Agoraphobia is an intense fear and anxiety of being in places where it is hard to escape, or where help might not be available. Agoraphobia usually involves fear of crowds, bridges, or of being outside alone.
The exact cause agoraphobia is unknown. Agoraphobia sometimes occurs when a person has had a panic attack and begins to fear situations that might lead to another panic attack.
With agoraphobia, you avoid places or situations because you do not feel safe in public places. The fear is worse when the place is crowded.
Symptoms of agoraphobia include:
Physical symptoms can include:
The health care provider will look at your history of agoraphobia, and will get a description of the behavior from you, your family, and friends.
The goal of treatment is to help you feel and function better. The success of treatment usually depends in part on how severe the agoraphobia is.
Treatment approach combines cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) with an antidepressant medication, which may include any of the following:
CBT involves 10 to 20 visits with a mental health professional over a number of weeks. CBT helps you change the thoughts that cause your condition. It may involve:
You may also be slowly exposed to the real-life situation that causes the fear to help you overcome it.
A healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, enough rest, and good nutrition can also help be helpful.
Most patients can get better with medications or behavioral therapy. Without early and effective help, the disorder may become more difficult to treat.
Some persons with agoraphobia may:
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of agoraphobia.
Early treatment of panic disorder can often prevent agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia; Anxiety disorder- agoraphobia
American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 5th ed. Arlington, Va: American Psychiatric Publishing. 2013.
Taylor CT, Pollack MH, LeBeau RT, Simon NM. Anxiety disorders: panic, social anxiety, and generalized anxiety. In: Stern TA, Rosenbaum JF, Fava M, Biederman J, Rauch SL, eds. Massachusetts General Hospital Comprehensive Clinical Psychiatry. 1st ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2008:chap 32.
Updated by: Timothy Rogge, MD, Medical Director, Family Medical Psychiatry Center, Kirkland, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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