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What are the causes of Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is a complex condition with many possible causes. As part of your online consultation, our doctors will ask questions aimed at finding the reason for your fear of certain situations. If panic attacks are a symptom of your agoraphobia, they’ll look at why this might be happening.

It’s important that you answer honestly, as our doctors need as much information as possible to provide the best care and treatment. By understanding the cause of your agoraphobia, they can get a better idea of the impact it’s having on your life and provide the most effective treatment.

The possible causes of agoraphobia are generally broken down into psychological and biological factors.

Psychological causes of agoraphobia

There are a number of psychological reasons that people might display symptoms of agoraphobia, including:

  • Past trauma, such as physical or sexual abuse
  • Stress, such as going through a divorce or getting made redundant
  • Substance abuse
  • An abusive relationship
  • A history of mental illness
  • Fear of being the victim of a crime
  • Fear of social embarrassment
  • Fear of catching a contagious disease

Biological causes of agoraphobia

There has been plenty of research into the possibility that the brain simply works differently for people with agoraphobia.

An oversensitive ‘fight or flight’ reaction

It’s natural to feel fearful or anxious sometimes. Situations that cause these emotions are a part of life. In fact, our bodies have a built-in ‘fight or flight’ reflex that helps us deal with these situations instinctively.

This means than in urgent situations, such as if we’re under attack, the body can respond instantly, release adrenaline into the bloodstream and tell the body to run. If we had to go through a conscious thought process in these situations, it’s less likely that we’d escape.

For agoraphobic people, this response is stronger than it needs to be. It may be triggered in situations where there isn’t actually any danger and cause a panic attack.

Reduced spatial awareness

Spatial awareness is the name for our ability to judge where we are in relation to other objects. It stops us bumping into things and allows us to perform simple actions like throwing a ball to someone.

Some experts suggest that poor spatial awareness is a common theme among agoraphobic people. The theory is that this is why agoraphobia causes panic attacks when the sufferer is in a large crowd or busy public place.

Chemical balance of the brain

This is a factor that’s considered for many mental health conditions. The chemical balance of your brain has a direct impact on how you think and behave.

A sensitive response to stress can mean that the brain is flooded with hormones such as adrenaline when they aren’t needed.

Can agoraphobia be genetic?

As is often the case with mental health conditions, it’s thought that you may be more likely to develop agoraphobia if there’s a history of panic disorders or anxiety in your family.

Once our doctors have assessed your symptoms and discovered the cause of your agoraphobia, it’s time to start treatment.