Agoraphobia is one of the anxiety disorders. It involves fearing and avoiding places or situations that might cause the person to panic or feel trapped. Often, people with agoraphobia fear an upcoming situation – these may include public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in lines, or being in crowds.
People with agoraphobia may avoid situations because of fears such as getting lost, falling, having diarrhea, and being unable to get to a bathroom. In addition, people with agoraphobia often develop it after having one or more panic attacks, causing them to worry about another attack.
Agoraphobia often results in struggling to feel safe in any public place. Those with agoraphobia may need a companion to go to public places. It might get to the degree where they don’t feel they can leave their home even with a companion.
Agoraphobia treatment can be challenging for patients because it directly entails confronting fears. However, with engagement and proper treatment – generally cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and medicines – agoraphobia patients can see improvement and mitigate the symptoms.
How common is agoraphobia?
Researchers don’t know the exact cause of agoraphobia, but it’s often associated with an existing panic disorder. Approximately a third of people with a panic disorder develop agoraphobia, but it can also occur alone.
Agoraphobia symptoms generally involve fears of:
- Leaving home or leaving home alone
- Crowds or waiting in line
- Enclosed spaces (movie theatres, elevators, small stores, etc.)
- Open spaces (parking lots, bridges, malls, etc.)
- Using public transportation
These situations cause those with agoraphobia to fear because they feel they won’t be able to escape or find help if they begin to panic. They also may worry about other disabling or embarrassing symptoms or events such as dizziness, falling, fainting, or diarrhea.
Additional Physical Symptoms:
- Chest pain or rapid heart rate
- Fear or a shaky feeling
- Hyperventilation or trouble breathing
- Lightheadedness or dizziness
- Sudden chills or flushing (red face)
- Excessive sweating
- Upset stomach
- Psychotherapy (talk therapy)
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
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