Agoraphobia is a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or that help wouldn't be available if things go wrong.
Many people assume agoraphobia is simply a fear of open spaces, but it's actually a more complex condition. Someone with agoraphobia may be scared of:
- travelling on public transport
- visiting a shopping centre
- leaving home
If someone with agoraphobia finds themselves in a stressful situation, they'll usually experience the symptoms of a panic attack. They'll avoid situations that cause anxiety and may only leave the house with a friend or partner. They'll order groceries online rather than going to the supermarket. This change in behaviour is known as avoidance.
Agoraphobia usually develops as a complication of panic disorder, an anxiety disorder involving panic attacks and moments of intense fear. It can arise by associating panic attacks with the places or situations where they occurred and then avoiding them. A minority of people with agoraphobia have no history of panic attacks. In these cases, their fear may be related to issues like a fear of crime, terrorism, illness, or being in an accident. Traumatic events, such as bereavement, may contribute towards agoraphobia, as well as certain genes inherited from your parents.