Phobias are a category of anxiety disorders characterized by an intense and irrational fear of specific situations, objects, or environments. Two of the most commonly discussed phobic conditions are claustrophobia and agoraphobia. While both conditions are subtypes of anxiety disorders, they can manifest and impact people in distinctly different ways.

People can often get confused about agoraphobia because of the similarity in their symptoms. Both of these phobias are characterized by intense fear, avoidance of anxiety-causing situations, and physical symptoms such as breathlessness, dizziness, racing heart, etc.

Agoraphobia vs Claustrophobia: The Differences

Agoraphobia Claustrophobia
Definition  Agoraphobia is the fear of situations where escaping or seeking help is difficult, in case an individual suffers from a panic attack. Simply defined, claustrophobia is the fear of enclosed or confined places where there is limited scope for movement.
Triggers for Anxiety People with agoraphobia find it difficult to leave any environments that they consider to be safe. Living in safe environments allows them to avoid feelings of anxiety or panic. Thus, any place that they consider unsafe, like public transport, large crowds, large open or closed places, or any place without easy exits, can trigger anxiety. People with claustrophobia experience intense anxiety and feel trapped while in enclosed places. The feeling of being trapped without an escape or scope for movement can be extremely uncomfortable, leading to anxiety. Thus, any place with closed doors and limited movements, like elevators, MRI machines, tunnels, and planes, can be perceived as anxiety-provoking.
Primary Concerns People with agoraphobia are concerned about not getting help in case they get a panic attack. People with claustrophobia are worried about not being able to move around or being trapped in a closed place.
  • Extreme fear of leaving perceived safe spaces
  • Reluctance to leave places that seem familiar
  • Needing to be accompanied by someone else when leaving the house.
  • Difficulty Breathing in closed places
  • Constant worry about being trapped and unable to escape
  • Constantly feeling overwhelmed and trying to find an escape from closed places.
Impact on Everyday Life Agoraphobia can be extremely limiting in terms of daily activities. If it reaches an extreme, people with agoraphobia can even find it difficult to leave their houses, leading to issues with jobs, schooling, etc. Thus, agoraphobia has a broad impact on an individual’s everyday life as compared to claustrophobia. People with claustrophobia may try to avoid public transportation, causing significant difficulties in travel. They might even avoid jobs involving frequent travel or the use of elevators. Thus, claustrophobia is likely to impact specific areas of an individual’s life.
Presence of Panic Disorder Agoraphobia frequently occurs with panic disorder, a type of anxiety disorder where an individual experiences frequent panic attacks. Claustrophobia is less likely to occur with panic disorder, although they can co-exist in some cases.

Understanding The Treatments for Agoraphobia and Claustrophobia

Both agoraphobia and claustrophobia can be extremely limiting, causing a significant disruption in daily life. However, effective treatments and strategies allow individuals to overcome these conditions and live a fulfilling life. The commonly used treatments are:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on identifying negative thought patterns that might be causing symptoms of panic and then replacing them with positive thinking patterns to improve coping.

  • Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy is a form of behaviour therapy where an individual is exposed to an anxiety-provoking situation while simultaneously practicing relaxation with a trained professional.

  • Anti-anxiety Medications

Medications may be prescribed by psychiatrists in cases where an individual is experiencing extreme difficulties in their daily life.


Both claustrophobia and agoraphobia are specific phobias that are a subset of anxiety disorders, making them similar in many ways in terms of their initial presentation and symptoms. However, both of them differ in key ways. Understanding the differences between the two conditions is crucial to making the right diagnosis and seeking effective treatment.


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Dhruva Koranne

Dhruva Koranne has completed his Masters in Applied Psychology from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, BALM. He has been practicing as a counsellor since 2020 and works to create a safe space for clients where they can open up. In addition to this, Dhruva loves researching and studying about upcoming theories in the field of Psychology. Connect with him on Linkedin