Some people are afraid of being in certain places or situations in which they are more likely to experience a Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms because the person believes that the situation would be difficult to escape from, it would be embarrassing, or help might not be available when needed.
Commonly feared places and situations include:
• Grocery stores,
• Riding in a car,
• Taking walks alone,
• Shopping malls,
• Movie theaters,
• Arenas (e.g., concerts, sporting events etc.),
• Public transit,
• Doctor/dentist visits,
• Home alone,
• Waiting in line,
• Small open spaces (e.g., parks, parking lots).
These types of situations are often avoided or else endured with significant distress. Some people require the presence of a trusted companion in order to venture into such situations, which can place an excessive burden on their friends and loved ones. These relationships can quickly become strained as a result. Others simply cease venturing out of their homes altogether. Agoraphobia becomes more and more debilitating as the list of feared and avoided placed becomes longer. The resulting social isolation can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.
A fear of public situations due to fear of negative evaluation by other people may be better accounted for by Social Phobia.
Agoraphobia is best treated through Cognitive Behavior Therapy by teaching specific strategies that allow the person to no longer experience such intense anxiety when entering feared situations. Of course, treatment will eventually involve entering these situations, but in a way that enables the person to do so without being overwhelmed by anxiety. Mindfulness and acceptance strategies can also be important in helping the person learn to tolerate anxiety in these situations and to prevent a recurrence of agoraphobia.