Agoraphobia - a morbid fear of open spaces (as fear of being caught alone in some public place)
It is an anxiety disorder, traditionally thought to involve a fear of public places and open spaces. However, it is now believed that agoraphobia develops as a complication of panic attacks. But there is evidence that the implied one-way causal relationship between spontaneous panic attacks and agoraphobia in DSM-IV appears incorrect. Agoraphobia may arise by the fear of having a panic attack in a setting from which there is no easy means of escape. Alternately, social anxiety problems may also be an underlying cause. As a result, sufferers of agoraphobia avoid public and/or unfamiliar places, especially large, open, spaces such as shopping malls, or airports, where there are few 'places to hide'. In severe cases, the sufferer may become confined to his or her home, experiencing difficulty traveling from this "safe place."- Wikipedia

Risk Factors:
  • Agoraphobia tends to begin by adolescence or early adulthood. Girls and women, Native
    , middle-aged individuals, low-income populations, and individuals who are either widowed, separated, or divorced are at increased risk of developing agoraphobia.

    Individuals who are Asian, Hispanic, or of African/African-American descent tend tohave a lower risk of developing this disorder.
  • Agoraphobic individuals are at increased risk for developing panic attacks.
  • Agoraphobia may be so severe that and individual may not be able to leave their house
  • People with this disorder may go towards alcohol or other substance to help them cope
  • Agoraphobia may prohibit a person from seeing his/her family or friends, or from being able to walk their own dog

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCdd2ZAaXUs
Causes:
  • Agoraphobia develops in response to repeated exposure to anxiety-provoking events.
  • Agoraphobia is the result of a feeling of emptiness that comes from an unresolved Oedipal conflict, which is a struggle between the feelings the person has toward the opposite-sex parent and a sense of competition with the same-sex parent. http://www.medicinenet.com/agoraphobia/article.htm

A person with agoraphobia fears being in places where there is a chance of having a panic attack that people may witness, and getting away rapidly may be difficult. Because of these fears the sufferer will deliberately avoid such places - which may include crowded areas, special events, queues (standing in line), buses and trains, shops and shopping centers, and airplanes. (as found at http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/162169.php)

Symptoms:
  • Fear of being alone in any situation
  • Fear of being in crowded spaces
  • Fear of loosing control in a public space
  • Fear of being in places where it would be hard to escape (ex. elevator or train)
  • Housebound (inability to leave your house for long periods)
  • Sense of helplessness
  • Over-dependence on others
  • A sense that your body is unreal
Signs:
  • Lightheadedness
  • Trouble breathing
  • Excessive sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Chest pain
All of these signs are similar to having a panic attack, as described before.


How Is It Treated?
Agoraphobia is best treated with a specific form of short-term psychotherapy called cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) The central component of cognitive-behavioral therapy for agoraphobia is exposure therapy, which involves helping people gradually become more comfortable with situations that frighten them. The exposure process often involves three stages:
  • Stage 1 involves introducing the person to the feared situation.
  • Stage 2 focuses on increasing the risk for disapproval in that situation so the person can build confidence that he or she can handle rejection or criticism.
  • Stage 3 involves teaching the person techniques to cope with panic. In this stage, the person imagines his or her worst fear and is encouraged to develop constructive responses to the fear and perceived disapproval.
As found on http://anxiety.emedtv.com/agoraphobia/agoraphobia.html