Agoraphobia in adolescents is difficult. Agoraphobia in teens often looks like fear of leaving comfortable places. These teens can suffer immensely. Their anxiety is very high, even when they realize it’s not logical. It becomes a challenge to go anywhere new, and sometimes becomes so extreme that your teen won’t leave the home.
This blog post is part 1 of a few blogs on agoraphobia in teens, and what can be done to help them.
What is agoraphobia?
Technically it means “fear of the marketplace.” It is often accompanied by panic attacks, but not always. The way it looks is your teenager experiences very high anxiety in either crowded places, or unfamiliar places. There can be a fear of danger, a fear of being unable to escape, or a fear of experiencing a panic attack out in public.
When agoraphobia is combined with panic, it usually starts with panic attacks. A person has a panic attack, which is an incredibly miserable experience. Panic attacks can so closely resemble the feelings of a heart attack that many, many people go to emergency rooms each year thinking they are having heart trouble, but it ends up being a panic attack. A person goes out in public somewhere, such as at the mall, and has a panic attack. They avoid ever going back to that mall because there is now a negative association formed. This happens in multiple places until the thought of going out anywhere produces anxiety.
The result of agoraphobia is an ever shrinking world. Your teenager is willing to go out less and less, only with certain people, and to fewer and fewer places. Eventually your teenager might not go out at all. They might start to feel depressed because they just can’t bring themselves to do the things they used to. They might even ask you about homeschooling and quitting their extra-curricular activities. The relief of knowing they could be at home, where panic either doesn’t occur or is at least in a comfortable place, causes your teen to stop the things they used to do.
Oftentimes treatment for agoraphobia means having to find a therapist who will come into the home. This can be an enormous challenge. Most counselors are unwilling to do this because it can be unsafe, and is very time-consuming.
Thankfully, since technology has come a long way, teenagers with agoraphobia have an option. Online counseling with teenagers is very effective for helping teenagers work through anxiety disorders. Teens with panic disorder, and with agoraphobia are able to meet the therapist in the home through videoconferencing counseling sessions.
If you think your teen is struggling with agoraphobia, give us a call. As long as you live anywhere in the state of California, we are able to work with you on helping your teen get his or her life back.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT