What Is Agoraphobia?

Before we delve into the workings of agoraphobia, it might be a good idea to differentiate between the types of anxiety disorders. In a nutshell, they are:

  • Panic Disorder: Unexpected panic attacks for no apparent reason. People with panic disorder do not avoid people or places associated with anxiety or panic.
  • Agoraphobia: Panic disorder combined with avoidance of people or places associated with anxiety or panic.
  • Social Phobia: Fear of embarrassment or humiliation in social situation.
  • Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Chronic anxiety not resulting in panic attacks, phobias or obsessions.
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: Becoming obsessed with an idea, thought, image or impulse, causing repeated actions in a ritualistic manner.
  • Simple Phobia: Fear of a specific thing, such as heights, snakes, elevators, etc.
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Severe stress resulting from a traumatic event, such as rape, assault, combat or natural disasters.

As I said, these definitions are very simplistic. We'll explore only the symptoms, causes and ramifications of agoraphobia in this section.


Learn about agoraphobia and how people develop agoraphobia.The word agoraphobia means fear of open spaces; however, the essence of agoraphobia is a fear of panic attacks. If you suffer from agoraphobia, you're afraid of being in situations which might be difficult to escape from; or, in which help might be unavailable if you suddenly had a panic attack.

You may avoid grocery stores or freeways, for example, not so much because of their inherent characteristics, says Dr. Edmund Bourne, author of The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook, but because these are situations from which escape might be difficult or embarrassing in the event of panic. Fear of embarrassment plays a key role. Most agoraphobics fear not only having panic attacks, but what other people will think should they be seen having a panic attack. With the embarrassment angle in mind, you can understand why some people with panic disorder slip into agoraphobia.

While the types of places or situations avoided vary greatly from person-to-person and sometimes even from time-to-time, a definite pattern is usually present. A person with this condition may need a companion, called a support person, when traveling away from home or into new or frightening areas. A support person ensures the availability of help. The agoraphobic avoidance can range from mild to severe.

Okay, now the English translation: Phobics are masters at avoidance!

next: Phobics: Masters at Avoidance!
~ all articles on living with agoraphobia
~ anxiety-panic library articles
~ all anxiety disorders articles

APA Reference
Writer, H. (2007, February 20). What Is Agoraphobia?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2019, September 15 from

Last Updated: July 5, 2019

Medically reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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