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Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes people to fear situations where it's difficult to escape or get help if things go wrong. Learn more about the causes, symptoms and what treatment is available.

What is agoraphobia?

Many people define agoraphobia as a fear of open spaces, but it's more complicated than that. If you have agoraphobia, you avoid places or situation that might make you feel:

  • Trapped

  • Helpless

  • Embarrassed

  • Afraid

  • Panicked

Someone with agoraphobia may be afraid of:

  • Using public transport

  • Going to a shopping centre

  • Leaving home

  • Standing in a queue

  • Being in a crowded place

  • Being outside alone

Agoraphobia symptoms

Agoraphobia symptoms differ from person to person. If you've got severe agoraphobia, you may find it a struggle to leave your house. But someone who has mild agoraphobia may be able to make short trips on public transport without any problems.

The symptoms of agoraphobia can be divided into three types:

  • Physical

  • Cognitive (psychological)

  • Behavioural

Physical symptoms

You may get the physical symptoms of agoraphobia in situations or places that make you feel anxious or stressed. The symptoms are similar to what you might experience in a panic attack and may include:

  • Fast heartbeat (tachycardia)

  • Rapid breathing (hyperventilating)

  • Feeling dizzy or lightheaded

  • Feeling hot and sweaty

  • Nausea

  • Chest pain or tightness in the chest

  • Difficulty swallowing

  • Needing to go to the toilet a lot

  • Trembling

  • Ringing in the ears

Some people with agoraphobia never get any physical symptoms because they go out of their way to avoid situations that give them anxiety.

Cognitive (psychological) symptoms

Cognitive agoraphobia symptoms involve feelings or thoughts that relate to the physical symptoms, like:

  • Worrying that a panic attack will make you look stupid, feel embarrassed or lose control

  • Fear that a panic attack may be life-threatening

  • Fear that you're losing your sanity

  • Worrying that you won't be able to escape or find help during a panic attack

  • Fear that people will stare at you

Other psychological symptoms may include:

  • Feeling like you can't survive without the help of others

  • A feeling of anxiety or dread

  • Being scared to be left alone in your own home

  • Depression

  • Low self-esteem

  • Paranoia

Reviewed by:

Dr Rhianna McClymont

Lead GP at Livi

Last updated: