EBSCO Health

Print PageSend to a Friend
Health Library Home>Disease, Condition, & Injury Fact Sheets>Article

Agoraphobia

Definition

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder. It is a fear of being trapped in places or situations. People with this condition may not be able to leave the house.

Causes

The cause of this disorder is not known. It may be due to a combination of:

  • Genetics
  • Family environment
  • Stressful events
  • Personal traits

Risk Factors

Agoraphobia is more common in women and middle-aged people. Other things that raise the risk are:

Symptoms

Symptoms may be fear and avoidance of:

  • Enclosed spaces such as:
    • Cars, buses, trains, or airplanes
    • Small theaters or shops
  • Standing in line
  • Being in a crowd
  • Being alone outside of the home

Feared situations may trigger a panic attack. Symptoms may be:

  • Intense fear
  • Pounding or racing heartbeat
  • Chest pain or problems breathing
  • Shaking, sweating, blushing, or tingling
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Fear of having a heart attack or dying

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is based on the type and length of symptoms.

There are no tests for agoraphobia. The doctor may order heart or blood tests to look for an underlying cause.

Treatment

The goal of treatment is to:

  • Learn to manage the fear and panic attacks
  • Reduce the number of panic attacks and how bad they are

Treatments may include:

  • Lifestyle changes—such as regular exercise and sleep, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and drugs
  • Relaxation techniques—such as yoga and meditation
  • Support from family, friends, or a support group
  • Counseling, such as:
    • Cognitive-behavioral therapy —to help change fearful thoughts
    • Combination therapy—to cope with anxiety
    • Exposure therapy—help dealing with specific situations
  • Medicines, such as:
    • Antidepressants
    • Anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines

Prevention

Early treatment for panic attacks can help prevent agoraphobia.

RESOURCES:

American Psychiatric Association
https://www.psychiatry.org

Mental Health America
http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Psychiatric Association
https://www.cpa-apc.org

Canadian Psychological Association
https://cpa.ca

REFERENCES:

Agoraphobia. Anxiety and Depression Association of America website. Available at: https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/agoraphobia. Accessed March 10, 2021.

Agoraphobia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/agoraphobia Accessed March 10, 2021.

Love AS, Love R. Anxiety disorders in primary care settings. Nurs Clin North Am. 2019;54(4):473-493.

Panic disorder. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/panic-disorder. Accessed March 10, 2021.

Phobias. Mental Health America website. Available at: http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/conditions/phobias. Accessed March 10, 2021.

What are anxiety disorders? American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/anxiety-disorders/what-are-anxiety-disorders. Accessed March 10, 2021.

What is posttraumatic stress disorder? American Psychiatric Association website. Available at: https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/ptsd/what-is-ptsd. Accessed March 10, 2021.

Last reviewed January 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD  Last Updated: 03/10/2021