Frequent mix-ups: Fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia)Addition: often occurs together with a panic disorder. The term agoraphobia is composed of the Greek words agora (marketplace) and phobos (phobia) and describes in its original meaning the fear of places. In general, agoraphobia is still understood as “the fear of certain places”.
Persons suffering from agoraphobia feel an intense fear or an unpleasant feeling as soon as they are in a place where escape would not be possible, in case of sudden unexpected panic or unpleasant physical reactions for themselves. They are also worried that in an “emergency” situation help would be unavailable to them or that they would get into an embarrassing situation. The affected persons see avoiding these places as the only way to avoid the fears and unpleasant feelings.
The following places, for example, are avoided by people suffering from agoraphobia: When the fear and unpleasant feelings become too much of a burden for the person, they isolate themselves completely and avoid leaving the house. However, when it is necessary to put oneself in a situation feared by the person, other people are often taken along as escorts, which provides security for the person concerned. – Lifts
- Large gatherings
- Large department stores
The symptoms that occur in the context of agoraphobia, or when confronted with the places that are filled with fear, can be divided into four areas:
- Physical signs
Thoughts usually revolve around the fear that a terrible event might occur.
The fear of not being able to get help in this situation or of being alone is in the foreground. As a result of these thoughts, situations that the person is afraid of are avoided, such as crowds of people and travelling by bus, train, plane etc. In the feared situations, the affected persons experience intense fear, which could have the following contents: In each of the fear-inducing situations, the person concerned shows physical reactions.
However, it is not always necessary for all of the symptoms, some of which are listed below, to occur together: The fear is also reflected in the behavior of the affected person. The persons start to avoid the fear-inducing situations. If it is not possible to avoid the anxiety-ridden situations, they are only visited and overcome with great anxiety and a feeling of discomfort.
If the fear or discomfort becomes too intense, the persons concerned flee the situation or visit it only in the company of other people. – Fear of being helpless and alone
- Breathlessness anxiety
- Fear of losing control of the situation
- Fear of going mad in the situation
- Fear of fainting
- Sweating, excessive sweating
- Accelerated heartbeat
- Shortness of breath, chest pain
- The situations are perceived as not real
- Stomach – intestine – complaints
- Sensation of fainting
- Hot flushes, cold showers
as in the case of the specific phobia, a cause for the development of agoraphobia may have been the experience of a traumatic event, for example the death of a close person, a separation/divorce from the life partner, problems in the partnership, problems at work or unemployment. Agoraphobia can also occur in combination with a specific phobia.
Experiencing a traumatic event alone is not enough to trigger an agoraphobia. Often a vulnerable, sensitive personality plays a major role, which can contribute to the development of agoraphobia. The anxiety of a person can be explained on the one hand by the inheritance of certain personality traits.
Also the development of certain character traits through the influence of parents (upbringing) and other close persons (circle of friends) during childhood. Small children learn how to behave in certain situations by observing parental behaviour. If the child’s parents have an anxious personality, it is obvious that the child may also develop anxieties later on. The child may not even try out his or her own behaviour in certain situations, but will adopt the observed behaviour of the parents. In psychotherapy it is possible to get to the bottom of the causes that could be responsible for the development of agoraphobia and to treat agoraphobia through therapeutic procedures.