Agoraphobia - Symptoms 

Symptoms of agoraphobia 

The severity of agoraphobia can vary significantly between different people with the condition.

For example, someone with severe agoraphobia may be unable to leave the house, whereas someone who has mild agoraphobia may be able to travel short distances without problems.

The symptoms of agoraphobia can be broadly classified into three types:

  • physical
  • cognitive (symptoms associated with thinking)
  • behavioural

These are explained in more detail below.

Physical symptoms

The physical symptoms of agoraphobia usually only occur when you find yourself in a situation or environment that causes anxiety. However, many people with agoraphobia rarely experience physical symptoms because they deliberately avoid situations that make them anxious.

The physical symptoms of agoraphobia can be similar to those of a panic attack and may include:

  • rapid heartbeat
  • rapid breathing (hyperventilating)
  • feeling hot and sweaty
  • feeling sick
  • upset stomach
  • chest pain
  • difficulty swallowing (dysphagia)
  • diarrhoea 
  • trembling
  • dizziness 
  • ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • feeling faint

Cognitive symptoms

The cognitive symptoms of agoraphobia are feelings or thoughts that can be, but not always, related to the physical symptoms.

Cognitive symptoms may include fear that:

  • A panic attack will make you look stupid or embarrassed in front of other people.
  • A panic attack will be life-threatening. For example, you may be worried that your heart will stop or you will be unable to breathe.
  • You would be unable to escape from a place or situation if you were to have a panic attack.
  • You are losing your sanity.
  • You may lose control in public.
  • You may tremble and blush in front of people.
  • You may be stared at.

There are also psychological symptoms not related to panic attacks, including:

  • feeling that you would be unable to function, or survive, without the help of others
  • a fear of being left alone in your house (monophobia)
  • a general feeling of anxiety or dread

Behavioural symptoms

Symptoms of agoraphobia relating to behaviour include:

  • avoiding situations that could lead to panic attacks, such as crowded places, public transport and queues
  • not being able to leave the house for long periods of time (housebound)
  • needing to be with someone you trust when going anywhere
  • avoiding being far away from home

Some people are able to force themselves to confront uncomfortable situations but they feel considerable fear and anxiety while doing so.

When to seek medical advice

If you think you have the symptoms of agoraphobia, speak to your GP.

Also seek medical advice if you have any of the following:

  • chest pain
  • shortness of breath
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • fainting spells
  • unexplained weakness
  • sensation that your heart is beating irregularly (palpitations)
  • depression
  • thoughts of suicide or self-harm

Page last reviewed: 24/05/2012

Next review due: 24/05/2014

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