Agoraphobia is the fear of losing one's safe environment or the horror of being unable to escape from a social situation. This can be triggered by being in places or situations whence escape might be difficult or embarrassing, or where help might not be available in the case of an attack of dizziness or vomiting, loss of bladder or bowel control or cardiac distress. Even the thought of such situations can bring on a panic attack. As a result a person may avoid being outside of the house alone, being in a crowd, waiting in a line or travelling. Agoraphobics are often not aware that their coping behaviour, aimed at increasing the safety of their environment or life, is irrational.
The onset of agoraphobia is usually between 18 and 35 years of age and is triggered by a traumatic incident, for example, a death in the family, a serious problem at work or an incident in a public place. A panic attack may well occur, and panic then comes to be associated with the triggering circumstances. The agoraphobic strives to avoid those circumstances and becomes highly anxious at the thought of them recurring. Therapy is the usual treatment, and family support helps considerably.
67% of agoraphobics are women. Men may be less willing than women to report symptoms.