What are the symptoms of agoraphobia?
Agoraphobia shares many symptoms of a general anxiety disorder, with a combination of psychological and physical warning signs.
There are also certain behaviour patterns that will signal to a doctor that you may have agoraphobia. The most common sign is that you suffer from panic attacks in specific situations, such as large crowds, or anywhere from which escape would be difficult (e.g. public transport, a large shopping centre).
It’s not always clear when agoraphobia symptoms start. However, if you notice that you only get anxious or suffer panic attacks in a particular situation or environment, this could be a warning sign.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common symptoms associated with agoraphobia.
Psychological symptoms of agoraphobia
These can be divided into symptoms that are similar to those of a panic attack and those that aren’t. If you’re agoraphobic, you may worry that:
- A panic attack will make you look foolish and cause you to lose control in front of others.
- A panic attack will put your life in danger.
- You won’t be able to get away if you suffer a panic attack.
- You might go insane.
- People will stare at you while you’re having a panic attack.
Aside from panic attacks, you may also notice:
- A general feeling of anxiety, even if there’s no reason to be fearful.
- Anxiety about being left alone in your home - this is known as monophobia.
- You’re worried about how you’ll cope without friends or family with you.
Physical symptoms of agoraphobia
When your anxiety kicks in, you’ll find the symptoms of agoraphobia are very similar to those of a panic attack. They include:
Behaviour that could be linked to agoraphobia
The way you act can provide a sign that you have agoraphobia. You may not even be aware that you’re acting in this way. It may be a subconscious reaction to the anxiety you’re feeling.
However, if you, a friend or family member notice that you regularly do any of the following, you should mention it in your conversation with our doctors:
- Avoiding situations where you might encounter a large crowd, such as public transport, a sports event or a music concert.
- Being unable to go anywhere alone.
- Finding it difficult or impossible to leave your home for long periods of time.
- Saying no to anything that would involve travelling far from your home.
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.