Agoraphobia is a misunderstood term. Two commonly used definitions are "fear of the marketplace" or" fear of open spaces".
These two definitions originate from a literal translation of the Greek and Latin root words.
Many people feel that it means a fear of leaving the house.
Few people realize that agoraphobia is almost always related to fear of having a panic attack.
Fear Of Panic Attacks
The real problem that a person with agoraphobia experiences is an overwhelming fear of getting a panic attack in a place where others will see or where help will not be available or where escape seems difficult.
If you have ever had a panic attack you know they are not a pleasant experience! Physically and mentally these can be very traumatic events!
However, both the physical and mental sensations eventually subside and things become normal again after awhile.
But for some the experience is so traumatic that they become extremely fearful about having another panic attack.
Tormented by Fearful Thoughts
The desire to avoid further panic attacks becomes more and more entrenched.
Certain places or situations become risky due to the fear that they will trigger another attack. A person worried about having panic attacks can often end up feeling secure and safe in fewer and fewer places.
Fearful thoughts can torment you. Speculating and imagining what might happen in certain situations becomes a source of great discomfort.
For most agoraphobics, losing control and having NO control become huge issues.
Sadly, sometimes it only feels safe to just never leave the house.
It can be debilitating. In extreme cases, a person may be confined to just one room - the only 'safe' place in their house.
The Safe Zone
You may find yourself developing a 'safe zone' or a 'safe companion'. These familiar surroundings and comforting people become a safety net.
It just feels easier and less risky to stay at home so that's what you start to do.
In an attempt to avoid extreme feelings of anxiety you avoid potential triggers and retreat when you feel symptoms coming on.
Oddly though the retreat from fear actually doesn't give you the safety and comfort you anticipate. With each move away from fear, it gains another stranglehold on you!
If you feel like this might be happening to you, you are not alone!
Many more people than you think have been afflicted with these feelings - including very famous people!
Also know that you can get better!
Help Yourself - Don't Run Away
If this sounds like you, please seek some form of help
There are many ways to help yourself - from cognitive behavior therapy based solutions; to changes in your environment and diet; to large changes in your thinking and behavior. It all helps and it all adds up!
Cognitive behavior therapy has an excellent either with a therapist or if not possible online or using a self help program or book has the best track record.
The longer you live with this condition, the more entrenched it seems to get and the more complex to treat.
Ever wonder what it feels like to have agoraphobia?
Read more about it here.
The latest science on what causes agoraphobia
Case Studies - Learn from case studies about symptoms, treatment and recovery.
What can you do if you think your child is agoraphobic?
Memory Loss - Can it cause memory loss? Or maybe it's the medication you're taking?
Alcohol - How drinking impacts recovery and should you drink if you have it?
Agoraphobia and Panic Attacks - are they related?
How cognitive behavior therapy can help you
Famous People With Agoraphobia - You would be surprised how many famous people have it! Like Woody Allen and Kim Basinger. Anxiety disorders can happen to anyone.
Agoraphobia Test: Do You Have It? - Take this short test and find out.
Return to the Panic And Agoraphobia home page.