Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety-related social disorder where you are afraid of and avoid locations or situations that can make you feel panicked or trapped, helpless, or even embarrassed. You are afraid of a real or expected situation, such as using public transportation, being in an open or enclosed space, waiting in a line, or being in a crowd.
The severity of agoraphobia varies greatly from person to person. For example, a person with a severe fear of heights may not be able to leave the house, while a person with a mild fear of heights may be able to walk short distances without difficulty.
Agoraphobia symptoms could be classified into three major kinds.
1. Physical Symptoms of Agoraphobia
The physical symptoms of agoraphobia are usually only present when the person is in an anxious situation or environment.
However, many people with agoraphobia deliberately avoid situations in which they feel fearful and therefore rarely experience physical symptoms.
The physical symptoms of agoraphobia are similar to those of a panic attack and can include
- Rapid heart rate
- Fast breathing (hyperventilation)
- Heat and sweating
- Chest pain
- Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
- Vertigo (lightheadedness)
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Feeling dizzy
2. Cognitive Symptoms of Agoraphobia
Cognitive symptoms of agoraphobia are feelings and thoughts that are thought to be associated with physical symptoms, but not necessarily.
Cognitive symptoms may include fear that:
- Being teased or feeling embarrassed in public because of a panic attack
- Panic attacks can be life-threatening, for example, if your heart stops beating or you can’t breathe.
- If you have a panic attack, you cannot escape from the place or the situation.
- You lose control of your thoughts.
- You may lose control in public
- You may shake or blush in public
- People are staring at you
There are also psychological symptoms that are not related to panic attacks, such as
- Feeling that you cannot function or live without the help of others
- Fear of being alone at home (monophobia)
- A general feeling of anxiety and fear
3. Behavioral Symptoms of Agoraphobia
The behavioral symptoms of agoraphobia can include
- Avoiding situations that might trigger a panic attack (crowds, public transportation, queues, etc.)
- Staying indoors – not being able to leave the house for long periods of time
- When you go somewhere, you should be with someone you trust
- Not traveling far
Some people feel quite fearful and anxious, even though they can force themselves to deal with unpleasant situations.
When to seek medical advice?
If you think you have symptoms of agoraphobia, you should consult your general practitioner.
You should also seek medical advice if you have the following symptoms.
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Unexplained weakness
- Feeling that your heart is beating irregularly (palpitations)
- Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
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