Agoraphobia by classical definition is a type of anxiety disorder whereby one has enough fear to avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. There is fear of an actual event or anticipated situation, such as using a public bus, being in open or enclosed spaces like an MRI machine, standing in line, or being in a crowd at a concert.
The fear is exaggerated and often perceived by the inability to escape. For example getting off an airplane during flight, or not being able to control the plane as one is simply a passenger. This is quite often developed after a panic attack and often changes form. For example the fear of flying changes to the fear of a panic attack on a plane with no escape. One may often look to have a friend, significant other or companion accompany them. One can adopt safety behavior measures such as shopping online. Some severe forms include the inability to leave the house.
Prevalence of Agoraphobia
- 1-2% of adults in the United States carry Agoraphobia, some studies average the prevalence to 1.3%
- Slightly higher in adolescence at 2.1%
- More common in woman than men and quite often is noticeable before age 35
Risk factors for developing agoraphobia include:
- Having a relative with agoraphobia (genetics is a leading cause of agoraphobia)
- Panic attacks
- Responding to those panic attacks with excessive fear and/or apprehension
- Stressful life events that include physical assault, abuse or death of a loved one
- The presence of anxiety or being an anxious person