Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia is typically characterized by the fear of leaving one’s house or an environment that is considered safe.

The term agoraphobia is derived from the Greek agora (“open space”) and phobia (“fear”). It refers to intense excessive anxiety or fear about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult or in which help might not be available.

The feared places are avoided in an effort to control anxiety.

Situations that are commonly avoided are being alone outside, being alone at home, traveling in a car, bus, or airplane, being on a bridge, and riding in an elevator. These situations may be made more tolerable in the company of another.

Avoidance behaviors can be debilitating and life constricting. Consider the effect on a father whose agoraphobia renders him unable to leave home andprevents him from seeing his child’s high school graduation.

Nearly 2% of adolescents and adults experience agoraphobia in a given year. Some children may develop the disorder, but it typically begins in late adolescence or early adulthood. The ratio of females to males with agoraphobia is 2:1.

Adverse childhood events and stressful life events are associated with the development of agoraphobia. Families of origin are often described as emotionally cool and overprotective. Genetics are also implicated in this disorder.

Agoraphobia has a strong heritability factor of 61%. Before the oneset of this fear-based disorder, many individuals will experience other anxiety disorders such as phobias, panic, and social anxiety. After the onset of agoraphobia individuals often experience depressive disorders and alcohol use disorder.