Agoraphobia Causes, Statistics, Signs, Symptoms & Side Effects

What is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that causes the sufferer to become fearful of wide-open areas, crowded venues, and/or traveling. The panic relates to not being able to escape or get help if needed. In addition, a person fighting agoraphobia is often afraid of embarrassing himself or herself in a social setting, and they are terrified of having a panic attack in public. Struggling with agoraphobia can lead the person to live a life stuck in their home and afraid to go outside. The dread can become so intense that the sufferer will not leave their home even when they are in need of medical care.

The irrational fear of going outside leads to a debilitating psychological disorder that keeps the person from living a fruitful life. Agoraphobia is painful and not only affects the person suffering, but it also affects the sufferer’s loved ones and career. The extreme terror that is experienced can create feelings of low self-esteem, hopelessness and worthlessness. This in turn can lead to alcohol and substance abuse and possibly suicide. Help is available and agoraphobia can be beaten.

Statistics on Agoraphobia

Very few studies or statistics pertain to agoraphobia. The statistics that relate to agoraphobia are shown below.

  • Approximately 1.8 million American adults age 18 and over, or about 0.8 percent of people in this age group in a given year, have agoraphobia without a history of panic disorder [1].
  • The median age of onset of agoraphobia is 20 years of age [1].

Causes of Agoraphobia

The actual causes of agoraphobia are not known, but it is believed to be linked to the accompaniment of other anxiety disorders, a traumatic event, substance abuse or stressful situations. Research has discovered a link between agoraphobia and a person’s ability to balance their body. Evidently, people with agoraphobia have difficulty maintaining their balance and rely more on their visual and tactile senses. The sufferer’s visual and tactile cues can become confused and thus create a severe panic attack.

Signs and Symptoms of Agoraphobia

Agoraphobia can begin in a person’s early to mid 20’s. This is a young age to struggle with a mood disorder. This makes it important to recognize the signs and symptoms of agoraphobia as soon as possible. Many years of living in fear can be avoided when treated early.

The primary symptom is the intense fear of being in a wide-open area or in a crowded mall, airport or train station. Some additional symptoms that may indicate a person is dealing with agoraphobia include:

  • Hyperventilating
  • Fear of humiliation
  • Feeling of loss of control
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Fear of a panic attack
  • Depression
  • Anxiety

Agoraphobia Effects

Living with agoraphobia is quite difficult. This mental disorder can take control of the person’s life and will not allow them to leave their place of solace. A normal life is almost out of the question if it goes untreated. Recognizing the physical, emotional and social effects can help the man or woman dealing with agoraphobia find help sooner and circumvent the anticipated results. A few of the emotional effects include:

  • Fear of a panic attack
  • Fear of people noticing a panic attack
  • Fear of humiliation
  • Fear they may die
  • Fear that they are going crazy
  • Depression
  • Low self-confidence
  • Low self-esteem
  • Feeling of loss of control
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling of dread
  • Fear they cannot function or survive without others
  • Fear of being left alone
  • Isolation
  • Hopelessness
  • Fear of embarrassment
  • Fear their heart might stop during a panic attack
  • Fear they cannot breathe

A few of the physical results are:

  • Hyperventilating
  • Trembling
  • Upset stomach
  • Diarrhea
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Breaking out in a sweat
  • Accelerated heart beat
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling hot, flushing
  • Feel like fainting
  • Ringing in ears

Negative social consequences:

  • Person becomes reclusive
  • Substance abuse addiction can be developed
  • Family relationships are hurt or lost
  • Job can be terminated
  • Self worth is negatively impacted
  • Financial ruin can be experienced

Agoraphobia Treatment

Managing agoraphobia is difficult. It confines the sufferer in their home and creates an intense fear of going outside into wide-open areas or to a grocery store. There is such a strong fear of having a panic attack and embarrassing themselves that life goes unlived. Professional assistance is available. An agoraphobia treatment center can help you get the care you need to beat this disorder and live a full and eventful life. Take your life back and get help.



Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on April 15th, 2013
Published on, Online Substance Abuse Guide