Agoraphobia is a specific type of anxiety disorder. When someone has agoraphobia, the primary symptom is a fear of being in places they perceive could be difficult to escape from. A person with agoraphobia might be afraid of or altogether avoid public transportation, being in a crowd or being in an elevator.

For some people, agoraphobia can be debilitating and can cause them to avoid going places or leaving home at all.

Agoraphobia FAQs

Find answers to questions about this anxiety disorder by browsing the below agoraphobia questions and answers.

Yes, trauma can cause agoraphobia, which is a psychological disorder that causes a fear of having panic attacks in multiple, nonspecific environments. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), agoraphobia is characterized by fear or anxiety in at least two of the following five environments qualifies for an agoraphobia diagnosis:

  • Using public transportation, or planes or trains
  • Being in open spaces
  • Being in enclosed spaces
  • Standing in line or being in a crowd
  • Being outside of the home while alone

People who have agoraphobia often avoid any environment that could cause a panic attack because they worry they’ll be unable to escape to prevent the attack from occurring. Some panic attacks link to traumatic experiences. Panic attacks can occur if a person recalls a specific event from their past. If someone fears a panic attack may occur due to a traumatic experience they may develop agoraphobia and avoid putting themselves in any circumstance that is linked to their trauma.

Yes, agoraphobia could cause depression if a person’s avoidance of a situation significantly impacts their happiness. Agoraphobia is an abnormal fear of unspecific situations that people believe they will not be able to escape from if they have a panic attack.

If this fear restricts people from activities they wish to participate in, then they could feel lonely or develop depression. People with agoraphobia may struggle to enjoy social situations because they fear a panic attack occurring. This fear causes people to avoid social situations even if their fear isn’t directly related to socializing.

No, agoraphobia does not directly cause high blood pressure. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, can be caused by numerous factors, including:

  • Genetics
  • Weight gain
  • Sleep apnea
  • Kidney disease
  • Heart defects
  • Thyroid problems
  • Substance abuse

If someone has agoraphobia, they may avoid situations that promote healthier lifestyles, such as going to the gym or shopping at the grocery store. Staying away from these environments can lead to weight gain, which could result in high blood pressure.

Yes, nausea is a symptom of panic attacks and severe distress, two of the most common symptoms of agoraphobia. People with agoraphobia have an extreme fear of unspecific situations or places and will avoid them because they are concerned they’ll experience a panic attack and be unable to escape the setting. If a panic attack occurs, the distressing situation could lead to the affected person feeling nauseous and increase their heart rate.

No, vertigo is not a direct result of agoraphobia. However, vertigo has many similar characteristics to dizziness, which is one potential side effect of a panic attack. Dizziness and vertigo are not interchangeable, although feeling dizzy is often an effect of vertigo.

Vertigo is a whirling sensation or loss of balance that occurs when a person is not moving. Vertigo is often caused by looking down from a great height, such as looking over the ledge of a mountain or tall building. Dizziness is feeling lightheaded or disoriented and can occur either from standing still or due to movement.

Agoraphobia is a fear of suffering a panic attack in a particular environment and being unable to escape. Dizziness can occur during a panic attack, but experiencing vertigo is uncommon.

No. Agoraphobia cannot kill you, although many people with the anxiety disorder experience irrational fears of death. In some cases, the fear of a panic attack will cause people to avoid specific environments, such as crowded places. The anticipated terror can be so extreme that some people believe they’ll die if they have a panic attack from being in a crowded place.

While panic attacks are uncomfortable, people cannot die from one. Panic attacks are temporary.

No. Currently, no connection exists between agoraphobia and schizophrenia. However, the two disorders share similar characteristics.

Agoraphobia is a fear of general situations and places that could induce a panic attack and prevent them from escaping. People who have agoraphobia fear being in two of the following five situations:

  1. Using public transportation
  2. Being in a crowded area
  3. Being in an enclosed space
  4. Being in an open setting
  5. Being alone outside of one’s home

Schizophrenia involves having thoughts or experiences that are out of touch with reality. People living with schizophrenia may have irrational fears that someone is attempting to harm them. Paranoia is a common side effect of schizophrenia, as is disorganized speech and decreased participation in hobbies or daily activities.

Agoraphobia involves a similar irrational paranoia, although it’s centered around a fear of a panic attack occurring in a specific situation. Like people with schizophrenia, those who have agoraphobia may avoid activities that involve socialization because they fear being in specific environments where they may feel trapped.

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that involves a fear of experiencing a panic attack in specific or unspecific situations that could cause panic, helplessness, embarrassment or entrapment.

Panic attacks and agoraphobia are related because panic attacks can cause the disorder to develop. If someone experiences a panic attack in a specific situation, they may be averse to returning to that environment in the future for fear of another attack occurring. This fear may cause the person to go out of their way to avoid the setting because they are afraid they will not be able to escape before a panic attack occurs. Additionally, panic attacks are a sign of the disorder, as someone may experience a panic attack at the mere thought of entering a specific situation due to their agoraphobia.

Agoraphobia is one of many types of anxiety disorders. Agoraphobia involves people having an overwhelming amount of fear that they will experience a panic attack and will be unable to escape their environment. The disorder can develop due to someone experiencing a panic attack while being in a specific situation, and then fearing another attack if they return to a similar environment. Additionally, someone can develop agoraphobia without ever being in a particular environment. People can develop fears of unknown experiences and go out of their way to avoid them.

Agoraphobia affects the brain due to disrupting emotional centers that control fear responses. When someone has agoraphobia, these specific areas of the brain experience an increase in activity that results in emotional responses, which include experiencing heightened fear levels. This reaction can occur due to genetics or from negative experiences people have had.

No. Agoraphobia is not a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes a fear  of unspecific situations or places. Agoraphobia usually involves someone worrying that they will experience a panic attack or become embarrassed and become entrapped within that environment and forced to suffer through the panic or embarrassment.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder is also an anxiety disorder but one that involves obsessions, often linked to fears, that lead to compulsive thoughts and actions. Examples of OCD include the fear of germs — resulting in obsessive cleaning — or rearranging objects in a specific way.

Agoraphobia and other types of anxiety disorder often co-occur with OCD. However, there is no scientific link between agoraphobia and OCD.

Yes. Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that is considered to be a psychological condition. Psychological disorders, also called mental disorders, are characterized by behavioral or psychological symptoms that can impact multiple areas of a person’s life, affect a person’s quality of life or result in severe distress.

Agoraphobia involves a fear of places or situations that might result in feeling helpless or embarrassed. Agoraphobia often results in people avoiding certain places or people due to this fear, which can negatively impact their lives. The behavior of avoiding situations to defend against the overwhelming fear qualifies agoraphobia as a psychological disorder.

No. Agoraphobia is not classified as a social phobia because the disorder can occur for situations that do not involve social interaction. Agoraphobia is characterized by the fear of embarrassment or suffering a panic attack in a particular setting. This fear couples with the person’s worry that they won’t be able to escape the situation and must endure the brunt of the panic attack away from a perceived safe space. Agoraphobia is not a social phobia because people can fear entrapment even when they are isolated from others.

However, agoraphobia links to social phobia, also known as social anxiety, due to fearing situations that could cause embarrassment or helplessness in the presence of others. If someone has social anxiety, they may fear suffering and being unable to escape from a panic attack in specific situations. For this reason, people may avoid social situations, which is an example of when agoraphobia and social anxiety co-occur.

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder and is included in the DSM-5 list of mental health disorders. Most medical resources list anxiety disorders as a type of mental illness. Therefore, agoraphobia could be considered a mental illness. However, some medical professionals may differentiate between a mental disorder and a mental illness in more specific ways, which could exclude agoraphobia from being considered a mental illness.

There is no specific mention of social agoraphobia in the DSM-5. The term likely developed to describe a specific fear of panic attacks that occur in social situations.

Agoraphobia is not interchangeable with, nor does it develop from, social phobia, also called social anxiety. People with agoraphobia may fear situations that involve social interaction, but the disorder is not tied to a fear of socializing.

When someone has one specific fear, they do not have agoraphobia, but rather a specific type of phobia related to that specific fear. Agoraphobia involves a fear of multiple situations.

In 1980, agoraphobia was introduced in the DSM’s third edition. The disorder was included in each version since.

According to the Mind Disorders website, agoraphobia affects between 2.7 and 5.8 percent of American adults. Agoraphobia is also between two and four times more common in women than in men.

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