Agoraphobia can begin in childhood, but it usually starts in late teenage or early adulthood before the age of 35. Sometimes Agoraphobia can begin even in older adulthood Typically, agoraphobia can begin if a person experiences a panic attack in a specific situation or environment. They may start avoiding that situation for fear that they might get another panic attack when they are in that situation again. Over time, this can escalate into a generalized fear of being in public.
What is Agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia is a form of anxiety disorder. Agoraphobia typically involves an intense fear of places or situations where escape might be difficult or embarrassing, or where help may not be readily available in the event of a panic attack or other anxiety symptoms. In simpler terms, people suffering from agoraphobia find it difficult to leave an environment that feels safe, as it helps them avoid feelings of anxiety or panic. In extreme cases, people may not even leave their homes due to anxiety.
Dealing with agoraphobia can be very distressing, as people suffering from it typically experience symptoms of panic attacks such as rapid heartbeats, nausea, and shortness of breath whenever they are in a stressful situation. Due to fear and anxiety, someone with agoraphobia is likely to avoid new and unfamiliar situations like:
- A highly crowded area
- A large open or closed space
- Public transport
They avoid these spaces because they fear that they might not get any help in case they experience a panic attack.
Causes of Agoraphobia
The exact cause of agoraphobia is unknown as of now. However, because agoraphobia is a complicated disorder, there are a variety of causes for it, including:
Panic disorder is a condition where people regularly experience sudden attacks of panic or fear. Panic disorder is closely linked with agoraphobia, as many but not all people with panic disorder can develop agoraphobia
Genetics and Personality Factors
Genetics plays an important role in the development of agoraphobia. The heritability of agoraphobia is reportedly 61 per cent, which makes it the phobia most strongly connected to a genetic predisposition among all phobias. Having a nervous personality has also been linked with agoraphobia
Fight or Flight Response
The body’s “fight or flight” response, which is intended for stressful situations, may inadvertently be triggered in case someone has a panic disorder with agoraphobia. This results in the release of hormones such as adrenaline, which quickens breathing and raises the heart rate during a panic attack. It’s like your body preparing for danger even when there isn’t one.
Other anxiety disorders
Having another anxiety disorder, such as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) may also increase the risk of developing agoraphobia
Certain psychological factors can also increase the risk of agoraphobia. They are:
- Experiencing a traumatic event in childhood, like the death of a loved one or being sexually abused
- Experiencing a stressful event like loss of job or divorce
- A history of depression or eating disorders
- A history of substance abuse
Dealing with agoraphobia can often be overwhelming, as it can restrict a person from living their life fully. However, it is important to know that agoraphobia can be treated and overcome with effective treatments. Agoraphobia can often be treated with a combination of psychotherapy, medications, exposure therapy, social support, and lifestyle changes. If you see anyone in your life going through agoraphobia, it is advisable to seek help at the earliest.
- Agoraphobia. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved December 1, 2023, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15769-agoraphobia
- Agoraphobia—Symptoms and causes. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved December 1, 2023, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/agoraphobia/symptoms-causes/syc-20355987
- Causes—Agoraphobia. (2021, February 12). Nhs.Uk. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/agoraphobia/causes/