Agoraphobia is a condition where anxiety occurs in situations when the individual perceives their environment to be unsafe without a way to escape. These situations can include areas such as open spaces, shopping centers, public transit, or simply being outside the home. Being in these situations can cause the individual to have a panic attack. Those who are affected will go to great lengths to try to avoid situations that trigger their symptoms. In severe cases, these individuals are unable to leave their homes.
Experts believe that agoraphobia can be attributed to both environmental and genetic factors as the condition has been observed to run in families. It is also seen among individuals who have experienced a traumatic or stressful event such as an assault or the death of a loved one. Affected individuals have a higher risk of substance use disorder and depression. Without treatment, it is uncommon for the condition to resolve on its own. The treatment of agoraphobia usually involves cognitive behavioral therapy, which has shown resolution for about 50 percent of patients.
Agoraphobia has been estimated to affect about 1.7 percent of adults with women being twice as affected compared to men. This condition usually starts in early adulthood and is less common among older adults. It is rarely seen among children.
Symptom #1: Anxiety
Anxiety is an unpleasant emotion often accompanied by somatic complaints, rumination, and nervous behavior such as pacing back and forth. It is an uncomfortable feeling of dread over anticipated events, possibly causing a feeling of imminent death.
Anxiety must be differentiated from fear, which is a response to a real or perceived threat; anxiety is regarding a future threat. Anxiety is often accompanied by restlessness, fatigue, muscular tension, concentration issues, and more.