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Foundation gives classes to help agoraphobics

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Agoraphobia is a disease that has long been misunderstood. The disease can be characterized by the fear of many things, places or situations producing severe symptoms such as anxiety, heart palpitations and extreme fear.

The Bernie Cadden Foundation of Town 'N Country is now accepting clients for its January agoraphobic classes. The group is made up of volunteers and offers a 10-week course featuring 1{-hour group sessions at Immaculate Conception Church on Hillsborough Avenue and Webb Road.

"I had the disease long ago, and the doctors at the time didn't know what it was," Bernie Cadden Foundation Inc. volunteer Marilyn Shelt said.

Panic attacks associated with the disease can happen while driving, in crowds or in supermarkets. The foundation does not include the use of drugs in its treatment program. Instead, behavior modification, systematic desensitization and assertiveness training are some of the techniques used to combat agoraphobia.

According to founder Martha Cadden, the group's recovery rate is 85 percent.

The staff includes Cadden, Marie Brown and Marilyn Targansky. Those who believe they may be agoraphobic must first fill out an evaluation form sent to them by the foundation before they can attend the class.

"There are times when the disease renders a person housebound. When that happens, we provide a support person to attend meetings with the agoraphobic," Shelt said.

Fees are based on a sliding scale, but no one who qualifies for treatment is turned away.

For information, call Marilyn Shelt at 372-8812.