A phobia is an overwhelming and debilitating fear of an object, place, situation, feeling or animal. Agoraphobia is often thought of as a fear of open spaces, but it’s much more complicated than this. Agoraphobia is a complex phobia that involves several anxieties, including fear of entering shops, crowds and public places, or of travelling in trains, buses or planes.It also includes anxiety of being unable to escape to a place of safety, usually home. The anxiety usually results in the person avoiding situations such as these.
Agoraphobia and panic disorder
Many people with agoraphobia also have a related panic disorder, and a history of panic attacks. Their agoraphobia often develops as a result of a previous panic attack. They worry about being in an environment or situation from which escape or help would be impossible or embarrassing if they were to have a panic attack.Also, many people worry that if they are in a situation or environment that provokes a panic attack, it will be life-threatening. For example, they will stop breathing, or their heart will beat too fast and they will have a heart attack.Agoraphobia related to panic disorder is one of the most common mental health conditions. It is estimated that between 4-5% of the population are affected by panic disorder and agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia without panic disorder
It was once believed that all cases of agoraphobia were related to panic disorders and panic attacks. However, research carried out in the last two decades has shown that almost half of people with agoraphobia have no previous history of panic disorders or attacks.In such circumstances, agoraphobia may be caused by different phobias, such as fear of crime, terrorism, illness or accident. However, those with agoraphobia without panic disorder are often motivated by the same fears of experiencing their first panic attack if they put themselves in a situation or environment that provokes anxiety.Although agoraphobia without panic disorder is less common, it is by no means rare. For example, in the UK, it is estimated that 1.7% of men and 3.8% of women have agoraphobia without related panic disorder.