What is Agoraphobia?

November 1, 2018

After the introduction on what Emetophobia is, it is only appropriate that I also introduce the issue that impacts my life the most. I began suffering from Agoraphobia in earnest in February of this past year. I battle against it daily.

The word agoraphobia comes from the ancient Greek word “agora“, which means “place of assembly” or “marketplace”.

Fun Facts on Agoraphobia:

  • Median onset age of Agoraphobia is 20 (my life is too ironic, I developed it a month before my 20th birthday).
  • 0.8 percent of adults have agoraphobia without a history of panic disorder (I am not one of those people).
  • Agoraphobia used to be placed under the umbrella of panic disorder, diagnosed as “Panic Disorder with Agoraphobia”, this has since been changed. Agoraphobia is a unique diagnosis.
  • Early intervention is crucial with agoraphobia.
  • CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) and medication are the most common treatments for agoraphobia.

The Weird Side of Agoraphobia:

Agoraphobia has many different ways that it presents itself. Fears that are common in agoraphobia are crossing bridges, elevators, a fear of crowds, a fear of open spaces, and a fear of being alone. Most people associate agoraphobia as a fear of open spaces. Therefore, a lot of time when people hear that I am agoraphobic, they think that I just am afraid of big concert halls or wide open parks. However, I am on the severe scale when it comes to agoraphobia. The main issue behind agoraphobia is that the people who suffer from it have an intense fear of not being able to escape a situation.

How I (and others) are Diagnosed with Agoraphobia:

Agoraphobia almost always begins with recurring panic attacks. That is exactly how my issue started. I began having panic attacks in different places, school, the mall, my local grocery store, and even my counselors office. I started to fear having panic attacks, and therefore just started avoiding the places I had them (bad move, I will address that further in a later post). This is how agoraphobia starts to take hold.

In order to be officially diagnosed with agoraphobia, a person needs to experience extreme fear in at least two of the following situations:

  • out of home alone
  • in an open space
  • on public transportation
  • in a crowd
  • in an enclosed space

Agoraphobia will also show itself in ways such as: heightened distress in non-threatening situations, avoiding a situation for fear of becoming “trapped” or experiencing a panic attack, and if the fear of these places causes extreme fear and anxiety that affects quality of life.

Causes of Agoraphobia:

Agoraphobia is also unique in that there is a lot of talk around how agoraphobia starts. Many researchers believe that agoraphobia shows up because of an issue in the area of the brain that regulates fear. Sometimes people develop agoraphobia from past trauma, and still others may develop it from a genetic trait, as anxiety is found to run in families. Finally, agoraphobia can develop simply from the build-up and stress from other anxiety disorders or phobias.

How Does Agoraphobia Manifest Itself?

Agoraphobia normally shows up in much the same way as other anxiety disorders. There are the general anxiety symptoms: shortness of breath, stomach upset, chest pain, sweating, shaking, flushing or feeling cold, dizziness, and heart palpitations. As previously stated, agoraphobia can also cause a person to avoid situations where they experience panic.

Unfortunately, there is an extreme version of Agoraphobia, which is the version that I struggle with. It is considered home-bound agoraphobia. This is where my issue with leaving my house comes in. I so fear having panic attacks outside of what I consider my “safe place”, that I can barely bear going anywhere. Some people will become so greatly afraid of their panic attacks that they panic if they are not in a specific room. There are stories of people who do not leave their house for years on end because of this condition.

Will I Ever Recover from Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is a treatable condition. When researching different opinions, the result varies. Medical News Today published an article that claimed that of those who receive treatment, one in three people will overcome their agoraphobia and never experience it again. Again, keeping in mind that early intervention is crucial. About half of people who undergo treatment will experience some improvement, but will still always experience some symptoms. As a whole, one in five people will never recover from agoraphobia.

Other sites are extremely optimistic about the prognosis for agoraphobia. If you look across the board, most medical articles on agoraphobia (as well as panic disorder) will state a middle of the road view. A person will most likely never fully recover from an anxiety disorder so severe, however, with hard work with a therapist, people can get to the point where they can live practically symptom free.

So, when it comes to me, I honestly don’t know if I will ever recover. I hope to one day be at the point where I only experience symptoms in times of extreme stress. However, that is not guaranteed. Part of my journey of coping with my anxiety has been coming to the point where I can accept that nothing is certain. That also means that I need to be okay with the worst case scenario. I could try a million different methods, throw my heart and soul into recovery, and it may just not happen.

Sometimes, if I am honest, agoraphobia is the most crushing part of my entire existence. I try so hard every day to overcome my fear, to do things out of the house with my husband, to visit my parents, and to gain my life back. Agoraphobia is extremely isolating. I have not been to my husbands parents house in almost a year. It is a place that I grew in and loved for five years of my life. I was over there several times a week. I miss it desperately. Now that I am married, I miss being able to casually go to my parents house and lounge on the couch with my siblings and childhood dog. Yet, I have to wake up every morning and just keep trying. Some days I do amazing. Some days I do the grocery shopping, some days I go to the mall with my husband and have a blast. Other days, I don’t leave the house. I am paralyzed with fear. But I have to keep trying. If ten years down the line I am in the same place I am now, I at least want to be able to say that I gave it my all.

21 Comments

  • Dermafity January 18, 2019 at 8:08 am

    Excellent explanation here. Agoraphobia is definitely a problem affecting many people without their knowledge. This article will definitely help

  • joliestarrett January 18, 2019 at 8:23 am

    So sorry you suffer from this. Thank you for bringing awareness.

  • Renee Theresa January 18, 2019 at 8:24 am

    So brave that you bring this up. I suffer from anxiety and can totally understand how people can have this condition.

  • Neil Alvin Nicerio January 18, 2019 at 8:32 am

    So sorry to hear that you suffer from this one. But thanks for the information. It was very informative.

  • Nupur January 18, 2019 at 8:35 am

    Thank you for sharing this with us. I am so glad that you are bringing awareness to this. I did not know of this condition but now after reading your article I feel I understand it better. You are very brave and keep at it!

  • K Richmond January 18, 2019 at 9:04 am

    It’s great that you are bringing awareness to this condition. People will benefit from this.

  • The Crumby Vegan January 18, 2019 at 11:04 am

    Gosh this sounds difficult to cope with. It sounds like you’re coping well and thank you for sharing the information with us all 💚

  • Andrew McKoscielecky January 18, 2019 at 11:58 am

    Hmm, That’s interesting! Very informative!
    I never heard about agoraphobia.

  • latoyia12 January 18, 2019 at 3:35 pm

    Thank you for being brave and discussing this. It was a really informative and interesting read. I KNOW you can overcome it! Good luck!

  • Jeferson Beluso January 18, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    it’s good you make us aware of this condition….first time i’ve heard of it and it’s terrifying how you recount your daily life…..God bless you……

  • Lydia Smith January 19, 2019 at 4:08 am

    Thanks for the awareness and am sorry you going through this,but am rooting for you so am sure you will overcome this.Keep fighting..Much love.

  • Tom @ {Tech} for Travel January 19, 2019 at 6:05 am

    Agoraphobia destroyed my 20s. That coupled with panic attacks I was a mess. My family doctor never diagnosed me for 2 years and it was only after a severe attack and he was not available, I asked to see any doctor at the practice. The new one picked up on my symptoms and gave me a choice of betablockers or CBT!

    I took CBT, was very lucky to get a talented therapist, and after 8 months of treatment, was cured. I went from unable to even go on the front step of my home to a job that has me travelling the world!

  • Coleccion De Fotografia January 20, 2019 at 3:20 am

    I am relieved that agoraphobia is a treatable condition. Glad you are doing well now, sending you a lot of positive vibes and strength. Take care.

  • Carmen | wellingtonworldtravels.com January 20, 2019 at 11:14 pm

    Shucks. I have to look more into this. I might be suffering from this (or something similiar). I am 30 now, and I can’t seem to drive. I know how to drive; but everytime I do, I have panic attacks, I am shaking, sweating and having palpitations. My husband said I am just not confident. While it may be true, maybe there’s more into it?! Thank goodness, I ran into your post. I can confirm or cross reference this with my therapist.

  • 3TravelBug January 21, 2019 at 12:40 am

    I love that you’re bringing awareness to this issue! I didn’t really know very much about it at all before reading

  • Nina January 21, 2019 at 6:25 pm

    When I was a kid, I remember being so scared crossing the bridge. I’m so glad to have found this and learn more about agoraphobia!

  • Elizabeth O January 21, 2019 at 6:41 pm

    Even though I’m familiar with the condition and it’s connection to anxiety, I haven’t had a chance to read about it in a personal narrative. I applaud you for enlightening us about its impact and I pray that you will find eventual relief and healing through the research for treatment and the therapeutic channels available to you. Hugs and love

  • The Sunny Side January 21, 2019 at 11:31 pm

    Helpful to know, especially with kids as they work through their fears. Best wishes.

  • Elizabeth Varkey January 22, 2019 at 3:36 am

    Very proud of you because you are so brave to talk about your own issues and its impact on your life. This article will be helpful to all

  • remo ankelsaria January 22, 2019 at 3:40 am

    Thanks for sharing your intimate story. Very brave!

  • chaddden2001 January 22, 2019 at 8:55 am

    I read your post on emetophobia and was able to relate. This time, I can’t relate but I applaud you for being brave enough to talk about it. This article is very informative, and thank you for sharing such details about your life.

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