Agoraphobia is a disorder that involves an intense recovery process. Patients with agoraphobia often require treatment to address their symptoms and resulting behaviors. The two most common forms of therapy for agoraphobia are cognitive behavioral therapy and exposure therapy. Both have been proven to be effective in the treatment of agoraphobia, but they are challenging processes that require time, commitment, and motivation for change.
It is not uncommon for those who are undergoing agoraphobia treatment to feel overwhelmed in the recovery process, so mental health professionals will often recommend incorporating psychiatric medication to aid in the healing process. Patients, especially those new to treatment, may be wary to take medications, but with proper medication management and monitoring, it can aid in the recovery process. Medication is also not prescribed to last a lifetime. As you improve and progress in recovery, your provider will likely gradually cut back the medication so you can become self-sufficient.
The following are medications that are often prescribed to treat those who are suffering from agoraphobia:
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs).
SSRIs are medications that are used to treat a number of mood and anxiety disorders, including agoraphobia and panic disorder. SSRIs work by increasing the amount of serotonin, and the duration that it that is processed in the brain. Serotonin is responsible for mood regulation, sex drive, memory, and behavioral regulation. With a case of agoraphobia, increasing the amount of and duration that serotonin is active in the brain will reduce mood swings, reduce anxiety and the fear response, and regulate memory, which will prevent conditioning of the feared places and situations that trigger symptoms of agoraphobia.
Examples of SSRIs: Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil and Prozac.
Beta-blockers tend to be effective in reducing the fear response in those who suffer from severe phobias. They effectively prevent the rush of adrenaline, which causes uncomfortable symptoms like hyperventilation, stomachaches, and racing heartbeat. In the case of agoraphobia, preventing a rush of adrenaline will prevent the fear response. This will reduce the intensity of the brain associating innocuous places and situations with fear, reducing the overall fear of the trigger for agoraphobia symptoms.
Example of Beta-blockers: Propranolol, Sectral, Kerlone and Brevibloc.
Benzodiazepines are growing in popularity as a treatment option for agoraphobia. According to research, benzodiazepines are becoming the preferred method of treatment due to their quick action when ingested. Research also supports benzodiazepines produce less unpleasant side effects than SSRIs or beta-blockers, like depressed mood and flat affect. However, there is a high risk of dependence on benzodiazepines if a mental health professional not properly and closely monitors the patient.
Examples of Benzodiazepines: alprazolam, diazepam, lorazepam, and chlorazepam.
Each of these types of medications aid in minimizing the emotional and fear-driven response that is caused by agoraphobia while in treatment. However, it is important to complete the treatment program and recovery process. It can sometimes seem as though you are ‘cured’ when taking the medications, but this is not the case. It is important to remain engaged in treatment and learn how to be self-sufficient in managing your symptoms, so you do not become dependent on medication alone.