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What Medications Are Used to Treat Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is a widely misunderstood mental health disorder that can prevent a person from enjoying a full and productive life. If you have been living with this condition, please know that therapy, agoraphobia medication, and other treatment services can lead to significant improvements in the substance and quality of your life.

What Is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is characterized by profound fear or worry about being in certain locations or situations.

As established in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), someone who has agoraphobia will experience distressing symptoms when they are in – or thinking about being in – at least two of the following places:

  • A bus, train, plane, car, or other type of public transportation
  • A parking lot, a bridge, or some other wide open space
  • A store, theater, or other enclosed location
  • In line or among a crowd of other people
  • Anywhere outside their home by themselves

Typically, agoraphobia-related fears arise from a person’s concern that they won’t be able to escape or get help if they have a panic attack or somehow embarrass themselves. 

The psychological distress of agoraphobia will be disproportionate to any actual threat. However, to the individual who has the disorder this pain can be so severe that it causes them to change their behaviors or severely limit their activities. It will also be intense enough to impair their ability to function at work, in school, in social situations, or in other important areas of life.

Types of Agoraphobia Medication

Treatment for agoraphobia often includes a combination of therapy and prescription medication.

Though not developed as agoraphobia medications, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), tricyclics, and benzodiazepines may all be used to treat this condition. 

SSRIs, SNRIs, and tricyclics are most commonly prescribed to treat depression, while benzos are usually prescribed to people who have anxiety. 

The list of antidepressants that doctors often prescribe to people with agoraphobia includes:

  • Paroxetine (Paxil)
  • Sertraline (Zoloft)
  • Citalopram (Celexa)
  • Escitalopram (Effexor)
  • Clomipramine (Anafranil)
  • Fluoxetine (Prozac)
  • Duloxetine (Cymbalta)
  • Nortriptyline (Pamelor)

Patients who receive agoraphobia medications typically receive a prescription for an SSRI or SNIR first. If their symptoms don’t respond to these types of antidepressant, they may be switched to a tricyclic.

If antidepressants prove to be ineffective as agoraphobia medications for a patient, their doctor may then prescribe a benzo, such as:

  • Diazepam (Valium)
  • Alprazolam (Xanax)
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin)

Side Effects of Agoraphobia Medication

Finding the ideal agoraphobia medication for a patient isn’t as simple as identifying the med that does the best job at alleviating symptoms. Healthcare providers must also ensure that the drug they prescribe doesn’t cause their patient to experience severe side effects.

Every prescription medication has the potential to cause side effects. For the antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs that are often employed as agoraphobia medications, common side effects can include:

  • SSRIs: Headache, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, sexual dysfunction, lightheadedness, and appetite change
  • SNRIs: Headache, excessive perspiration, nausea, constipation, exhaustion, sexual dysfunction, and appetite loss
  • Tricyclics: Blurred vision, drowsiness, lightheadedness, urine retention, tremor, weight gain, and sexual dysfunction
  • Benzodiazepines: Muscle weakness, confusion, impaired memory, tremors, nausea, vomiting, slowed respiration

People can also become dependent on any of these medications, though the risk of abuse and addiction is greatest among those who take benzodiazepines.

Other Treatment Options for Agoraphobia

People who have agoraphobia often benefit from therapy in addition to (or instead of) medication. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is widely regarded as the ideal approach for people who have agoraphobia. This short-term service is designed to help patients identify maladaptive thought and behavior patterns, then replace them with healthier ways of thinking and acting. 

CBT sessions can help patients make beneficial changes in several areas, such as:

  • Improving how they think about themselves, the world, and the future
  • Recognizing and correcting dysfunctional assumptions
  • Resisting automatic negative thoughts

If a person’s struggles with agoraphobia are related to a history of trauma or accompanied by any co-occurring mental health concerns or substance use disorders (addictions), the individual may also benefit from therapies such as:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy
  • Genetic testing
  • Somatic therapy 
  • Red light therapy
  • Holistic therapies
  • Biosound therapy

Determining what types of therapy a person should receive – and deciding if they should also receive agoraphobia medication – are personal decisions that should be based on a thorough assessment of the patient’s history, needs, and goals.

This highlights the importance of finding an agoraphobia treatment provider who will conduct a thorough assessment, discuss your preferences and expectations with you, help you set realistic short- and long-term goals, and develop a customized plan just for you.

Find Agoraphobia Treatment in Nashville

Arbor Wellness offers a full continuum of personalized care to help adults whose lives have been disrupted by agoraphobia, other mental illnesses, and co-occurring substance use disorders. 

Programming options at our agoraphobia treatment center in Nashville, Tennessee, include residential treatment, a partial hospitalization program (PHP), and an intensive outpatient program (IOP). We also offer specialized programs for military veterans and young adults.

In every program, our patients receive superior clinical services and comprehensive support from a team of highly skilled professionals. We understand the damage that untreated agoraphobia can cause, and we are committed to providing the customized treatment that can empower you to live a healthier and more satisfying life.

To learn more about how we can help you or a loved one, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.