Agoraphobia: symptoms, causes and how to treat it

Agoraphobia: symptoms, causes and how to treat it

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder. The term "agoraphobia" comes from the Greek words agora, which means "square," and phobia, which means "fear." Literally translated as "fear of the market." People with agoraphobia are afraid of open or public spaces where crowds may occur.

Agoraphobia is based on fears, but most of those who suffer from this anxiety disorder do not have a clear picture about many of the symptoms they suffer (both physical and psychic) ​​and do not recognize those fears.

However, it has one factor in common: the irrational fear and the feeling of lack of protection in certain situations.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders of the American Psychiatric Association (DSM), agoraphobia consists in "suffering anxiety when being in places or situations where escape can be difficult (or embarrassing) or where help may not be available in case of having a panic attack or symptoms similar to distress. " (DSM-IV)


The agoraphobic tends to avoid potentially anxious situations, such as leaving home, using public transportation, shopping, eating in restaurants, going to the movies, playing sports, traveling, being in public places or large areas, etc. These situations can represent a serious problem in the life of the agoraphobic, being able to lead the affected person to almost not leave their home in order to try to avoid the great amount of anxiety caused by panic.

The vast majority of agoraphobic people experience a series of emotions such as:

  • Tachycardia.
  • Bursts of heat / cold.
  • Heat, sweat, suffocation.
  • Tremors
  • Drowning or shortness of breath; hyperventilation
  • Dizziness and vertigo.
  • Feeling of unreality.
  • Chest pain or tightness.
  • Asthenia: fatigue or tiredness.
  • Nausea, difficulty swallowing, strange sensations in the stomach (like butterflies in the stomach).
  • Blurred vision or feeling of seeing lights.
  • Punctures, cramps, numbness, tension, weak legs, loss of sensation, paleness.
  • Feeling of urinating or having a bowel movement, among others.

In addition, with the symptoms, to all this automatically appear "negative or catastrophic thoughts" that for obvious reasons, increases the physiological response, turning your anxiety into a real panic, thus turning a chaos the emotional stability of the affected, since it He feels extremely out of control and ensures that his physical-emotional state will not end and culminate in something catastrophic (possibly dying).


Possible causes

Biology (including disease and genetics), temperament, environmental stress and learning experiences can be factors that influence agoraphobia.

Agoraphobia can also lead or be associated with:

  • Depression
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Other mental health disorders, such as other anxiety disorders or personality disorders


There are several types of agoraphobia treatment. The most studied and experimentally contrasted are the pharmacological and the cognitive behavioral.

The classic cognitive behavioral treatment of agoraphobia is based on the training of the skills necessary for the subsequent gradual self-exposure of the patient to the feared situations. Making an exhibition involves an important preparation of the patient, because only he knows how to avoid.

Images pixabay

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