Agoraphobia is a mental disorder associated with unrealistic fear. The syndrome is intricately linked to anxiety. People who have agoraphobia fear being in certain places and easily develop panic-like symptoms.
Agoraphobia tends to make people afraid even in open public places like elevators, bridges, high buildings, sporting events, use of public transportation, shopping malls and airplanes. This fear can be so devastating that many people are trapped in their homes-- this is the only place where they feel safe and rarely venture outside. Some individuals even fear being left alone at home, feel feeble and become dependent on others.
Agoraphobia is difficult to treat because it means confronting the fears. Other symptoms of agoraphobia include difficulty breathing, dizziness, sweating, fast heart rate, nausea, facial flushing, stomach cramps, chest pain, feeling complete lack of control, difficulty swallowing and a sense of doom.
Experts believe that agoraphobia is a complication of a panic disorder. Most people avoid situations where they feel panic and thus live very sheltered lives. Unfortunately, the cause of agoraphobia is unknown. The disorder usually develops in late teens or early adulthood. It is estimated that 1-5 percent of individuals develop agoraphobia during their lifetime. Women are more prone to agoraphobia than men.