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What is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is an extreme fear of being in public places or open spaces from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing. The fearful situations are avoided or endured with dread and distress.

It's characterized by anxiety in 2 or more of the following 5 situations:

  • Public transportation
  • Being in open spaces
  • Being in enclosed spaces
  • Standing in line or being in a crowd
  • Being outside of the home alone.

Typical symptoms include:

  • Fear of losing control in a public place
  • Fear of being in places where it may be hard to leave such as an airplane
  • Inability to leave the safety of home. Or only able to leave if with someone
  • Sense of helplessness
  • Overdependence on others

In addition, you may have signs and symptoms of a panic attack, such as:

  • ​Fear of dying
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating
  • Trouble breathing
  • Shaky, numb or tingling
  • Chest pain
  • Lightheaded or dizzy
  • Chills
  • Upset stomach or diarrhea

Agoraphobia is a phobia. A phobia is an intense, unrelenting fear of a situation, activity, or thing that makes one to want to avoid it.​ The fear level is much higher than what the situation actually warrants.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. Washington, D.C: American Psychiatric Association.

Gerrig, Richard J. & Philip G. Zimbardo. Psychology And Life, 16/e. Published by Allyn and Bacon, Boston, MA. Copyright (c) 2002 by Pearson Education. Reprinted by permission of the publisher at

To put a human face on these symptoms, these are the stories of how two women became agoraphobic and their experiences.

Agoraphobia is devastating, distressing and debilitating as shown in the video below.