Agoraphobia is the most common form of anxiety disorder. Agoraphobia is defined as “fear of open spaces”, however, it also can express itself as a fear of panic attacks. Agoraphobics fear the anticipation of situations that they can’t escape. These situations exacerbate feelings of lack of control and powerlessness.
Situations that can trigger agoraphobia include:
- crowded places such as grocery stores and shopping malls;
- confined spaces such as elevators and tunnels;
- fear of being away from home or a “safe person”;
Agoraphobia can affect all kinds of people. It does not discriminate between professionals and blue collar workers or males or females. It is caused by a combination of heredity and environment issues. Heredity plays a large part; most agoraphobics have a close relative with the condition. Environmental issues include having parents who have been overcritical, overprotective and/or anxious.
Agoraphobia can be successfully treated with a high percentage of positive outcomes. Therapies can include assertiveness training, graded exposure, relaxation and/or medication.