Agoraphobia (cont.)

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What are the risk factors for agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia tends to begin by adolescence or early adulthood. Girls and women, Native Americans, middle-aged individuals, low-income populations, and individuals who are either widowed, separated, or divorced are at increased risk of developing agoraphobia. Individuals who are Asian, Hispanic, or of African/African-American descent tend to have a lower risk of developing this disorder.

While having a history of panic attacks is a risk factor for developing agoraphobia, agoraphobic individuals are at increased risk for developing panic attacks as well. Other anxiety disorders that tend to co-occur with agoraphobia include social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. Even the use of alcohol can result in severe, temporary anxiety.

When should one seek medical care for agoraphobia?

Call a doctor when the signs and symptoms of anxiety are not easily, quickly, and clearly relieved. For example

  • if the symptoms are so severe that medication may be needed,
  • if the symptoms are interfering with someone's personal, social, or professional life,
  • if someone has chest pain, shortness of breath, headaches, palpitations, dizziness, fainting spells, or unexplained weakness,
  • if someone is depressed, feeling suicidal or homicidal.

When the signs and symptoms suggest that anxiety may have been present for a prolonged period (more than a few days) and appear to be stable (not getting worse rapidly), it's advisable to make an appointment with a doctor for evaluation. But when the signs and symptoms are severe and come on suddenly, they may indicate serious medical illness that needs immediate evaluation and treatment in a hospital's emergency department.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/4/2014

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