Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on
December 12, 2021
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Medically Reviewed by our Medical Affairs Team

Written by Dr. Valentina Quintana MD on:

Do you struggle to leave your home or feel uneasy when in crowded places?

If so, agoraphobia might be the culprit.

Agoraphobia can cause people to avoid public places, which can lead to isolation and other complications.

This blog post will explore agoraphobia symptoms, what causes agoraphobia, how it is managed, and a lot more.

So, let’s get started.

What exactly is agoraphobia?

The term agoraphobia is derived from the Greek words agora, meaning “marketplace,” and phobos, meaning “fear.”

Put simply, agoraphobia is an intense fear of public places.

People with agoraphobia may feel uneasy or panicked in crowded areas, or they may avoid these areas altogether.

Some agoraphobia sufferers are able to go out in public, but they do it only when accompanied by someone else or if certain safety conditions are met, such as having a phone on hand at all times.

For agoraphobia patients who avoid crowded places entirely, the fear of experiencing anxiety symptoms may keep them trapped at home.

Agoraphobia symptoms can vary from person to person, but some of the most common ones include:

  • Feeling uneasy or panicked in crowded areas
  • Avoiding public places
  • Experiencing anxiety symptoms only in certain situations
  • Feeling like you’re unable to leave your home

It is important to note that agoraphobia is different than a social anxiety disorder.

People with agoraphobia may feel uneasy or panicked in public, but they tend to avoid these situations because of the fear of experiencing anxiety symptoms.

On the other hand, people with social phobia experience intense fears related to specific events and activities involving other people.

For instance, a person with agoraphobia may feel uncomfortable in crowded places such as the mall or restaurants due to fear of experiencing anxiety symptoms (such as dizziness and nausea).

On the other hand, people diagnosed with social phobia might be afraid of going on stage for an oral presentation because they are worried about embarrassing themselves in front of others.

As you can see, agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder are different, but they both involve fear and anxiety in social situations.

So, now that we know a little more about agoraphobia, let’s move on to the causes.

What causes agoraphobia?

There are several potential agoraphobia causes.

For some people, agoraphobia may be hereditary or genetic, meaning the tendency to develop this type of anxiety disorder runs in families.

Other agoraphobia triggers include past traumatic experiences and stress-inducing events such as divorce or the loss of a loved one.

Agoraphobia may also be triggered by medical issues such as hyperthyroidism or heart disease.

In addition to agoraphobia causes that are rooted in the past, agoraphobia symptoms can occur when people directly experience a life event they perceive as stressful, frightening, or threatening.

For instance, agoraphobia might develop after a person is involved in a car accident.

Suddenly, the person may start to feel uneasy or panicked when driving, and this new fear might eventually lead to agoraphobia symptoms.

So, agoraphobia can be caused by a combination of genetic factors, past experiences, and current life events.

Now that we know agoraphobia symptoms and what causes agoraphobia, let’s talk about how it is managed.

How is agoraphobia managed?

If you are struggling with agoraphobia or if your loved one has this type of anxiety disorder, there are several ways to manage it.

For some people, agoraphobia management may include therapy and/or medication.

Therapy can help people understand the root causes of their agoraphobia and learn how to manage and cope with their fear and anxiety.

Medication may also be prescribed in order to help reduce agoraphobic symptoms.

Some people with agoraphobia find that self-help techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation help to manage their symptoms.

In addition, it is important for agoraphobic patients to create a support system of family and friends who can offer encouragement and understanding.

Finally, some people find that keeping a journal helps them track their progress in managing agoraphobia.

By writing down agoraphobic triggers and how they are feeling, patients can learn more about their anxiety disorder and what works best for them in terms of agoraphobia management.

More on Agoraphobia Symptoms

The agoraphobia symptoms you experience might seem overwhelming at first but in time they can be managed and reduced if not cured completely.

So, let’s categorize the symptoms to better identify and manage them:

Physical Symptoms

These are the most easily identifiable agoraphobia symptoms that manifest physically when an agoraphobic person leaves home or stays in triggering and crowded places:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Nervousness or feeling wound-up or on edge
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Trembling (shaking)
  • Muscle tension/aches and pains
  • Fatigue (tiredness)

Cognitive or Psychological Symptoms

These agoraphobia symptoms are related to the way you think and what’s going on in your head:

  • Feeling like you’re going crazy or out of control
  • Worrying excessively about physical sensations or health problems
  • Fearing that something bad will happen, such as a panic attack
  • Believing that escape from any difficult situation is impossible
  • Having thoughts that you’re being watched or followed
  • Constantly checking your environment for safety
  • Avoiding situations that make you anxious and terrified, even if they’re safe

Behavioral Symptoms

These agoraphobia symptoms are about how you act:

  • Staying close to home or people you know well
  • Not going out alone
  • Having a rigid routine and avoiding change
  • Seeking constant reassurance from others
  • Feeling trapped or helpless
  • Using alcohol or drugs to calm yourself down
  • Neglecting important activities, such as work or school
  • Having difficulty concentrating
  • Thinking about suicide or dying to escape the symptoms

Physical agoraphobia symptoms are easily recognizable, while cognitive and behavioral agoraphobia symptoms might be more difficult to identify.

However, they all need professional help in order for you or your loved one to manage them better.

So, if you think that agoraphobic behavior is making life harder than it needs to be, reach out for help.

We hope this article has been helpful and that you now have a better understanding of agoraphobia – what it is, the symptoms, and how it’s managed.

Please feel free to share this post with your friends and family who might find it useful.

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