Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes people to avoid being in general environments, such as enclosed or crowded areas, because they fear entrapment or feeling helpless if a panic attack occurs. The length of agoraphobia varies for each person. For some people, their agoraphobic feelings will dissipate in time. For others, these fears can last their entire lives if left untreated.
Does Agoraphobia Last Forever?
There are two aspects of agoraphobia to consider: the disorder itself and the individual panic attacks that often occur for people with the condition. Panic attacks are a primary effect of agoraphobia and vary in length. A panic attack usually lasts between 10 and 30 minutes, although some people reported hour-long attacks. While these incidents are uncomfortable, they are always temporary.
While an individual panic attack always ends, that does not mean a person’s agoraphobia is cured. How long agoraphobia lasts depends on when the disorder begins. Agoraphobia usually develops during late adolescence or early adulthood, between the ages of 13 and 35. The disorder rarely forms during early childhood because young children do not fear feelings of panic. Adolescents and adults recognize that panic attacks can occur and, thus, are more likely than children to fear them. However, traumatic memories from childhood can help cause agoraphobia to develop later in a person’s life. An example is a memory of becoming lost in a crowded space, such as a mall or store, or having a near-death experience on a form of public transportation. While these events occurred during childhood, the panic that one might associate with these environments isn’t likely to develop until that person becomes older.
Most people with agoraphobia have had multiple panic attacks and fear them occurring in the future. Fearful feelings about a specific environment are often linked to past panic attacks that happened in that environment or a similar one. If untreated, the agoraphobic feelings can last for years after the traumatic event occurred.
Individual panic attacks vary in length. A panic attack usually lasts between 10 and 30 minutes, although some people have reported hour-long attacks. While these incidents are uncomfortable, they are always temporary.
Treatment can help people manage their agoraphobic feelings and diminish the disorder’s effect. Effective treatment methods include cognitive behavioral therapy, counseling, stress-reducing activities like meditation and yoga. Some medical professionals may recommend prescription drugs in addition to therapy. Certain medications (antidepressants, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and benzodiazepines) can reduce agoraphobic feelings. Consult with a primary care physician before taking any medications to treat for agoraphobia or panic attacks.