What is agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that causes intense fear of becoming overwhelmed or unable to escape or get help. Because of fear and anxiety, people with agoraphobia often avoid new places and unfamiliar situations, such as:
- Open or enclosed spaces.
- Places outside your home.
- Public transportation.
How many people have agoraphobia?
About 1% to 2% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with agoraphobia. Roughly 2% of adolescents experience it. Agoraphobia is more common among women. It usually starts before age 35.
What are the risk factors for agoraphobia?
Risk factors for developing agoraphobia include:
- Having panic attacks or other phobias.
- Experiencing stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one, being attacked, or being abused.
- Having a nervous or anxious nature.
- Responding to panic attacks with excess fear and apprehension.
- Having a relative with agoraphobia.
What causes agoraphobia?
It is not clear what causes agoraphobia. However, it is often associated with an existing panic disorder. Panic disorder causes short, intense attacks of fear for no particular reason. About a third of people who have panic disorder develop agoraphobia. But agoraphobia also can occur alone.
What does agoraphobia feel like?
Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes. But an anxiety disorder causes excessive worry that affects daily activities. Agoraphobia can make you feel extreme fear and stress, which may cause you to avoid situations.
The signs of agoraphobia are similar to a panic attack. You may experience:
- Chest pain or rapid heart rate.
- Fear or a shaky feeling.
- Hyperventilation or trouble breathing.
- Lightheadedness or dizziness.
- Sudden chills or flushing (red, hot face).
- Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).
- Upset stomach.