Prince Harry reveals in his new book He battled agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder that can make people afraid to leave the house.
“I was agoraphobic. Which was almost impossible given my public role, ”Harry writes in his memoir,“ Spare ”, which will be officially published on January 10, but was released early in Spain and translated by NBC News.
He recalls “a speech, which could not be avoided or cancelled, and during which I nearly fainted” and writes that his older brother, Prince William, came backstage afterwards laughing at him for being “drenched”.
“He of all people. He had been present at my first panic attack. with Kate. We were going to a polo match in Gloucestershire in his Range Rover. I was in the back and Willy looked at me in the rearview mirror. He saw me sweating, red in the face,” Harry writes.
“Are you okay Harold? No, I wasn’t. It was a several hour drive and every few miles he wanted to ask her to stop so he could jump off and try to catch his breath.”
What is agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder that involves intense fear and anxiety in situations from which it would be difficult to escape, says Jacqueline Bullis, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Boston who treats adults with anxiety and an instructor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical . School.
That could include traveling on an airplane or other forms of public transportation, standing in line, being in a crowd, going to the movies or the supermarket, or even sitting down to get a haircut—places where someone would feel trapped if they felt like leaving. Bullis points out.
“Agoraphobia used to be more of a fear of open spaces, but now we really understand it more as a fear of fear,” Bullis tells TODAY.com.
“It’s more about the fear that they’re going to experience distressing or panic-like symptoms in that situation, and then it would be very difficult or embarrassing to escape from that.”
Symptoms they fear developing may include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, sweating, chest pain, dizziness, and lightheadedness.
When considering diagnosing someone with agoraphobia, Bullis tries to find out if the anxiety is being driven by the anticipation of feeling those panic symptoms and how that is affecting a person’s ability to live and work.
How does agoraphobia impact a person’s life?
As people avoid more places, it can quickly become very limiting. At the most severe end of agoraphobia, people can become completely confined to their homes, Bullis says.
“Someone’s world gets smaller and smaller,” he notes.
People may also try to keep everything very quiet and avoid activities, such as exercise, sex, drinking caffeinated drinks, or watching scary movies, that cause a racing heart or other physical sensations that make them feel distressed or emotional. strong.
The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders considers agoraphobia a separate diagnosis that can occur without a history of panic attacks, but it is common for them to occur together, Bullis says.
How is it possible for a public person, like Prince Harry, to function with agoraphobia?
Prince Harry has always been comfortable giving speeches, appearing at public events and interacting with crowds, but looks can be deceiving, says Bullis, who isn’t treating the prince.
“A lot of times we can’t see the amount of anguish someone is going through, which may be the case for Harry in some of these situations,” he notes.
“He may be putting himself in these situations, and it’s incredibly nerve-wracking and exhausting for him.”
For many people with agoraphobia, being with a friend, loved one, or someone they feel safe with often significantly reduces their anxiety, she adds.
How many people are affected?
An estimated 1.3 percent of American adults experience agoraphobia at some point in their lives, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
That makes it one of the rarer anxiety disorders. Social anxiety disorder, for example, has been experienced by about 12% of American adults, the NIH notes.
Researchers are still trying to understand what makes one person more vulnerable to developing an anxiety disorder than another. It’s thought to be a combination of biology, being wired to be more emotionally sensitive, along with how we interpret our emotions, Bullis says.
Which is the treatment?
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the first line of treatment, Bullis says.
Some people also take beta blockers, a medication used to treat high blood pressure and heart rhythm disorders, which can ease physical sensations. But that can backfire in the long run because you’re teaching people that they can’t fend for themselves, Bullis says.
The goal is for someone to become more comfortable with those physical sensations through therapy. When people say, “I don’t like that my heart is racing right now,” Bullis wants them to quickly realize, “Okay, I know it’s not dangerous. I know that I can still give this talk or I can still get into this situation and that I am safe.”