How to overcome agoraphobia and panic attacks
Anyone who has not suffered from anxiety can hardly imagine how unreal and threatening it feels to suffer from agoraphobia or panic disorder. Moreover, the longer sufferers have had to struggle with this anxiety disorder, the harder it is for them to imagine that there could be a solution that would end the anxiety attacks once and for all.
This is all too understandable, since for many agoraphobics the mere thought of possibly being confronted with a fearful situation is enough to trigger a whole range of anxiety symptoms. Those affected then suffer alternately from sweating or cold shivers. Drowsiness, the feeling of fainting, shortness of breath and palpitations are also common. In some cases, the significantly increased heartbeat lasts so long that in desperation they resort to strong tranquilizers, so-called “benzos”. Especially when several therapies have already been undergone and antidepressants have also failed to ensure that the anxiety really disappears, these drugs are often taken for too long and too often. Unfortunately, this creates another problem in addition to agoraphobia: a physical dependence on benzodiazepines.
Agoraphobia instant help: Sometimes the gentle way is the better way
You may have been told that the only way to get rid of agoraphobia is with confrontation and antidepressants. And possibly your previous experiences with psychiatrists or psychotherapists were rather sobering. Quite a few sufferers have even been told that the treatment of anxiety disorders is fundamentally difficult and protracted.
If this was also the case for you, we would like to ask you to take a moment of your time. Because we would like to introduce you to a special form of self-therapy, with which thousands of sufferers have already been able to overcome their agoraphobia. And this is WITHOUT confrontation, WITHOUT medication and WITHOUT the unpleasant stirring up of supposedly traumatic experiences in childhood. And yes, we know that sounds too good to be true. But it is!
Get rid of agoraphobia and panic attacks with the Bernhardt Method
When Klaus Bernhardt published his book “The Anxiety Cure”” in 2017, it quickly became an insider tip among anxiety sufferers. In it, the head of the Institute for Modern Psychotherapy in Berlin presented a groundbreaking method for self-therapy that was so successful that the book became a bestseller in Germany within a very short time and is now available in 18 other languages.
The so-called “Bernhardt Method” inspired not only many doctors and therapists, but above all those who had been trying in vain for years to get rid of their agoraphobia. You can find testimonials from people who have successfully freed themselves from fear and panic using the Bernhardt Method HERE.
The best thing, however, is that you can now learn this efficient self-therapy even easier yourself. Because since 2020 there is a comprehensive online video course for this, which supports you step by step to free yourself once and for all from agoraphobia and even panic attacks. With the help of special mental techniques based on the latest findings in brain research, anxiety patients can literally reprogram their brains within a few weeks.
Online video course for immediate help with agoraphobia and panic attacks
In this first of 52 episodes of our online video course, The Anxiety Cure, we cover important facts about anxiety disorders and panic attacks that both psychiatrists and primary care physicians often fail to tell you.
What exactly does agoraphobia mean?
The word agoraphobia is composed of the ancient Greek word for marketplace “agora” and the word “phóbos”, also from ancient Greek, which means fear or anxiety. And indeed, agoraphobics are often afraid to walk through marketplaces or other large places. Usually, the more people there are, the greater the fear. But other situations also trigger agoraphobia, such as being in:
- Elevators and confined spaces
- tunnels or bridges
- airplanes, buses or trains
- Rooms without windows
- Public restrooms
- fitting rooms in shops
- Car wash areas
Agoraphobia leads to pronounced avoidance behavior
The longer a panic disorder lasts, the greater the fear of a possible loss of control. For this reason, agoraphobics usually develop very sophisticated avoidance strategies in order not to be confronted with fearful situations. In this way, many also try to keep their anxiety disorder a secret for as long as possible. This creates a vicious circle that is often difficult for outsiders to see through. Fearful situations such as air travel are then avoided as much as possible. And not infrequently, the avoidance behavior is justified with arguments that are really just excuses for not having to admit the fear publicly. The airplane is then no longer boarded only because one can no longer reconcile it with one’s ecological conscience. And large gatherings of people, such as family celebrations or company parties, are also no longer attended because people are supposedly still angry with some uncle or colleague.
However, if you stay away from social events for too long, you get more and more into social isolation. As a result, there is a risk that agoraphobia will be joined by depressive moods, because regular social contact is an essential component of a healthy psyche.
How can you tell if someone is suffering from agoraphobia?
Particularly in the initial phase of agoraphobia (whether with or without panic attacks), the reasons why sufferers avoid the feared situations usually sound quite plausible. But if the avoidance behavior expands over time to such an extent that, for example, buses and trains are avoided in addition to airplanes, then all alarm bells should be ringing.
Even if invitations to parties are gratefully accepted, but the person repeatedly fails to appear, it could be that someone has been suffering from a panic disorder for some time. Talking to someone in private about your suspicions and showing understanding has helped many agoraphobics to get out of their self-imposed isolation.
What therapies help against agoraphobia and panic attacks?
In addition to the administration of antidepressants, which have recently fallen more and more into disrepute because they are unfortunately based on false scientific assumptions that have now been clearly disproved, experts usually recommend psychotherapy. But which form of psychotherapy is the right one?
For a long time, exposure-based therapy, also called confrontation therapy, was considered the treatment of choice for panic disorder with agoraphobia. However, the major weakness of this form of therapy is that it often only teaches a patient to tolerate his or her automated fear response. By regularly “facing their fears”, affected persons are supposed to learn that neither the situation is threatening nor they themselves are helpless, but that the phobia is only a product of their own fears of expectation. All the feared symptoms, such as palpitations, tingling sensations, breathing difficulties or the unbearable feeling of helplessness may seem life-threatening, but in reality they do not represent a danger to life and limb at any time.
In contrast to the Bernhardt Method, however, confrontation therapy rarely achieves true freedom from anxiety. Instead, sufferers only learn to “function” again within society. However, the oppressive feelings often remain, even if one has learned to ignore them to some extent. Therefore, for many agoraphobics, it is only a matter of time before a pronounced avoidance behavior gradually sets in again. Because nobody likes to stay voluntarily in situations that still trigger fear reactions. Not even when you have learned not to take them so seriously.
The Bernhardt Method, on the other hand, relies on the neuroplasticity of the brain. The ability of the human brain to overwrite unwanted neuronal connections in which fear is stored. How this works is explained very clearly in the video that you can find further up on this website. To put it simply, almost all anxiety disorders are based on the sufferer’s imagination of what COULD happen. Threatening situations are usually not really lived through, but only played out in detail in automated running thoughts. This purely mental process, however, triggers real physical anxiety symptoms, although the affected organs such as heart, stomach, intestines or lungs are completely healthy. This is where the term psychosomatic complaints comes from. That is, real feelings in the body (soma is the ancient Greek word for body) that are triggered only by thoughts and fantasies, that is, by the psyche.
However, if a fantasy is able to trigger real physical discomfort, then there must also be a counter-fantasy that reverses this process. And it is precisely these counter fantasies that the Bernhardt Method is about, which you can now easily learn yourself via an online video course.
Agoraphobia and the problem with safety signals
Another problem is the use of so-called safety signals. For an agoraphobic, this can be, for example, the presence of another person whom he trusts, such as a partner or even a therapist. But also medications such as benzos or a lucky charm are suitable as a safety signal. If this is present during exposure therapy, the feeling of anxiety may be significantly reduced, since there is something or someone within reach who gives one a sense of security. On the other hand, the absence of a safety signal can actually fuel anxiety. For example, sufferers have a panic attack the moment they realize that they have left the house without having a tranquilizer tablet with them for emergencies. In this respect, the goal of any therapy should be to enable patients to completely dispense with safety signals.
New approaches in the treatment of agoraphobia
One form of therapy that usually enables patients very quickly to move without fear in large places and in crowds without safety signals is the so-called Bernhardt method. Without confrontation and without medication, anxiety patients learn special mental techniques that literally erase the neuronal programming of fear. One of the reasons why this works so well is that it is not usually real threats that the agoraphobic wants to avoid, but rather just the thought of what could happen that triggers the fear reaction and even a panic attack.
However, if pure fantasies can turn healthy people into anxiety sufferers, then logically there must be other fantasies that reverse this process. And this is exactly what the Bernhardt Method, developed a few years ago at the Institute for Modern Psychotherapy in Berlin, is all about. If you want to learn more about this innovative self-therapy, you should definitely watch the video that you will find further up on this website. It is the first episode of a 52-part online video course designed specifically for people with anxiety disorders.
Strong tranquilizers should only be taken in agoraphobia in absolute emergencies
Until now, both sufferers and psychotherapists and psychiatrists assumed that the treatment of agoraphobia is usually protracted and must be supported by medication. This was especially true when severe panic attacks had pushed patients more and more into avoidance behavior and the affected persons then tried (often out of shame) to cope with the feared situations after all with the help of tranquilizers.
Incidentally, an avoidance behavior is always present when a fear-inducing situation, such as attending public events or crossing large squares, is completely avoided. Unfortunately, such avoidance strategies do not reduce the symptoms of anxiety in those affected, but rather ensure that the phobia spreads to more and more areas of life. This is one of the reasons why sufferers repeatedly try to regain at least a little bit of normality with the help of strong tranquilizers.
But this strategy unfortunately has a huge catch: these drugs do nothing to change the cause of the problem; they only suppress the feeling of anxiety for a short time. In addition, this usually delays real therapy for an unnecessarily long time, which means that the agoraphobia can become more and more widespread. This means that more and more situations, which used to be mastered without any problems, suddenly feel threatening and unreal. Whereas in the past people only took tranquilizers now and then, they now take the medication every day in order to at least do something about the drowsiness, the breathing difficulties and the increased heart rate.
But this does not reduce the frequency of the anxiety attacks, nor does it reduce the feeling of fainting. Rather, there is a risk that the anxiety disorder will be joined by another problem, namely a physical dependence on medication. If you then want to stop taking the tranquilizers abruptly (which we urgently warn against, as they should always be discontinued under medical supervision!), your body and psyche will react with severe withdrawal symptoms in the form of dizziness, rapid heartbeat, drowsiness, shortness of breath as well as extreme panic attacks and the feeling of going crazy. Don’t let it get to that point! The sooner you start to eliminate the real causes of your agoraphobia, the sooner you will be able to lead a fear-free and beautiful life again. By the way: Even the phasing out of medication is much easier if you first use the Bernhardt Method to ensure that your psyche is strong and resistant again. This has been confirmed to us again and again by patients in many testimonials.
Antidepressants for agoraphobia: the big problem with discontinuation syndrome
Antidepressants, which are also frequently used to treat agoraphobia and panic attacks, are also coming under increasing criticism. Although pharmaceutical companies still vehemently refuse to admit that these drugs also pose a risk of psychological dependence, the so-called “discontinuation syndrome” can no longer be denied. Those affected then suffer from anxiety attacks again during the discontinuation phase, although the anxiety disorder has actually already been overcome. Since the rekindled anxiety may last for several weeks or even months, many sufferers believe that the missing medication is the cause of the renewed anxiety and panic, and return to their original medication. This is a vicious circle that often causes agoraphobics to take antidepressants unnecessarily, sometimes for decades. In fact, they only suffer from a discontinuation syndrome, i.e. temporary psychological withdrawal symptoms triggered by the discontinuation of the medication.
To avoid this syndrome as far as possible, antidepressants (like benzodiazepines) should therefore be phased out very slowly and under medical supervision.
Neuroplasticity: The key to quickly overcoming agoraphobia with and without panic attacks
Neuroplasticity is the ability of the human brain to rewire itself into old age. In this process, literally every single thought in the brain causes new connections to form. Things that we think often can be recalled more and more easily, while thoughts that are rarely or never thought are neurally degraded. In the case of agoraphobics, this means that you are constantly thinking about all the worst-case scenarios that could happen if you are confronted with a certain situation and fear strikes you again.
What the brain has largely unlearned, however, are thoughts with the following content:
- Being relaxed in large gatherings of people
- Riding in a good mood on public transportation without an escort
- Driving with pleasure even in heavy traffic
- Participating in everyday life again without avoidance behavior
- Fly relaxed on vacation
- Cross large squares without agoraphobia
- Go to parties or take part in family celebrations in a relaxed manner
- Wait relaxed at the checkout in the supermarket
To specifically stimulate neuroplasticity in order to re-network an anxiety-trained mind in such a way that it produces automated thoughts of ease again instead of a panic disorder is a new and extremely promising way in psychotherapy. A pioneer in this field is the head of the Institute for Modern Psychotherapy in Berlin, Klaus Bernhardt. Already 8 years ago he developed a special form of self-therapy, with which affected persons could weaken their anxiety disorder partially already after 6 to 12 weeks so far that again a largely normal life was possible. In a recent television interview, he described the development of his therapy this way:
“Most anxiety disorders come on quickly, seemingly out of the blue. For many years we wondered why it shouldn’t then be possible to make those fears disappear as quickly as they came. So we set out to find the real, neural triggers of fear and panic. The longer we researched, the clearer it became that the neuroplasticity of the brain had to be the key. And not just the key to how fear was created, but also the key that could be used to undo it all. If a certain way of thinking can turn healthy people into anxiety patients, then there had to be another way of thinking that could reverse the process….
Based on this thought, we eventually succeeded in developing special mental exercises that literally erase the anxiety program in the brain, through specific, positive stimulation of neuroplasticity. Today we know that with the Bernhardt Method it is possible to help agoraphobics and people with panic disorder much more quickly and sustainably than was previously possible with a combination of psychotropic drugs and confrontation therapy, or exposure therapy…”
While the Bernhardt Method could initially only be carried out with the support of a specially trained therapist, a detailed video course is now available, with which those affected can also use the neuroplasticity of their brain on their own to free themselves step by step from anxiety and panic. If you would like to learn more about this, you can find all the necessary details HERE.