Some people have a panic disorder in addition to agoraphobia. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder in which you experience sudden attacks of extreme fear that reach a peak within a few minutes and trigger intense physical symptoms (panic attacks). You might think that you’re totally losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.
Agoraphobia usually starts before age 35, but older adults also can develop it. Women are diagnosed with agoraphobia more often than men are.
In addition to having panic disorder or other phobias, agoraphobia risk factors include having a tendency to be nervous or anxious; experiencing stressful life events, such as abuse, the death of a parent or being attacked; having a family history of agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia can also lead to or be associated with:
• Other mental health disorders, including other phobias and other anxiety disorders
• Alcohol or drug misuse to try to cope with the fear, guilt, hopelessness, isolation and loneliness
Typical agoraphobia symptoms include:
• Fear of being alone in any situation
• Fear of being in crowded places
• Fear of losing control in a public place
• Fear of being in places where it may be hard to leave, such as an elevator or train
• Inability to leave your home (housebound) or only able to leave it if someone else goes with you
• Sense of helplessness
• Overdependence on others
In addition, you may have signs and symptoms of a panic attack, such as:
• Rapid heart rate
• Excessive sweating
• Trouble breathing
• Feeling shaky, numb or tingling
• Chest pain or pressure
• Lightheadedness or dizziness
• Sudden flushing or chills
• Upset stomach or diarrhea
• Feeling a loss of control
• Fear of dying
Agoraphobia is diagnosed based on signs and symptoms, as well as an in-depth interview with your health care provider. You may also have a physical exam to rule out other conditions that could be causing your symptoms. To be diagnosed with agoraphobia, you must meet criteria listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) published by the American Psychiatric Association. This manual is used by mental health providers to diagnose mental conditions.