Panic Disorder Coping How to Cope With Agoraphobia By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD Facebook LinkedIn Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. Learn about our editorial process Updated on September 17, 2020 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Steven Gans, MD Medically reviewed by Steven Gans, MD Steven Gans, MD is board-certified in psychiatry and is an active supervisor, teacher, and mentor at Massachusetts General Hospital. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Jeremy Woodhouse / Holly Wilmeth Blend Images / Getty Images Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder that is marked by recurrent and typically unanticipated panic attacks. Panic attacks are characterized by a combination of many frightening physical symptoms and upsetting thoughts. For instance, during a panic attack, a person may experience physical sensations, such as shortness of breath, shaking, accelerated heart rate, and chest pain. Additionally, the person may become afraid that they are having a medical emergency, experience feelings of depersonalization and derealization, and even fear that they are dying. In spite of these disturbing symptoms, most people with panic disorder will learn strategies to overcome panic attacks. There are many safe and effective treatment options that can assist in recovering from this condition. However, some will cope with the illness through unhealthy means. Approximately one-third of people diagnosed with panic disorder will develop a separate mental health disorder known as agoraphobia. What Is Agoraphobia? Agoraphobia involves intense fear and anxiety about your panic attacks. You may worry that you will have a panic attack in a place or situation in which escape would be difficult. You may also be afraid that you will humiliate yourself in front of others. Additionally, many people with agoraphobia are fearful of having panic attacks in places where no one would be available to help them. The extreme fear and anxiety associated with agoraphobia often lead to avoidance behaviors. This occurs when you choose to stay away from various places and situations that you fear will trigger a panic attack. Avoidance behaviors vary from person to person and may include distancing yourself from means of transportation, open spaces, and large crowds. Avoidance behaviors can greatly limit your quality of life. It is possible for these fears and avoidant behaviors to become so extreme that you become completely homebound out of fear. Does Avoidance Lead to Agoraphobia? How to Reduce Symptoms of Agoraphobia If you are afraid to leave your home due to agoraphobia, you are most likely experiencing feelings of loneliness and isolation. However, there are some steps you can take to manage your symptoms. The following explains ways to cope with and overcome your avoidance behaviors. Seek Professional Help Agoraphobia is a treatable condition. There are many mental health specialists who will be able to review your symptoms, diagnose your condition, and develop a treatment plan. These specialists will be prepared to provide you with a safe and effective recovery plan. Agoraphobia typically develops within the first year that a person begins having persistent and unexpected panic attacks. Therefore, it is important to seek out professional help as soon as symptoms arise. However, even people with disabling and long-term agoraphobia typically have positive results and improvements through professional help. Learn Relaxation Techniques Relaxation techniques are self-help strategies that can help alleviate your feelings of anxiety. These techniques can assist in easing tension throughout the body and relaxing any nervousness of the mind. Relaxation techniques can be easily learned from home and at your own pace. Start practicing these strategies to manage panic attacks, reduce negative thoughts and elicit your relaxation response. Take a Few Deep Breaths and Calm Panic Disorder Practice Desensitization Desensitization is a popular coping technique that can be learned on your own or through therapy. Imaginal desensitization involves the use of your imagination to help overcome triggers associated with your panic attacks and feelings of anxiety. Desensitization works by helping you gradually unlearn your fears. Desensitization begins by gradually imaging yourself in anxiety-provoking situations while learning how to relax through your feelings of apprehension. While picturing yourself in places or situations that typically trigger panic attacks, you will use a relaxation technique to work through your fears and anxieties. Over time, you may be able to visualize yourself in feared situations and yet feel in control of your anxiety. By learning to relax through panic-inducing visualizations, you will eventually be able to reduce panic and avoidance behaviors. Reduce Your Stress Stress can be a major source of anxiety. Stress has been known to contribute to many physical and mental health problems. Additionally, too much stress can potentially trigger some of your symptoms. To reduce your panic and anxiety symptoms, learn some stress management techniques. 10 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Symptoms - panic attacks. Cleveland Clinic. Panic Disorder: Management and Treatment. National Institute on Mental Health. Panic Disorder: When Fear Overwhelms. Hara N, Nishimura Y, Yokoyama C, et al. The development of agoraphobia is associated with the symptoms and location of a patient's first panic attack. Biopsychosoc Med. 2012;6(1):12. doi:10.1186/1751-0759-6-12 Mkrtchian A, Aylward J, Dayan P, Roiser JP, Robinson OJ. Modeling Avoidance in Mood and Anxiety Disorders Using Reinforcement Learning. Biol Psychiatry. 2017;82(7):532-539. doi:10.1016/j.biopsych.2017.01.017 Gloster AT, Wittchen HU, Einsle F, et al. Psychological treatment for panic disorder with agoraphobia: a randomized controlled trial to examine the role of therapist-guided exposure in situ in CBT. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2011;79(3):406-20. doi:10.1037/a0023584 Vorkapic CF, Rangé B. Reducing the symptomatology of panic disorder: the effects of a yoga program alone and in combination with cognitive-behavioral therapy. Front Psychiatry. 2014;5:177. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2014.00177 Triscari MT, Faraci P, Catalisano D, D'angelo V, Urso V. Effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy integrated with systematic desensitization, cognitive behavioral therapy combined with eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy combined with virtual reality exposure therapy methods in the treatment of flight anxiety: a randomized trial. Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2015;11:2591-8. doi:10.2147/NDT.S93401 Dubord G. Part 12. Systematic desensitization. Can Fam Physician. 2011;57(11):1299. National Institutes on Mental Health. 5 Things You Should Know About Stress. Additional Reading American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses, Fifth Edition. Arlington County, Virginia: American Psychiatric Publishing; 2013. Bourne EJ. The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Fifth Edition. Oakland, California: New Harbinger; 2011. By Katharina Star, PhD Katharina Star, PhD, is an expert on anxiety and panic disorder. Dr. Star is a professional counselor, and she is trained in creative art therapies and mindfulness. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for Panic Disorder Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.