According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), genetics is a leading cause of agoraphobia. The DSM-5 states that heritability of agoraphobia is 61 percent, meaning genetics is the most likely cause of someone developing the disorder. The other main cause of developing agoraphobia is a person’s environment, such as the type of parenting someone received. The disorder can also be the result of a combination of genetics and environment.
Is Agoraphobia Inherited?
People can inherit agoraphobia from their parents. According to the Encyclopedia of Mind Disorders, families have had a history of agoraphobia.
While agoraphobia can be a genetic disorder, it is unlikely to fully develop until late adolescence or early adulthood. According to the DSM-5, the initial onset of most agoraphobia cases is after age 13 but before age 35. The average age for agoraphobia onset is 17 but increases for people with agoraphobia who do not have a history of panic attacks or panic disorders.
The reason for the delayed onset is mostly due to mental maturity. Agoraphobia is a fear of panic attacks occurring in specific environments where escape is difficult. Children may be scared of being left alone or getting lost in crowded places but do not understand panic attacks fully enough to fear them. In adolescence and adulthood, people are more likely to develop fears of panic attacks associated with specific environments.
Even if your family does not have a history of agoraphobia, you can still develop the disorder due to traumatic experiences. Contact a mental health professional if you’ve struggled with panic attacks and fear being in environments where one could occur. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website can help you find a nearby therapist and begin treatment for your agoraphobic symptoms.