Agoraphobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

The Agoraphobia is an irrational, intense and persistent fear of the presence or anticipation of loud noises and unexpected nature, such as explosions.

A specific phobia is an irrational and intense fear towards something that is not dangerous, or in the case of being so, it is not as much as the person who suffers the phobia perceives it.

Agoraphobia

That is, when a person suffers from a specific phobia tends to catastrophize the consequences that can have the fact of staying in contact with this feared stimulus.

Agoraphobia

Types of Agoraphobia

People who suffer irrational fear of loud noises, that is, suffering from ligophobia, may be afraid of:

  1. Swollen balloons: these people can not stand the fact that a balloon explodes. Sometimes the person feels unable to remain in the same space as the object.
  1. Firecrackers: people feel an irrational fear of firecrackers. For example, situations in which other people throw firecrackers, listen to a firecracker from afar, or the simple fact of thinking that you can throw one generates an anxiety response.
  1. Rockets, fireworks castles, etc .: people with ligophophobia can feel fear of these objects.

¿ How to tell if this is a case of phonophobia?

To know if we are facing a specific phobia or fear, we must take into account the guidelines provided by the DSM-5 criteria.

For the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) , we would be faced with a phobia of loud noises if:

  • The person will experience intense anxiety in the face of loud noise or anticipation of noise, in this case, to firecrackers, balloons …
  • If loud noise is actively avoided with fear and immediate and intense anxiety.
  • If the fear or anxiety produced by this loud noise is disproportionate to the situation and the sociocultural context.
  • If the person tries to persistently avoid situations where loud noises occur.
  • This fear of noise causes significant discomfort or deterioration in other areas of a person’s life.
  • This irrational fear of loud noises should not be due to another mental disorder.

People who suffer from this phobia fear stimuli that produce loud noises, such as firecrackers, fireworks castles, balloons when they explode …

People suffering from ligophophobia, when they hear a sound with these characteristics develop an immediate response of anxiety that could lead to a panic attack.

In children, anxiety could manifest through crying, tantrum or immobility, for example.

People who live with ligirophobia usually experience fears with great fear, since traditionally, many of them are celebrated using firecrackers or rockets, as at Christmas, Fallas in Valencia, New Year’s Eve, weddings or communions … In all these holidays the noise is usually assured.

In addition, some individuals are unable to observe a person puffing up a balloon, and depending on the intensity of the phobia, some subjects can not stay in the same room as a bloated balloon because they fear it will explode.

However, this irrational fear allows people to lead a normal life, since they are able to avoid most situations in which an explosion will occur.

Origin of fear of loud noises

Fear is a basic emotion that makes us safe from potentially dangerous situations. Thus, fear is not negative in itself. The basic emotions are lawful and necessary and fear is necessary for our survival.

This emotion is experienced from the second month of life and the situations we fear vary with age. Fears are very common in childhood and are transient, that is, they will appear and disappear.

The function of these evolutionary fears will help the child to deal adequately with difficult and threatening situations that they will encounter throughout their growth.

However, they can sometimes lead to phobia when they generate clinically significant discomfort and interfere in different areas of the individual’s life.

The fear of loud noises arises around the first year of life and is expected to disappear about 3 years.

Sometimes these fears persist and become disproportionate and maladaptive, that is when we would be talking about a phobia.

The role of parents

The way in which parents handle childhood fears will affect their maintenance or recovery.

For example, if a mother when her child is afraid, becomes nervous, begins to protect the child to stop listening to the explosions, goes running with his child to a safe situation, the child will interpret that his mother is putting except for firecrackers that are potentially dangerous, thus keeping the problem.

Although this irrational fear may disappear, it is common that without adequate treatment it persists into adulthood.

Specific phobias, in our case ligirophobia, may have originated after a direct aversive experience, that is, we find the case of people who, after a situation, developed an irrational fear of loud noises.

This process by which a phobia can be acquired is called classical conditioning. The person associates an event that at first is not dangerous to an anxiety reaction.

For example, an adult who has a balloon explode nearby and has an anxiety response. From that moment, every time he sees a balloon an anxiety response is triggered, since he has associated this stimulus with fear.

Another way you can acquire a phobia is through the information that you can give third parties about a bad experience with any of the feared stimuli (firecracker, balloon, rocket, etc.).

Seeing someone having an aversive experience with the feared stimulus is also a trigger for the establishment of the phobia, for example, seeing a friend of yours explode a balloon and hit him in the eye

Biological vulnerability and psychological vulnerability

Many people ask why they developed a phobia if there were more people at the time of the incident and not everyone has succeeded. The question may arise: “and why does it have to happen to me?”

This is due to individual vulnerability. When we talk about vulnerability we refer to the predisposition that each individual has to develop a certain pathology.

Speaking of biological vulnerability refers to the fact that some characteristics of our organism may favor the development of a certain pathology.

In the case of specific phobias, it is likely that people who have more facility to develop them will have a more reactive autonomous nervous system.


The autonomic nervous system (formed by the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system) is the one that is involved in the anxiety response.

Psychological vulnerability refers to the stable or situational psychological characteristics of the individual that facilitates the development of a pathology.

For example, that the person has a premorbid anxiety disorder or that the person is going through a stressful life situation at that moment facilitates that the phobia is established more easily.

Why is the fear of loud noises maintained?

After living an unpleasant experience with a loud noise and developing ligophophobia, the person tends to avoid any situation in which the dreaded situation can occur.

These avoidance behaviors that are maintained over time prevent the process of habituation.

A person who suffers from fear of loud noises will carry out avoidance and escape strategies to alleviate their discomfort.

Some of the strategies used are:

  • Taking anti – anxiety medication.
  • Cover your ears
  • Make sure there are not going to be balloons, firecrackers, etc. in any celebration.
  • Leaving a situation when they perceive that there may be a noise, for example, leaving a party, a room, changing paths, etc.
  • Do not go out on the days that are expected to be firecrackers.
  • Going out on days that I know that there will be noise under certain conditions (avoid certain streets where noise is known, plan the time of day to go out, always be accompanied, carry some medication in your pocket, go out only in areas classified as “safe”.

This behavior of the person to get safe is a natural mechanism that develops the individual to relieve their discomfort.

What this individual does not know is that each time he avoids this situation he strengthens the connections between the stimulus and the fear it produces, since the sequence is automated.

The person learns that leaving the dreaded situation or avoiding it directly produces relief, so our brain accepts this behavior as an adaptive behavior that makes us safe.

Our brain understands that noise is very dangerous and that it is important that whenever it arises or we think that it is very likely to present, we must flee.

In addition, when people with ligophobia emit this behavior of escape in a systematic way, they can not verify that the noise is not really dangerous, that is, they do not allow the avoidance process to develop.

Evaluation of ligirophobia

In order to adequately address the treatment of a specific phobia such as ligophophobia, it is important to conduct a thorough evaluation of the problem.

The basic objectives to evaluate ligirophobia are:

  • Isolate feared and / or avoided situations.
  • Number the specific conditions associated with different levels of fear.
  • Find out how the discomfort generated by this situation is avoided.

The psychological evaluation is the process by which we obtain information about the problem knowing all the parameters. The most used tool to evaluate is the psychological interview.

In the interview, data will be collected on:

  • Sociodemographic data (age, sex, profession …).
  • Previous treatments.
  • Level of interference of the problem.
  • Expectations towards therapy.
  • Ability to withstand aversion.
  • Concrete situations that provoke the anxiety response.
  • Attempts to face anxiety.
  • Avoidance and escape behaviors.
  • How people around you react
  • Existence of other phobias.
  • Persistence of other unfamiliar evolutionary fears.

Treatment

The treatment of choice to address ligrophobia is in vivo exposure. Exposure is a psychological technique that consists of presenting the feared stimulus without allowing the individual to start the escape / avoidance strategies. 

It is therefore important to evaluate all the answers that the subject makes as an attempt to alleviate the anxiety that he suffers.

When the exposure procedure is started, the anxiety increases and if we do not start the escape and avoidance behaviors there comes a time when the anxiety stabilizes and begins to descend until it reaches low levels, that is, the anxiety has Gaussian bell shape.

Each time we use this procedure the anxiety will rise to lower levels and decrease faster.

There will come a time when, after numerous presentations, the feared stimulus will not produce an anxiety response. It is then when we say that the phenomenon of habituation has developed.

To carry out the exposure procedure, the first thing is to hierarchize the situations. We ask the person to rate all situations from 0 to 10 of anxiety and we order them.

An example of a hierarchy would be the following:

  • 1st situation: balloon swollen in half on the table.
  • 2nd situation: balloon completely swollen on the table.
  • 3rd situation: hold the balloon inflated halfway between my hands.
  • 4th situation: hold the balloon completely swollen in my hands.
  • 5th situation: play with the balloon completely inflated.
  • 6 situation: stay in the room while a person squeezes the balloon trying to exploit it.
  • 7th situation: another person clicks the balloon.
  • 8th situation: the person himself punctures the balloon.

Once the hierarchy is elaborated, we begin with the first situation. In our case, the person must remain before the balloon swollen in half on the table until the anxiety is 0.

The person can not perform any of the safety behaviors, such as moving away from the balloon, leaving the room, etc.

At the beginning of the exhibition we will ask her her level of anxiety and then ask her her level of anxiety every 10 minutes.

When the subject says that his anxiety is equal to zero, we will leave a few more minutes and close the session. This procedure will be repeated so many times until the person gets a half-inflated balloon on the table and not anxious.

When the person gets that his anxiety before this situation designed specifically is equal to 0 we will move to the second situation.

Also Read: Apeirophobia: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments

The exposure treatment has been proven effective for phobias, although it seems a difficult treatment for the patient, it can be graduated as much as necessary.

The important thing is to reach the end of the hierarchy because staying at intermediate levels involves risking falling back into past fears.

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