Agoraphobia Information

Agoraphobia 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."

Not to be confused with agraphobia, agoraphobia is a condition where the sufferer becomes anxious in environments that are unfamiliar or where he or she perceives that they have little control. Triggers for this anxiety may include wide open spaces, crowds , or traveling . Agoraphobia is often, but not always, compounded by a fear of social embarrassment, as the agoraphobic fears the onset of a panic attack and appearing distraught in public. This is also sometimes called 'Social Agoraphobia' which may be a type of social anxiety disorder also sometimes called "social phobia". Not all agoraphobia is social in nature, however. Some agoraphobics have a fear of open spaces. Agoraphobia is also a defined as "a fear, sometimes terrifying, by those who have experienced one or more panic attacks." In these cases, the sufferer is fearful of a particular place because they have experienced a panic attack at the same location in a previous time. Fearing the onset of another panic attack, the sufferer is fearful or even avoids the location. The sufferer is now considered to suffer from Agoraphobia. The sufferer can sometimes go to great lengths to avoid the locations where they have experienced the onset of a panic attack. Agoraphobia, as described in this manner, is actually a symptom professionals check for when making a diagnosis of panic disorder. Other syndromes like obsessive compulsive disorder or post traumatic stress disorder can also cause agoraphobia, basically any irrational fear that keeps one from going outside can cause the syndrome.

Agoraphobia occurs about twice as commonly among women as it does in men. The gender difference may be attributable to social-cultural factors that encourage, or permit, the greater expression of avoidant coping strategies by women. Other theories include the ideas that women are more likely to seek help and therefore be diagnosed, that men are more likely to abuse alcohol as a reaction to anxiety and be diagnosed as an alcoholic, and that traditional female sex roles encourage women to react to anxiety by engaging in dependent and helpless behaviors. Research results have not yet produced a single clear explanation as to the gender difference in agoraphobia.

Wikipedia, Agoraphobia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agoraphobia (as of Apr 1, 2010)

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