What is agoraphobia? Agoraphobia is a phobia, or a collection of related phobias, and can be defined as a fear of a place or situation that causes the sufferer great anxiety, usually because they are frightened that escaping or getting away will cause them embarrassment or be very difficult.
Most people if asked what is agoraphobia disorder will probably reply that it is a fear of leaving the home, but this is not strictly true, although many people do end up confined to their own home because of their phobia. Agoraphobia can apply to a crowded place, for example a supermarket, public transport, or indeed anywhere where the person feels a sense of unwanted confinement.
What does agoraphobia mean to the sufferer?
A phobia only normally becomes a problem when it begins to restrict the person’s life. Like most phobias, agoraphobia often begins in a minor way—perhaps you were stressed and had a panic attack in a crowded shopping centre and now avoid that place—but over time, the number of places to avoid grows and before long you are forced to do all your shopping online because even the fear of going to the corner shop causes intense anxiety.
What is agoraphobia and panic disorder?
Agoraphobia is often associated with panic attacks and in a lot of people the disorder develops as a result of a major panic attack. Such people often have a history of panic attacks and suffer from extreme anxiety in certain situations. They might be convinced that if they do end up in an environment they are afraid of, they will have another potentially life threatening panic attack.
What is agoraphobia without panic disorder?
Not everyone who suffers from agoraphobia has a history of panic attacks. In this instance, the agoraphobia is rooted in a different set of irrational fears—the person might become afraid of the threat of crime should they venture outside, or be fearful about accidents in a public place—but even if they have not yet experienced a full-blown panic attack, the fear of having one often plays a big role in their phobia.
What are the symptoms of agoraphobia?
Fear of having a panic attack is one of the main symptoms of agoraphobia. The sufferer will avoid all places and situations they are afraid of in order to reduce the possibility of suffering from a humiliating panic attack in public. If avoidance is impossible, perhaps because the sufferer is afraid of public transport but is forced to travel on it, a panic attack may occur, the symptoms of which include intense anxiety and fear, dizziness and rapid heart rate.
What causes agoraphobia?
There is a definite genetic component in agoraphobia as the condition very often runs in families. However, there are also many other factors at play and stress can play a big role in the development of the disorder—being repeatedly exposed to a place or a situation that causes you anxiety can lead to the development of agoraphobia in the long-term. The disorder is also much more common in women than men.