Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder. It is an irrational fear of being trapped in places or situations where escape is difficult. People with agoraphobia may not be able to leave the house.

  • Causes

    The exact cause of anxiety disorders is not known. Factors that may contribute to the development of agoraphobia include:

    • Genetics
    • Changes in brain chemistry or activity
    • Having a nervous system that reacts excessively, even to normal stimuli
    • Increased awareness of physical changes, such as increased heart rate
    • Distorted thinking, which may start a cycle of fear


    Agoraphobia often develops in people with
    panic disorders. These disorders are associated with frequent and severe panic attacks. Agoraphobia may develop when people begin to avoid certain places or situations to prevent these panic attacks.

    Nervous System
    female nervous system 3D
    Changes or genetic problems in the nervous system (brain and nerves) may contribute to agoraphobia.
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  • Definition

    Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder. It is an irrational fear of being trapped in places or situations where escape is difficult. People with agoraphobia may not be able to leave the house.

  • Diagnosis

    The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Agoraphobia will be diagnosed by the type and duration of symptoms.

    You may be asked questions about your:

    • Use of alcohol and drugs
    • Mental health history
    • Family's mental health history

    There are no tests for agoraphobia or panic disorder. Your doctor may order heart or blood tests done to look for an underlying cause.

  • Prevention

    Agoraphobia often develops as a response to panic attacks. If you have had a panic attack, instead of avoiding the place or situation, seek medical care. Early treatment for panic attacks can help prevent agoraphobia.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of agoraphobia include:

    • History of panic attacks or panic disorder
    • A tendency to be nervous or anxious
    • Stressful situations
    • Family members with panic disorder or phobias
    • History of exposure to traumatic events
    • Other psychiatric disorders

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms include:

    • Fear of being in a crowd, shopping, standing in line, or similar activities
    • Fear of riding in a car, bus, or train
    • Creation of a safe zone

    • Feelings of
      anxiety
      when outside the safe zone
    • Fear of being alone outside of the home
    • Avoidance of situations that might cause a panic attack
    • Restriction of activities outside the home
    • Feeling of being safer with a trusted friend or family member

    Feared situations may trigger a panic attack. Attacks start quickly and peak in about 10 minutes. A panic attack usually includes four or more of the following:

    • Intense fear
    • Shaking
    • Rapid heartbeat
    • Pounding or racing feeling in the chest
    • Sweating
    • Blushing
    • Shortness of breath
    • Chest pain
    • Dizziness or lightheadedness
    • Hot flashes or chills
    • Numbness or tingling
    • Nausea
    • Feeling of loss of control or "going crazy"

    • Fear of having a
      heart attack
      or dying

    Agoraphobia is also commonly associated with the following conditions:

    • Panic disorder
    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Posttraumatic stress disorder
      (PTSD)

  • Treatment

    Treatment aims to help you overcome irrational fears and live more independently. Goals include:

    • Reducing the number and severity of panic attacks
    • Learning to manage panic attacks that do occur

    Treatment of agoraphobia is similar to the treatment of panic disorder. Treatments may include: