Agoraphobia describes the fear of being somewhere you can’t escape easily or where help wouldn’t be available if something went wrong. While some people assume it relates to a fear of open spaces, it can be a far more complex condition. Many people living with agoraphobia are scared of leaving the house, using public transport, and even entering busy shopping centres. If you’re wondering whether you might have agoraphobia, here are some common signs that might be the case.
You avoid leaving the house
With us enjoying a range of at-home services, such as food delivery, subscriptions, and even cannabis delivery, it’s not uncommon for many people to enjoy staying at home. However, there can be a difference between enjoying being at home and being too afraid to leave. Someone with agoraphobia can experience extreme anxiety at the thought of leaving the house and might only choose to do so if they are accompanied by a friend, family member, or partner.
You experience panic attacks
Panic attack-like symptoms are among the most common ones associated with agoraphobia. When facing an uncomfortable situation, such as leaving home or travelling on public transport, a person with agoraphobia might feel hot and sweaty. They might also feel sick and experience hyperventilation and a rapid heartbeat. These feelings can be uncomfortable, and people living with agoraphobia might do everything in their power to avoid feeling them, including leaving the house.
You don’t like being in enclosed spaces
Enclosed spaces, like small stores, movie theatres, and elevators, can be terrifying for people with agoraphobia. It can sometimes feel like there’s no way for them to escape, and they might experience panic-attack-like symptoms while in these environments. Knowing they will be in such situations, people with agoraphobia sometimes come up with an alternative option, such as online shopping, or they make sure they don’t venture out of their homes alone.
You’re afraid to be in new environments
Some people find new environments exciting. They think nothing of pulling over on the side of the road to explore a nature path they’ve never walked on before or browse the shelves of a newly opened store. The idea of going to a new place in an unfamiliar location can be anxiety-inducing for people living with agoraphobia. If they ever visit a new location, they often do so with someone they trust to guide the way.
Your feelings are disproportionate to the situation
Experiencing a rapid heartbeat, trouble breathing, a loss of control, and a fear of dying might be typical responses to a life-threatening situation, such as a car accident. However, they are less in proportion to everyday tasks like visiting the grocery store or taking the bus to work.
When ordinary activities result in disproportionate bodily responses, bordering on panic attacks, there might be a reason to believe you have agoraphobia, especially if you have to plan every detail of running daily errands just to feel in control.
Everyday living shouldn’t cause a great deal of anxiety. If you can relate to these situations above, you might be experiencing agoraphobia. However, it’s not a phobia you can diagnose yourself. Make an appointment with a healthcare professional, and learn more about the phobia and any available treatment options.
Tommy Williamson did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.