Agoraphobia: symptoms, causes, self-help and treatment

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This page was clinically reviewed by Dr Donna Grant (MBBS, MCRPsych, BSc Hons), Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Chelmsford, in March 2024.

At Priory, we recognise that agoraphobia can be very difficult to cope with and can have a hugely detrimental impact on your health, wellbeing and quality of life. However, the good news is that agoraphobia is treatable, and you don’t have to struggle on your own.

Our highly qualified psychiatrists, psychologists and therapists are able to offer comprehensive and individually tailored agoraphobia treatment at our specialist hospitals and wellbeing centres, empowering you to address the underlying causes and triggers for your agoraphobia, alleviate your symptoms, and return to the healthy and fulfilling life you deserve.

What is agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is a distinct type of anxiety that's characterised by people experiencing overwhelming anxiety, including the fear that they'll have a panic attack in a location they feel they can't escape from, or where they can't get help.

People who suffer from agoraphobia tend to become highly anxious in unfamiliar environments where they feel like they have little or no control, for example, in crowds, wide open spaces or when travelling.

The symptoms of agoraphobia occur when the person is in an environment where they feel outside of their comfort zone. This causes people to identify situations where they aren't comfortable and either endure these with marked anxiety, fear and distress, or go to extreme lengths to avoid such environments. This can often lead to social withdrawal and other associated problems.

The majority of people with agoraphobia tend to be diagnosed with this condition as a result of having repeated panic attacks.

What are the most common symptoms of agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia can cause a wide range of symptoms. The most common symptoms of agoraphobia to look out for include:

  • Panic attacks
  • Periods of intense anxiety
  • Excessive fear of being in certain locations and situations
  • Fear of leaving your home (in extreme cases)

What causes agoraphobia?

As is the case for many mental health conditions, it's hard to identify a single cause for agoraphobia. Research shows that it's likely that there are a number of factors that may increase someone likelihood of developing this condition. These include:

  • Having an existing anxiety disorder such as generalised anxiety disorder (GAD), panic disorder, social anxiety disorder or separation anxiety
  • Experiencing adverse childhood events and a lack of warmth or parental overprotectiveness
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Living or working in a stressful environment
  • Struggling with an addiction

Research also suggests that agoraphobia is more common in people who have difficulties in spatial awareness. Most people are able to combine their balance and sense of space with their visual system, and integrate that information with the positioning of parts of their body. However, some people with agoraphobia have been found to have a weakened system of balance and space, causing them to rely on visual or tactile signals. As a result, they become disorientated in wide open spaces because visual cues aren't as clear, or they can become overwhelmed in crowded environments.

Self-help tips for dealing with agoraphobia

Below are some tips that you can use to help you better manage and cope with agoraphobia symptoms:

  • Understand the symptoms that are associated with agoraphobia - this will help you to recognise any patterns in your behaviour so you can focus on managing and coping better in certain situations
  • Know your triggers, and recognise and reduce stressors or pressures that may be adding to the situation
  • Accept a panic attack for what it is and the symptoms will be greatly reduced. It can be a daunting time when you experience a panic attack, but knowing that it's short-lived will enable you to deal with the attacks
  • Practising grounding techniques such as focusing on something that's non-threatening and visible, while breathing slowly and deeply
  • Recognise that you're not alone – panic attacks are incredibly common for all kinds of people from all kinds of backgrounds, not just those who have agoraphobia
  • Speak to friends and relatives about your problem; this will reduce any further stress, as people close to you will be able to offer support and understanding
  • Speak to a health professional and take small steps to overcome your fear. For example, try going into a crowded place for 10 minutes with a close and trusted friend
  • Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to ‘get over it’. These things take time to understand, challenge and conquer

Treatment for agoraphobia

Our expert treatment teams at Priory have lots of clinical expertise and experience when it comes to treating agoraphobia. We can deliver a range of therapeutic techniques to help you tackle your agoraphobia symptoms. We ensure that all treatment is tailored to you, in order to produce the best possible outcomes for you as an individual.

Our highly therapeutic, compassionate and supportive treatment environments provide you with the ideal setting to address your challenges, develop healthy coping mechanisms, and achieve recovery.

It's important to recognise that without specialist support, your agoraphobia may get worse over time and can continue to have a negative impact on numerous areas of your life. It can affect your relationships with others, your performance at work or school, and your ability to function effectively on a day-to-day basis.

While getting help can be daunting, it's the most crucial step you can take to overcome your agoraphobia and regain control of your life.

Experts in agoraphobia treatment at Priory

Our specialist treatment teams will teach you effective coping mechanisms to help you to manage agoraphobia, understand the underlying causes of your challenges, gain increased self-awareness, and return to a positive way of life.

We can deliver agoraphobia treatment in an outpatient, day care or inpatient capacity, depending on the intensity of the support you need. You can read more about these different treatment options on our approach to mental health treatment page.

In addition, our national network of specialist hospitals and wellbeing centres means we can offer you the support you need in a location that's convenient for you, and in a way that can be flexible around your existing commitments.

Private medical insurance

All of the services we offer at Priory can be funded through private medical insurance. This includes:

  • Mental health treatment
  • Addiction treatment
  • Eating disorder treatment

All clients will have access to our highly skilled and accredited clinicians, many of whom are published experts in the field of mental health and addiction treatment. Whatever your requirement, we're committed to working with you to get your life back on track.

Registered and approved provider

We are a registered and approved provider for all of the UK's leading private medical insurers.

Agoraphobia treatment near me

We support people with agoraphobia throughout the country, meaning you can access the treatment you need in a convenient location. To find your nearest agoraphobia treatment centre, please search below.


Mental health treatment summary

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