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Understanding Agoraphobia : Rise in Prevalence and Effective Management Techniques

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that causes excessive fear or anxiety of specific situations. It has been estimated by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) that 0.8 % of American adults have this condition.(1) Around 40% of cases are severe ones. Cases of agoraphobia have recently been in the news and become quite common these days. Advanced or severe cases of agoraphobia can be extremely disabling. Some people with agoraphobia even avoid leaving their homes. This condition in individuals can interfere with their relationships and performance at work or school. However, with proper management strategies and treatment options, agoraphobia can be controlled to a fair extent.

Let us take a look beyond this to know more about agoraphobia, explore why it is suddenly so common, and also know about some of the best management strategies to deal with the condition,

What is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is a mental health condition or a type of anxiety disorder that involves fearing and avoiding certain places or situations that can result in panic attacks and feelings of being trapped, embarrassed, and helpless. For instance, people with agoraphobia might fear leaving home alone, using public transportation, standing in a queue, enclosed spaces like elevators or movie theaters, open spaces like malls or parking lots, or being in a crowd.

Agoraphobia is a fear of being in a location or situation from which, one cannot escape easily. As per a June 2022 Case Western Reserve University paper, it has been mentioned that people with agoraphobia strive to avoid places or situations that might be causing that fear of being there.(2) Thus, they start feeling more helpless and this ultimately triggers their anxiety.

Most individuals who have this type of anxiety disorder develop the condition after having one or more panic attacks, causing them to worry about experiencing another panic attack. Thus, they avoid places and situations where it might happen again.

Why is Agoraphobia Suddenly So Common?

The exact cause of why agoraphobia has become so common suddenly is not yet known. However, it could be possible that the condition is not suddenly more common, but rather has been perceived so because of certain factors that contributed to an increased awareness or diagnosis of the condition recently.

Actor Zac Efron has been diagnosed with agoraphobia and his recent interview with Men’s Health has received great public attention.(3) Although agoraphobia has been classified as a type of anxiety disorder, it often gets confused with other mental health issues like social anxiety. For example, the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated mental health problems for many. People started feeling concerned about falling sick but also forgot various social skills. So, it became a challenge for many of us to re-learn how to handle various social situations, and this, in turn, caused various anxiety disorders, including agoraphobia.

The perception of the sudden common existence or awareness of agoraphobia can be explained well by taking the following factors into account.

Increased Awareness of Mental Health Issues

Recently, there has been an increased awareness of mental health issues. People who are been affected by any sort of mental illness have made a strong determination to accept their condition and come forward to talk about the same. Moreover, in recent years there has been an increased media coverage of stories related to mental health problems. This increased awareness might be a factor in the condition of agoraphobia being discussed openly now.

Improvement and Accessibility of Mental Health Services

With time, there has been a significant improvement in the availability and accessibility of various mental health services. This has encouraged more individuals to seek help for their mental health issues like agoraphobia. Today, multiple Tele counseling, text therapy, and other online therapy-providing services (firms) have come up to support people with mental health issues. Thus, people with agoraphobia have come forward to seek treatment for their condition.

Reduced Stigma Associated With Mental Health Issues

With more awareness, there has been reduced stigma related to mental health problems. This encourages people with any sort of mental illness to open up about their struggles and seek required medical attention. So, because of this reduced stigma, more individuals may come forward to seek assistance for their agoraphobia.

More Stressful Life Events in Recent Years  

The COVID-19 pandemic, economic downfall, and other major life events can trigger mental illnesses like agoraphobia. Because of such significant life events, or stressors, many people start experiencing anxiety and fear of leaving their homes.

Various Management Strategies for Agoraphobia

Some of the major ways to manage or treat agoraphobia are psychotherapy, appropriate medication, and lifestyle changes.


Psychotherapy like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you recognize thoughts that could be causing agoraphobia in you. A therapist can help you manage your anxiety quite effectively.

Using relaxation and desensitization techniques, your therapist would make you imagine a horrific situation and manage the feelings. Subsequently, you will be able to face the situations that produce anxiety and you will know ways to manage your feelings and emotions. Over time, your brain will be trained well to think and respond differently.


Another way to manage agoraphobia is by taking medication prescribed by a mental health professional. Doctors may suggest you take selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). These medications help in treating depression and all types of anxiety disorders. So, it will help you manage agoraphobia quite efficiently.

Lifestyle Changes

Bringing about lifestyle changes can significantly improve symptoms of agoraphobia. Some of the  best means through which you can manage the condition with your improved lifestyle are:

Self-Help Therapy for Managing Agoraphobia

Following are some self-help therapies that can be used to manage agoraphobia effectively. By being guided by your therapist or doctor, and following appropriate self-help therapies, one can win over agoraphobia.(4)

Breathe Slowly

Breathing too fast and too shallow (hyperventilation) worsens the symptoms of a panic attack. So, breathing slowly and consciously is what you need. While you breathe slowly and consciously, with every inhalation, concentrate on expanding your abdomen, and not your chest.

Use Relaxation Techniques

Learning and using certain relaxation techniques, such as deep muscle relaxation, meditation, or regular exercise is also a wonderful self-lp therapy that can help you manage agoraphobia. Take the help of an expert to get the best benefits.

Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle like limiting alcohol, exercising regularly, and some other means can help in managing agoraphobia. However, seek advice and assistance from your doctor.

Gradually Increase Exposure

This is one of the most essential ways of self-help therapy for agoraphobia. It involves facing the scary environment in a controlled manner. This helps you see and realize that nothing bad is going to happen. Initially, choose the least threatening environment, take a faithful friend or a family member as support, and use slow breathing, meditation, and other coping methods for controlling anxiety. Gradually, with constant practice, the fear of such situations or places will ease.

Take Away

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that can make you feel scared and isolated, especially when you leave home alone or when you are in a crowd. It can seriously limit your ability to socialize or work properly. With appropriate treatment and management strategies, you can overcome this condition. However, you should remain open and honest while discussing agoraphobia with your mental health professional.

Don’t let agoraphobia confine you.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:October 11, 2023

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