See a doctor Skip to content

What is agoraphobia?

If you asked most people what agoraphobia is, they’d probably say it was a fear of going outside. In reality, it’s much more complex than that.

What people with agoraphobia actually fear is any situation where it’d be difficult to escape, or where help wouldn’t be readily available.

This includes crowded places, such as public transport, shops or music concerts. They might worry about having a panic attack in public that would cause people to stare or laugh at them.

This means that it can be difficult to get medical help for agoraphobia, as many patients are uncomfortable with the idea of visiting a surgery.

A fear response

Fear is a behaviour we learn throughout our lives to keep us safe. For example, if we hear an alarm, we instinctively know we have to act to get ourselves out of danger.

Sometimes, past experiences can shape fears. If you’ve ever been stung by a wasp, you know that it’s not nice and your body will have a natural fear response whenever a wasp comes near. You may notice that your muscles tense up or you start sweating.

Like all phobias, agoraphobia is an oversensitive fear reaction that produces these symptoms where it’s very unlikely that you could be in danger.

Who is affected by agoraphobia?

It’s thought that around 2% of the UK population have some form of anxiety disorder, and that a third of these people either have agoraphobia now or will one day develop it.

Agoraphobia symptoms usually begin between the ages of 18 and 35, although it’s possible that they could occur at any age.

Agoraphobia symptoms

Agoraphobia is a complication of an existing anxiety disorder. As with many mental health conditions, it has both physical and psychological symptoms, from a fast heartbeat and chest pain to worrying that a panic attack might threaten your life.

It also influences how people act and behave. As the physical and psychological symptoms often overlap with other anxiety-based issues, these behavioural symptoms can help doctors provide a more specific diagnosis.

For example, if you’re anxious about specific situations, such as shopping or taking the bus, this could be a sign of agoraphobia.

Read more information on the symptoms of agoraphobia.

Agoraphobia causes

In order to treat your agoraphobia properly, our doctors need to understand what’s causing your symptoms and panic attacks.

The answer is rarely simple. Most causes are either psychological (linked to your anxieties and phobias) or biological (caused by the chemical balance of your brain). The information you provide will help our doctors work out what’s at the heart of your agoraphobia.

Find out more about the possible causes of agoraphobia.

Agoraphobia diagnosis

Our friendly online doctors will ask you questions about your symptoms and lifestyle to help them make an accurate agoraphobia diagnosis.

Anything you say is confidential between you and the doctor, so you can feel comfortable about answering as honestly as possible. The doctor will use this information to make sure you get the most effective treatment.

Find out more about what will happen during your consultation and how our doctors will diagnose your agoraphobia.

Agoraphobia treatment

There are a number of ways to treat agoraphobia. Your consultation is all about finding the best option for you.

Some people find a talking therapy, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), helps them manage their symptoms. Others may be prescribed medication. In some cases, a doctor may decide that a combination of the two is the best option.

To find out more about your agoraphobia treatment options.

Agoraphobia in pregnancy

If you have a mental health condition, it’s natural to worry about how this will affect your pregnancy and the health of your baby.

Agoraphobia can be very difficult for pregnant women, as your anxiety could be at an even higher level than normal due to the shifting chemical balance of your brain and the stress of wanting everything to go well. One of the big worries for many agoraphobic people is being the centre of attention and pregnancy can make it difficult to avoid this.

Our doctors are here to help you manage your symptoms throughout your pregnancy and make sure everything goes according to plan.

Get more help dealing with agoraphobia in pregnancy.