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Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder. People with agoraphobia avoid situations that might cause them to feel:
Approximately 0.8 percent of the adult population has agoraphobia.
There are two types of agoraphobia:
People who have panic disorder with agoraphobia experience recurrent panic attacks related to their agoraphobia. Panic attacks are episodes of intense fear. This is the most common type of agoraphobia.
This is an uncommon form of agoraphobia. It occurs in people who have not experienced panic attacks.
People with agoraphobia link anxiety to certain settings or situations. They then avoid those settings or situations. They are afraid they may feel anxious again or have another panic attack.
You may be at risk of developing agoraphobia if you:
Agoraphobia is more common in women then men. It usually first appears in young adulthood. However it can occur at any age.
You may experience one or more of the following symptoms with either type of agoraphobia:
The following are symptoms of a panic attack:
Your healthcare provider will ask about agoraphobia symptoms. She may also examine you or perform blood tests. These are intended to rule out physical causes for your symptoms.
To be diagnosed with agoraphobia, your symptoms must meet certain criteria. You will not be diagnosed with agoraphobia if your symptoms are caused by illness. They also can not be caused by substance use or another disorder.
There are additional criteria for a diagnosis of panic disorder with agoraphobia. You must have recurrent panic attacks. Furthermore, at least one panic attack must have been followed by:
There are a number of different treatments for agoraphobia.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help you understand the distorted feelings and views associated with agoraphobia. CBT can also teach you how to replace the distorted thoughts with healthy thoughts.
Exposure therapy can help you overcome your fears. Exposure therapy gently and slowly exposes you to the situations that cause you fear.
Service dogs or other animals may help reduce your fear when you go out in public.
Medications can help relieve your agoraphobia or panic attack symptoms. Some medications used for agoraphobia include selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications.
With treatment, you have a good chance of getting better. Treatment tends to be easier and faster when started earlier.
There is no guaranteed way to prevent agoraphobia. Early treatment for anxiety or panic disorders may help.
Written by: Rose Kivi and Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Published on Jul 16, 2012
Updated on Feb 15, 2013
Medically reviewed by George Krucik, MD
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