Dr. Oz says that 3.5 million Americans suffer from Agoraphobia, the most extreme form makes people so paralyzed by the fear of panic that they cannot leave their house. People who are extremely Agoraphobic feel crippling pain and only feel safe at home. Agoraphobes might avoid driving a car or shopping at the mall, and women are four times as likely to have it than men. You can get Agoraphobia at any time, though most people get it around their mid-20’s and it gradually gets worse and piques around mid-age. 1 in 20 people watching Dr. Oz (and reading this article) have Agoraphobia… so would you be able to recognize if you were Agoraphobic?
David Tolin, the Director of Anxiety Disorder Centers and author of Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding, joined Dr. Oz to help explain Agoraphobia, which is the fear of pain. The pituitary gland, which is in the back of the brain, in conjunction with the hypothalamus, allow panic to turn on adrenal glands which release hormones. In turn, your lungs start to hyperventilate and you begin to sweat.
Tracy, a 28 year old woman, has been homebound for a little over a year. Her hands start sweating, she gets dizzy and her knees go weak. She is able to walk as far as the street to pickup her mail and newspapers, but she cannot even walk down the street to her mother-in-law’s house. Tracy said she used to be a very outgoing person and would go to movies and out of town. Tracy’s husband, Jim, was frustrated originally but now tries to be supportive and understanding. Tracy’s panic attacks began 5 years ago and gradually got worse. A week after her mother was in the hospital, she became home bound and she was not even able to go to her mother’s funeral. Tracy is scared that she can’t live life to the fullest. Jim joined Dr. Oz and Tracy was there via satellite from Tennessee.
David Tolin told Jim that there is a fine line between helping (being understanding) and enabling a person to continue and worsen their Agoraphobia. Tracy needs to constantly push the envelope and get out there, rather than to become increasingly disabled. The motivation to take away a loved one’s pain is so strong, that we make mistakes sometimes when we try to do that. Tracy should be pushed to go a bit farther down her street every day. So far, since Tracy’s first shoot for Dr. Oz she can go about 15-20 steps further down her street.
David Tolin’s Key Criteria to Figure Out If You Have Agoraphobia
1. Do you try to avoid crowded places that are hard to get out of (shopping malls? grocery stores?)?
2. Do you avoid public transportation?
3. Do you avoid being in a car (either driving or just sitting in a car)?
4. Do you avoid long lines, bridges or tunnels?
If you answered true to any of these AND the reason is because you are afraid of panic attacks, then you might have Agoraphobia. If the fear and panic affect the quality of your life and your ability to do things in life, then you should talk to your doctor about it.