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DefinitionAgoraphobia is fear of being in places where help might not be available, typically fear of crowds, bridges, or of being outside alone.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
Agoraphobia is a disorder that most often accompanies other anxiety disorders, such as panic disorder or specific phobias.
If it occurs with panic disorder, the onset is usually during the 20's, and women are affected more often than men. People with this disorder may become house bound for years, which is likely to hurt social and interpersonal relationships.
Signs and tests
The individual may have a history of phobias, or the health care provider may hear a description of agoraphobic behavior from family, friends, or the affected person.
The individual may be sweating, have a rapid pulse (heart rate), or have high blood pressure .
The goal of treatment is to help the phobic person function effectively. The success of treatment usually depends upon the severity of the phobia.
Systematic desensitization is a technique used to treat phobias. The person is asked to relax, then imagine the things that cause the anxiety, working from the least fearful to the most fearful. Graded real-life exposure has also been used with success to help people overcome their fears.
Antianxiety and antidepressive medications are often used to help relieve the symptoms associated with phobias.
Phobias tend to be chronic but respond well to treatment.
Some phobias may have consequences that affect job performance or social functioning.
Calling your health care provider
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if symptoms suggestive of agoraphobia develop.
As with other panic disorders, prevention may not be possible. Early intervention may reduce the severity of the condition.
Update Date: 1/25/2003David Taylor, M.D., Department of Psychiatry, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT