapy and allows you to work on your agoraphobia from the comfort of your home, or any other comfortable environment. It might also help you to open up with your therapist, helping to make therapy more effective.
Data shows that online therapy can be just as useful and effective as traditional face-to-face therapy, but it heavily depends on which sort of treatment you prefer. Some people may prefer talking to someone face-to-face, while some find this treatment more anxiety-inducing.
Can agoraphobia be cured?
Around a third of people with agoraphobia eventually free themselves of agoraphobic symptoms, with the right professional help. You can treat agoraphobia and eventually free yourself of the disorder.
For others, after going through therapy, you might experience agoraphobia again in the future, when faced with extreme stress. In this case, it may be worthwhile to seek treatment again, for a short period of time, to help you re-learn the techniques you used to avoid having a panic attack.
What is agoraphobia?
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes fear of places from which there seems to be no easy way to escape, especially when going out.
There are a couple of hypotheses that try to explain what leads to agoraphobia.
- The behavioral hypothesis says that agoraphobia is the result of conditioning. In other words, when a person experiences negative or uncomfortable sensations in a certain place, they tend to believe the same thing is going to happen again when they’re in that same place.
- The cognitive hypothesis says that agoraphobia is the result of wrong interpretations of physical sensations, such as rapid heartbeat or sweating.
Agoraphobic people may think these sensations are caused by an upcoming anxiety or panic attack due to being in a crowded place, which in return causes more anxiety.
Symptoms of agoraphobia
There are three types of symptoms caused by agoraphobia – physical, cognitive and behavioral.
Physical symptoms occur in situations that cause anxiety which are difficult for a person to handle, and therefore lead to avoidance and intense fear of experiencing these situations.
These types of symptoms include an increased heart rate, sweating and trembling, feeling faint, feeling like you’re going to suffocate, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, and difficulty swallowing.
Cognitive symptoms are thoughts and feelings related to the physical issues we described above. These symptoms are your thoughts about the physical sensations you’re experiencing.
These symptoms include an intense fear of having panic attacks in public, due to thinking you will be embarrassed, or a fear that the panic attack will be fatal or life-threatening. Patients may even fear they’re going to suffocate or have a heart attack.
Other cognitive symptoms include feelings of being unable to escape from the situation, fear of losing sanity, and fear of losing control.
Behavioral symptoms are usually the consequences of other symptoms. Essentially, your patterns of behavior change – you start avoiding places that could cause anxiety, such as crowded places and public transport.
You might avoid being far away from your house and need to be with someone you trust when going outside.
Agoraphobia and panic disorder
Agoraphobia and panic disorder often go hand in hand. They have one specific symptom in common and that is anxiety, especially social anxiety.
There are cases in which these two disorders appear separately. People with panic disorder do not necessarily have to suffer from agoraphobia, or vice versa. But since agoraphobia causes extreme anxiety, this could potentially lead to a panic attack, and a person developing panic disorder.
Fortunately, cognitive behavioral treatment is suitable for both disorders.
Even though experiencing these symptoms and living with these disorders can be difficult, there are ways to take back control over your life. Seeking professional help, working through your emotions, and self-reflection are the ways you can begin to overcome agoraphobia symptoms.
This is the end of our article discussing the best online therapy platforms for treating agoraphobia and panic attacks.
We hope you’ve found the right path forward towards improving your mental health.
If you’re still not sure which online therapy platform to choose to treat your agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, and panic attacks, feel free to leave us a comment below and we’ll help you decide between different online counseling and telehealth services.
About the author
I am a freelance writer and psychology undergraduate from Croatia, a thesis away from my Master’s degree. I have received a Rector’s Award in the field of clinical psychology and have experience in working with people struggling with anxiety disorders and depression.
My goal is to help people get a better understanding of their struggles, free themselves from the grasp of their disorder and take back control of their lives. I’m a firm believer that anyone can improve their overall wellbeing, when armed with the right knowledge and tools.