Agoraphobia

Definition

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder. It is an irrational fear of being trapped in places or situations where escape is difficult. People with agoraphobia may not be able to leave the house.

Causes

The exact cause of anxiety disorders is not known. Factors that may contribute to the development of agoraphobia include:
  • Genetics
  • Changes in brain chemistry or activity
  • Having a nervous system that reacts excessively, even to normal stimuli
  • Increased awareness of physical changes, such as increased heart rate
  • Distorted thinking, which may start a cycle of fear
Agoraphobia often develops in people with panic disorders . These disorders are associated with frequent and severe panic attacks. Agoraphobia may develop when people begin to avoid certain places or situations to prevent these panic attacks.
Nervous System
female nervous system 3D
Changes or genetic problems in the nervous system (brain and nerves) may contribute to agoraphobia.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of agoraphobia include:
  • History of panic attacks or panic disorder
  • A tendency to be nervous or anxious
  • Stressful situations
  • Family members with panic disorder or phobias
  • History of exposure to traumatic events
  • Other psychiatric disorders

Symptoms

Symptoms include:
  • Fear of being in a crowd, shopping, standing in line, or similar activities
  • Fear of riding in a car, bus, or train
  • Creation of a safe zone
  • Feelings of anxiety when outside the safe zone
  • Fear of being alone outside of the home
  • Avoidance of situations that might cause a panic attack
  • Restriction of activities outside the home
  • Feeling of being safer with a trusted friend or family member
Feared situations may trigger a panic attack. Attacks start quickly and peak in about 10 minutes. A panic attack usually includes four or more of the following:
  • Intense fear
  • Shaking
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Pounding or racing feeling in the chest
  • Sweating
  • Blushing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheadedness
  • Hot flashes or chills
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Nausea
  • Feeling of loss of control or "going crazy"
  • Fear of having a heart attack or dying
Agoraphobia is also commonly associated with the following conditions:

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