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Agoraphobia

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jun 6, 2022.

What is agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is a condition that causes strong anxiety and panic. Symptoms are triggered when you do not feel safe and cannot escape easily. Some examples are when you are in an elevator, on public transportation, or in a large crowd. You may fear you will be embarrassed when you panic. Your fears may make it hard for you to work or be involved in activities you enjoy.

What are the signs and symptoms of agoraphobia?

  • Dizziness and shaking
  • Diarrhea
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Thoughts that you are losing control
  • Trouble breathing or chest pain

What increases my risk for agoraphobia?

The exact cause of agoraphobia is unknown. Your risk of agoraphobia increases if you have any of the following:

  • A family history of agoraphobia or an anxiety disorder
  • A bad experience while you were in a certain place or situation
  • History of abuse as a child
  • Smoking, drug abuse, or alcohol abuse

How is agoraphobia diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and when they began. He or she will ask what triggers your panic and if fear limits your daily activities. He or she will also ask about your medical history and if any family members have a similar condition. Your provider may ask about your past and present alcohol or drug use.

How is agoraphobia treated?

  • Antidepressant or antianxiety medicines can help control your symptoms.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) helps you understand agoraphobia and find ways to control your anxiety. You learn which thoughts bring anxiety, and how to change them and work through them.
  • Exposure therapy , or desensitization therapy, helps you face a feared situation. The goal of desensitization therapy is to help decrease your fear or anxiety.

Treatment options

The following list of medications are in some way related to or used in the treatment of this condition.

What can I do to manage agoraphobia?

  • Cope with anxiety in a healthy way. Do not drink alcohol, use drugs, or smoke cigarettes to control your anxiety. Practice the other ways you have learned to cope during therapy. Bring someone you trust when you face your fears if this will help you cope.
  • Keep a diary. Write down how you feel during certain situations. You can include what you did to cope with your fear. The diary will help you and your healthcare provider see if you have less anxiety over time. Take your diary with you every time you visit your provider.

Where can I find more information?

  • Anxiety Disorders Association of America (ADAA)
    8730 Georgia Avenue, Suite 600
    Silver Spring , MD 20910
    Phone: 1- 240 - 485-1001
    Web Address: http://www.adaa.org
  • National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Office of Science Policy, Planning, and Communications
    6001 Executive Boulevard, Room 6200, MSC 9663
    Bethesda , MD 20892-9663
    Phone: 1- 301 - 443-4513
    Phone: 1- 866 - 615-6464
    Web Address: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have sudden trouble breathing, chest pain, or a fast heartbeat. The symptoms are worse or last longer than you regularly experience when you panic.
  • You think about hurting or killing yourself.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have trouble sleeping, or are sleeping more than usual.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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