Agoraphobia is anxiety about being trapped in situations or places with no way to escape easily if anxiety or panic develops, often resulting in avoidance.
Agoraphobia is diagnosed in about 4% of women and 2% of men during any 12-month period. Most people with this disorder develop it in their early 20s. Agoraphobia rarely develops after age 40.
Although agoraphobia literally means "fear of the marketplace," the term more specifically describes the fear of being trapped, often in a busy place filled with people, without a graceful and easy way to leave if anxiety becomes severe. Typical situations that are difficult for people with agoraphobia include the following:
* Standing in line at a bank or supermarket
* Sitting in the middle of a long row in a theater or classroom
* Riding on a bus or airplane
Some people develop agoraphobia after experiencing a panic attack in one of these situations. Other people simply feel uncomfortable in these settings and may never, or only later, develop panic attacks. Agoraphobia often interferes with daily living, sometimes so drastically that it makes people housebound.
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