Living in the shadow of fear: an interactionist examination of agoraphobia
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
This thesis investigates the experience of agoraphobia among one hundred research participants by focusing on how social interactions contribute to the onset, the unmanaged symptoms stage, and the managed symptoms stage of this anxiety disorder. The study investigates how social interactions such as family upbringings, familial stressful events, one-off and clusters of traumatic events and accumulated stressful events can contribute to the onset of agoraphobia. It examines how research participants' social interactions during their primary and secondary school years, youth, everyday life, travel, marriage/intimate relationships, parenting, post secondary education and employment were affected during the unmanaged symptom stage of agoraphobia. Participants' experiences of the public perception of agoraphobia, stigma and discrimination, coming out experiences and family and friends' reaction to agoraphobia are also explored. The third stage of the study examines social interactions that hinder or promote the management of agoraphobia. The former are found to include hiding panic attacks, making excuses, using flawed personal coping mechanisms and alcohol. Social interactions that were found to assist in the management of agoraphobia include labelling and learning about the mental illness from others, using companions in public places and situations, and seeking help from knowledgeable health professionals. Other forms of interaction that helped with management included participants' usage of Internet chat-rooms and websites as well as the discovery of faith and spiritual experience. Finally the study investigates research participants' changed social interactions following their emergence from the shadow of agoraphobia.