Is agoraphobia an anxiety disorder?

Miriam Calleja
Author: Miriam Calleja Medical Reviewer: Tayler Hackett Last updated:

Agoraphobia is a type of anxiety disorder that presents through extreme fear of situations where escape might be impeded or help unavailable if things go wrong. People with agoraphobia often avoid crowds, public transport, or being outside alone. In severe cases, people with agoraphobia may become housebound. Agoraphobia is thought to be caused by inherited and environmental factors. Treatment for agoraphobia usually entails a combination of anti-anxiety medication and exposure therapy, which helps people gradually confront their fears. With effective treatment, most people with agoraphobia can live normal, productive lives.

What is an anxiety disorder?

Anxiety disorders are manifested by persistent and intense fear of an impending threat, such as a natural disaster, severe accident, or death. Although anxiety is an emotion everyone feels every now and then, for those with anxiety disorder, fear can be so overwhelming that it interferes with daily life. As a result, patients may stop going to work or school or caring for a family member due to their anxiety disorder.

People with an anxiety disorder may avoid social situations that trigger their fears, making them feel isolated and alone. Those with an anxiety disorder may experience physical symptoms, such as a racing heart, sweating, difficulty sleeping, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath, and trembling.

There are various anxiety disorders, including generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, agoraphobia, social anxiety disorder, specific phobia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive-compulsive disorder, and separation anxiety disorder.

So, is agoraphobia classed as an anxiety disorder?

Yes, agoraphobia is classified as an anxiety disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5).

This classification implies that it is the uncontrolled and unexpected panic attacks that occur in agoraphobia that lead to the behavior of avoiding certain situations and places. Those living with agoraphobia may isolate themselves at home as a consequence of this fear. For some, it can be such a debilitating condition that it can be classed as a disability.

And so, since the fear of being in a situation where escape might be difficult or where help might not be available causes significant anxiety, agoraphobia is classified as an anxiety disorder. The fear is not limited to one particular place but rather to situations that include:

  • Open spaces
  • Closed spaces
  • Public transportation
  • Crowded areas or queues
  • Leaving home alone

When an accurate diagnosis of agoraphobia is made by mental health professionals, they note at least two feared situations from the above list. Therefore agoraphobia is different from social phobia or specific phobia, where the phobia is limited to one type of situation or object.

Resources
  1. Topic: Anxiety in the U.S. Statista. Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://www.statista.com/topics/5223/anxiety-in-the-us/
  2. Any Anxiety Disorder. (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Retrieved November 8, 2022, from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/any-anxiety-disorder
  3. Balaram, K., & Marwaha, R. (2023, February 13). Agoraphobia. PubMed; StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK554387/
  4. Pam, A., Inghilterra, K., Munson, C., & Jacqueline, null. (1994). Agoraphobia: The interface between anxiety and personality disorder. Bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, 58(2), 242–261.
  5. Carlo, D. (2018, October 10). Is Agoraphobia a Specific Phobia or a Social Phobia? Anxiety Boss. https://anxietyboss.com/is-agoraphobia-a-specific-phobia-or-a-social-phobia/
Medical Content

Our Medical Affairs Team is a dedicated group of medical professionals with diverse and extensive clinical experience who actively contribute to the development of our content, products, and services. They meticulously evaluate and review all medical content before publication to ensure it is medically accurate and aligned with current discussions and research developments in mental health. For more information, visit our Editorial Policy.

About MentalHealth.com

MentalHealth.com is a health technology company guiding people towards self-understanding and connection. The platform offers reliable resources, accessible services, and nurturing communities. Its mission involves educating, supporting, and empowering people in their pursuit of well-being.

Miriam Calleja
Author Miriam Calleja Writer

Meet Miriam Calleja, our expert medical writer. Miriam is a pharmacist and an experienced writer dedicated to making mental health information accessible to all.

Published: Dec 22nd 2022, Last edited: Sep 12th 2023

Tayler Hackett
Medical Reviewer Tayler Hackett BSc, PGCert

Meet Tayler Hackett, who serves as our experienced medical reviewer. Tayler is a mental health subject matter expert and researcher with over 10 years of experience.

Content reviewed by a medical professional. Last reviewed: Dec 22nd 2022