Agoraphobia literally means a fear of open spaces; however it is so much more complex than this. It is not the ‘open spaces’ that cause the problem, but being in an open space where there are large numbers of people. To the sufferer of Agoraphobia the anticipated feeling that they are going to embarrass themselves by having a panic attack that they cannot escape from the situation is what causes the problem.
This can happen anywhere for instance a shopping centre, whilst travelling by bus, train or aeroplane, or even in a queue. In these situations the sufferer develops feelings of anxiety. The stress of this can then actually bring on the anticipated panic attack that they expected, with very real symptoms including rapid heartbeat, nausea, and hyperventilation (fast breathing).
To most sufferers of Agoraphobia (although not all) rather than place themselves in these very traumatic situations, they prefer to stay at home. This is preferable to subjecting themselves to these frightening ordeals. This however can lead to isolation, a complete lack of social life and friendships.
Agoraphobia can often be linked to other phobias, more commonly claustrophobia and some sufferers may suffer from both. It is more common than is often thought, and much more common amongst women than men.
The causes of Agoraphobia are many it can be linked to family genes, a traumatic event such as a bereavement, or a fear of crime, terrorism or an accident occurring whilst out.