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.
The cause of this disorder is not known. It may be due to a combination of:
- Family environment
- Stressful events
- Personal traits
Changes or genetic problems in the brain and nerves may contribute to agoraphobia.
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Agoraphobia is more common in women and middle-aged people. Other things that raise the risk are:
A current or past mental health problem such as:
- Being widowed or divorced
- Childhood abuse
- A parent had a mental health problem
- Overprotective or harsh parents
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
Fear of having a
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.
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
and sleep, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol, and drugs
Relaxation techniques—such as
Support from family, friends, or a
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:
- Anxiety drugs such as benzodiazepines
Early treatment for panic attacks can help prevent agoraphobia.
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