- When to See the Doctor
What is agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder. People living with agoraphobia fear being in places that would be hard to escape from, such as public and crowded spaces. Examples of places that cause anxiety in people with this condition include:
- Public transportation
- Shopping malls
- Parking lots
- Movie theaters
When people with agoraphobia are in public, they may feel anxiety and panic. They may avoid certain places or have a hard time leaving the house at all.
Symptoms of agoraphobia
People with agoraphobia may experience physical, behavioral, and cognitive symptoms.
Physical symptoms include:
- Chest pain
- Fast heartbeat
- Feeling hot and sweaty
- Feeling sick
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Hyperventilating (rapid breathing)
- Feeling faint
- Dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
Behavioral symptoms include:
- Avoiding crowded places and other situations that could cause anxiety
- Staying home or close to home
- Only leaving home when you are with someone you trust
Cognitive symptoms are fears associated with the physical symptoms of agoraphobia. They include:
- Fear that you will experience a life-threatening panic attack
- Fear that you are losing your mind or sanity
- Fear that you may be unable to control yourself in public
- Fear that people will stare at you
- Fear that you will look stupid or be embarrassed in front of other people because of a panic attack
- Fear that you will experience physical symptoms, such as blushing or trembling
- Fear that you will be unable to escape if you have a panic attack
Causes of agoraphobia
Some people inherit genes that make them more likely to experience agoraphobia. In some cases, a stressful or traumatic event can bring on agoraphobia, such as
- Being attacked
- Death of a parent, close friend, or sibling
Some people with agoraphobia develop it without experiencing trauma or having a panic disorder or a genetic history. People who abuse alcohol or drugs, are in an unhappy or controlling relationship, or who have a previous history of mental illness are also at risk for developing agoraphobia.
When to see the doctor for agoraphobia
Agoraphobia may prevent you from going to work, keeping in touch with your friends and family, or running errands. If you find it hard to do these things and experience some of the symptoms listed above, see your doctor.
Diagnosis and tests for agoraphobia
To diagnose agoraphobia, a doctor will start by asking you about your symptoms and your behaviors. They may also perform a physical exam and order lab tests to rule out other conditions, such as an overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism), which can cause similar symptoms as a panic attack.
To make a diagnosis of agoraphobia, a medical professional may refer to the criteria posted in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). This includes fearing at least two of the following five factors:
- Being on public transportation
- Being in open spaces
- Being in closed spaces
- Standing in line or in a crowd
- Leaving home by yourself
Additionally, to receive a diagnosis, you must experience these symptoms for six months or more, and they must cause distress and disrupt your normal functioning.
Treatments for agoraphobia
Doctors may prescribe anti-anxiety medication to help people with agoraphobia.
People living with agoraphobia may benefit from exposure therapy, a type of therapy in which you gradually face your fears until you no longer experience them.
Sometimes lifestyle changes can help reduce the symptoms of agoraphobia. These include:
- Exercising regularly
- Eating healthy, balanced meals
- Drinking less alcohol
- Avoiding drugs
- Avoiding caffeine
The herbal supplement kava (also called kava kava) is another possible treatment for agoraphobia, as it has been shown to reduce anxiety. However, this supplement can cause serious liver damage. Make sure to consult your doctor before using it.
Latest Mental Health News
Daily Health News
Health Solutions From Our Sponsors
Georgia Behavioral Health Professionals: "Agoraphobia."
Mayo Clinic: "Agoraphobia."
National Health Service: "Agoraphobia."
National Health Service: "Causes: Agoraphobia."
National Health Service: "Diagnosis: Agoraphobia."
National Health Service: "Symptoms: Agoraphobia."
National Health Service: "Treatment: Agoraphobia."
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 Changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2016.
Top Signs Symptoms Triggers of Agoraphobia Related Articles
AgoraphobiaAgoraphobia is a fear of being outside or of being in a situation from which escape would be impossible. Symptoms include anxiety, fear, disorientation, rapid heartbeat, diarrhea, or dizziness. Treatment may incorporate psychotherapy, self-exposure to the anxiety-causing situation, and medications such as SSRIs, benzodiazepines, and beta-blockers.
AnxietyAnxiety is a feeling of apprehension and fear characterized by symptoms such as trouble concentrating, headaches, sleep problems, and irritability. Anxiety disorders are serious medical illnesses that affect approximately 19 million American adults. Treatment for anxiety may incorporate medications and psychotherapy.
Anxiety & Panic Disorders: Risk Factors for AnxietyDo you feel anxious? Many things could make it more likely. Learn more, including what you can do if you feel anxious.
Anxiety, Stress, and WorryWant to find ways to reduce anxiety, stress, and worry? Find treatments to ease stress, eliminate worry, and combat anxiety as you discover how stress affects your body. Learn whether stress fights colds or encourages them, why some stress is bad and some is good, and why exercise and diet can be relaxing.
Anxiety SlideshowLearn about generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). See if your worries are normal or something more by learning about symptoms, diagnosis, and treatments of anxiety disorders.
How Do You Treat Agoraphobia?Learn what medical treatments can help ease your agoraphobia symptoms and help you manage this condition.
Is Agoraphobia a Mental Illness?Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder, which involves fear of being in certain situations or places with no way to escape easily. The person may avoid situations or places that might cause them to panic or make them feel helpless or trapped. The anxiety is caused by a fear of being trapped and helpless.
Mental HealthMental health is an optimal way of thinking, relating to others, and feeling. All of the diagnosable mental disorders fall under the umbrella of mental illness. Depression, anxiety, and substance-abuse disorders are common types of mental illness. Symptoms and signs of mental illness include irritability, moodiness, insomnia, headaches, and sadness. Treatment may involve psychotherapy and medication.
Panic Attacks QuizCould you suffer a panic attack? Take this Panic Attacks Quiz to learn causes, symptoms, and treatments for panic disorder. Use this quiz to learn to recognize the main elements of this serious, yet common disorder known as panic attacks.
What Are the Six Types of Anxiety Disorders?Anxiety disorders cause worry, fear and panic as an irrational response to mundane situations. The six main types are generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety, separation anxiety, trauma-related disorders and phobias.
What Does Anxiety Do to Your Body?It increases a person’s chances of suffering from other medical conditions, such as heart diseases, raised blood pressure, high cholesterol obesity, depression and diabetes. In short term, anxiety may cause sleep disturbances and poor work performance.
What Happens During an Anxiety Attack?Anxiety can occur during everyday life, it could be fleeting or it could persist and build. But if you have an anxiety disorder, you may feel your anxiety or panic overwhelm you with intense anxiety and fear.
What Symptoms Are Caused by Anxiety?It's normal to feel stressed or worried about things that happen in our everyday lives. However, people who experience anxiety disorders often feel heightened fear or worry about common situations.