Are you afraid you might have agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. You fear an actual or anticipated situation, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line, or being in a crowd.

The anxiety is caused by fear that there’s no easy way to escape or get help if the anxiety intensifies. Most people who have agoraphobia develop it after having one or more panic attacks, causing them to worry about having another attack and avoid the places where it may happen again.

People with agoraphobia often have a hard time feeling safe in any public place, especially where crowds gather. You may feel that you need a companion, such as a relative or friend, to go with you to public places. The fear can be so overwhelming that you may feel unable to leave your home.

Agoraphobia treatment can be challenging because it usually means confronting your fears. But with psychotherapy and medications, you can escape the trap of agoraphobia and live a more enjoyable life.

Typical agoraphobia symptoms include fear of:

Leaving home alone
Crowds or waiting in line
Enclosed spaces, such as movie theaters, elevators or small stores
Open spaces, such as parking lots, bridges or malls
Using public transportation, such as a bus, plane or train
These situations cause anxiety because you fear you won’t be able to escape or find help if you start to feel panicked or have other disabling or embarrassing symptoms.
In addition:

Fear or anxiety almost always results from exposure to the situation
Your fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger of the situation
You avoid the situation, you need a companion to go with you, or you endure the situation but are extremely distressed
You experience significant distress or problems with social situations, work or other areas in your life because of the fear, anxiety or avoidance
Your phobia and avoidance usually lasts six months or longer
Panic Disorder And Agoraphobia

Some people have a panic disorder in addition to agoraphobia. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder in which you experience sudden attacks of extreme fear that reach a peak within a few minutes and trigger intense physical symptoms (panic attacks). You might think that you’re totally losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.

Fear of another panic attack can lead to avoiding similar circumstances or the place where it occurred in an attempt to prevent future panic attacks.

Signs and symptoms of a panic attack can include:

Rapid heart rate
Trouble breathing or a feeling of choking
Chest pain or pressure
Lightheadedness or dizziness
Feeling shaky, numb or tingling
Excessive sweating
Sudden flushing or chills
Upset stomach or diarrhea
Feeling a loss of control
Fear of dying
When To See A Health Care Provider

Agoraphobia can severely limit your ability to socialize, work, attend important events and even manage the details of daily life, such as running errands.

Don’t let agoraphobia make your world smaller. Call your doctor if you have signs or symptoms listed above.