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.

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What are the complications of agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia increases the likelihood that the person will also suffer from another anxiety disorder, like social or other phobias, panic disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder. Agoraphobia also predisposes sufferers to having more severe and difficult to treat anxiety disorders of any kind. People with agoraphobia are more at risk for developing alcohol use disorder. Also, agoraphobia tends to occur more often in individuals who have a number of different physical conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and asthma. If left untreated, agoraphobia may worsen to the point at which the person's life is seriously affected by the disease itself and/or by attempts to avoid or conceal it. In fact, some people have had problems with friends and family, failed in school, and/or lost jobs while struggling to cope with severe agoraphobia or another severe phobia.

What is the prognosis for agoraphobia?

While there may be periods of spontaneous improvement of symptoms for people with agoraphobia, the condition does not usually go away unless the person receives treatment designed specifically to help agoraphobia sufferers. Some research has indicated a more chronic and debilitating course of agoraphobia in African-American individuals compared to Caucasians. One significant challenge of agoraphobia is revealed by the statistics related to treatment. Specifically, less than half of individuals with this illness in the United States are receiving treatment at any one time. Further, alcoholics can be up to 10 times more likely to suffer from a phobia than those who do not have alcohol use disorder, and phobic individuals can be twice as likely to be addicted to alcohol as are people who have never been phobic.

Is it possible to prevent agoraphobia?

As agoraphobia often develops as a fearful reaction to having panic attacks, prevention of agoraphobia tends to focus on developing ways to cope with the anxiety about the possibility of another panic attack without avoiding leaving one's home. The treatments for agoraphobia previously described are usually used to prevent its development, as well.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/21/2015
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