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Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder in which an individual experiences marked fear and/or avoidance of places or situations where escape might be difficult or help might not be available in the event of developing panic-like symptoms. People with agoraphobia fear actual or anticipated situations, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line or being in a crowd. The anxiety is caused by fear that there's no easy way to escape or seek help if intense anxiety develops. Most, but not all, people who have agoraphobia develop these symptoms after having one or more panic attacks, causing them to fear another attack and avoid the place or situation where it occurred. Individuals with agoraphobia will either avoid agoraphobic situations altogether or they may feel that they need a companion, such as a relative or friend, to go with them to public places. These fears can be so overwhelming that they may feel unable to leave their home. Approximately 0.8% of the US population is diagnosed with agoraphobia each year.



Typical agoraphobia symptoms include:

  • Fear of being alone in any situation

  • Fear of being in crowded places

  • Fear of losing control in a public place

  • Fear of being in places where it may be hard to leave, such as an elevator or train

  • Inability to leave your home (housebound) or only able to leave it if someone else goes with you

  • Sense of helplessness

  • Overdependence on others

In addition, many people who suffer from agoraphobia may have signs and symptoms of a panic attack.


Many people don't know that agoraphobia is real and highly responsive to treatment. Agoraphobia is treated with psychotherapy, medications, or a combination of the two. At Harte Behavioral Health, we use a variety of evidence-based psychotherapy treatments, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), which is an empirically supported treatment that focuses on modifying problematic thoughts and behaviors that contribute to and/or maintain panic attacks. Agoraphobia is typically treated using a CBT technique referred to as exposure therapy. In exposure therapy, the client is systematically exposed to travelling farther and farther distances away from his or her "safe zone." Exposure therapy for agoraphobia could also entail the client placing himself/herself into situations that are increasingly challenging in terms of their perceived escapability. After many repeated exposures one's anxiety typically reduces substantially.

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