Imagine the thought of going out into public causes you so much anxiety that you haven’t left your house for over a year. Incomprehensible to many of us, but for individuals struggling with agoraphobia, it is a reality.
About one in three people with a panic disorder develop agoraphobia—a fear of public places such as:
- sports arenas or shopping malls
- open spaces like parks or beaches
- public transportation such as a bus or plane
- crowds or standing in line
- places where immediate escape is not possible
- places where help for a panic attack may not be readily available
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that affects approximately 1.8 million adults in the United States.
People with agoraphobia experience extreme panic symptoms when they attempt to leave their homes or go into public places. They avoid the place or places where they first suffered a panic attack. Or, the panic attack sufferer may halt all activities that seem to trigger the attacks such as driving, riding in elevators or going to the grocery store. Sometimes this anxiety becomes so intense, sufferers may refuse to leave home.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has been shown to be highly effective in treating agoraphobia, however, because of the nature of the disorder, it was very difficult for someone to receive treatment because leaving home to attend therapy at a clinic or office was a near impossible feat.
With the advent of teletherapy, much needed CBT is now available from the comfort of home providing hope for a better future.
As research has shown teletherapy is as effective in treating mental health concerns as therapy services provided within a clinic, insurance companies have begun to cover this service. This offers incredible hope for people struggling with agoraphobia.
Sam (not his real name), a 20 year old college student, had been unable to leave his home for over a year. He was attending college online, buying groceries online, and his only activities were those he could do either online or without leaving his home. His agoraphobia was so problematic during his first teletherapy appointment, he needed a family member to be present in the room in order to sit through the session.
Being able to access services from an experienced Pine Rest therapist within his home offered Sam hope that he could develop the skills necessary to effectively overcome his agoraphobia.
At the beginning of treatment, Sam developed a list of things he wanted to be able to do. He’s already achieved his first goal—going outside of his house! Now he’s actively working toward being able to ride in a car driven by a family member.
Without teletherapy, Sam firmly believes he would still be stuck inside his house without any conceivable way to free himself from the effects of his agoraphobia. He is beginning to have confidence that he will someday be able to manage his agoraphobia so it no longer interferes with his ability to pursue his desires and dreams for his life.
Teletherapy can be used to effectively treat most mental health concerns.
Many Pine Rest clinicians are trained to provide therapy via teletherapy. If you have been having difficulty accessing counseling services because of your schedule, the distance involved in getting to a clinic, or because of factors like the ones Sam faced, you may want to explore utilizing teletherapy.
Don’t let the fear or inconvenience of going to a clinic be a barrier to your obtaining services that would help you feel and function better!
To learn more about teletherapy or schedule your first appointment, visit the Pine Rest website at: pinerest.org/telehealth.
Jean Holthaus, LISW is a Licensed Independent Social Worker and Clinic Manager at the Pine Rest Pella Clinic. She earned a BA in Elementary Education from the University of Northern Iowa and a Masters of Social Work from the University of Iowa in 1995.