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A type of anxiety disorder, agoraphobia is particularly disruptive. The individual fears open, crowded or enclosed spaces that might cause them to panic and make them feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed. Everyday tasks—grocery shopping, using public transportation, standing in line or even seeing a therapist—can feel so overwhelming that leaving the home becomes impossible.

Most people develop agoraphobia after having one or more panic attacks, causing them to worry about having another attack and to avoid the places where it may happen again. They fear having no easy way to escape or get help if anxiety intensifies. They do not feel safe in public unless a companion can accompany them. 

Agoraphobia treatment can be challenging because it usually means confronting these fears. But psychotherapy and medication can help individuals overcome their fears and live a normal life.

Causes of agoraphobia are being investigated:

Unexpected panic attacks are the immediate cause of agoraphobic fear and avoidance. The first attack seems to occur “out of the blue,” with individuals fearing re-occurrence and avoiding situations that may cause or worsen a future attack. 

Reasons are unknown why an individual experiences a first panic attack or begins to associate certain situations with panic attacks. 

Factors responsible for causing a first attack may include life stressors, earlier experience with loss of control, a tendency to breathe too fast or fluctuations in brain chemicals.

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