In many cases, mental illnesses appear during the teen years. Some teens are predisposed to mental health conditions, while others experience them due to a life event. Agoraphobia typically manifests in teens who have panic attacks and is described as an intense fear of having symptoms in a public place, according to the Center for Psychological and Behavioral Science. Understanding the illness helps you get your teen the help she needs to cope with agoraphobia.
The symptoms of agoraphobia vary in severity and your teen may progress from mild ones to such severe symptoms that she refuses to leave the house at all. The primary sign that your teen is agoraphobic is her fear of being in public places because she’s afraid of exhibiting panic symptoms where others can see what's happening. She might also display fear of being alone, and an increased temper, and might stay in the house whenever possible. Other symptoms include dizziness, sweating, nausea, vomiting, confusion and fear of dying. If your teen displays these symptoms, see her pediatrician for further evaluation.
The development of anxiety disorders relies on a combination of factors, including genetics, life experiences and psychological traits, according to Psychology Today. The conditions that play a role in your teen's agoraphobia might be just one of these factors, or all of them. If genetics is the cause, your teen might develop agoraphobia if a parent or sibling also has the condition. A scary life event, such as a bad car accident or an attempted abduction, can cause anxiety in your teen and may result in her fear of being out of your house. Whatever the cause, proper treatment helps control agoraphobia and improves your teen's quality of life.
It's vital to follow the advice of your teen's pediatrician when it comes to treating agoraphobia. Several types of therapy work well for the condition and your child's doctor can give you a referral for a mental health professional experienced in treating agoraphobic teens. Behavioral therapy helps your teen change her current actions into ones that allow her to venture out in public without panic attacks and fear; cognitive therapy can help her learn ways to cope with the condition; and desensitization techniques help your teen get out by slowly exposing her to public places, notes the New York University Child Study Center. In some cases, antidepressants can alleviate symptoms and help your teen cope with the condition.
What Parents Can Do
Unless you also suffer from agoraphobia, it's very difficult to understand what your teen is going through. That doesn't mean you can't offer your support and assistance in helping your teen cope with her condition. The most important thing you can do is to follow her medical team's directions and help your teen stick with her treatment plan. This includes reminding her to take medications and getting her to each of her appointments. Offer your teen plenty of empathy and don't force her into situations that make her uncomfortable. Go shopping with her at times when stores are less crowded. Cheer on her accomplishments and offer a listening ear anytime she needs it.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images