Agoraphobia

  • Medical Author:
    Roxanne Dryden-Edwards, MD

    Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Quick GuideWhat's Your Biggest Fear? Phobias

What's Your Biggest Fear? Phobias

What are agoraphobia symptoms?

Symptoms of agoraphobia include anxiety that one will have a panic attack when in a situation from which escape is not possible or is difficult or humiliating. Examples of such situations include using public transportation, being in open or confined places or being in crowds. The apprehension or panic attacks that can be associated with agoraphobia, like all panic attacks, may involve symptoms and signs like intense fear, disorientation, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, dizziness, or diarrhea. Agoraphobic individuals often begin to avoid the situations that provoke these reactions. Interestingly, the situations that people with agoraphobia avoid and the environments that cause people with balance disorders to feel disoriented are quite similar. This leads some cases of agoraphobia to be considered as vestibular function (related to balance disorders) agoraphobia.

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. However, people who have felt discriminated against are thought to be at higher risk of suffering from a number of anxiety disorders, including agoraphobia.

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 (social phobia) and generalized anxiety disorder. Even the use of alcohol can result in severe, albeit temporary anxiety.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/4/2016

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