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The word Agoraphobia is derived from the Greek "fear of the marketplace," and in this sense it can refer to the fear of being in crowded places. However, in the field of Psychiatry this term has taken-on a broader meaning, and refers to the fear of being in any situation where one feels that it would be difficult to escape if necessary.

Agoraphobia also refers to the fear of being in situations where help may not be available in the event that one were to have a Panic Attack.

Although this definition is very broad, there are a few situations that are typical of Agoraphobia. These include being outside of one's home or neighborhood, being in crowded places, traveling in a bus, train or plane, or driving in heavy traffic where it would be difficult to stop the car (fear of flying, where the main fear is of the plane crashing, would not count as Agoraphobia).

People with Agoraphobia will tend to avoid those situations that they fear, or else they will endure them with considerable anxiety and distress and may require that they be accompanied by somebody.

The term Agoraphobia should not be used when there is another Anxiety Disorder that could better explain the individual's fear of being in a specific situation. For example, in Social Anxiety Disorder individuals tend to fear social situations; people with a Specific Phobia will tend to fear situations where they identify a very specific danger, such as fear of flying because of the risk of crashing, or fear of heights because of the fear of falling; in Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder someone with an obsession about contamination may avoid situations where they could get dirty; in PTSD individuals will tend to avoid situations that remind them of their traumatic experience; in Separation Anxiety Disorder individuals will fear situations of separation from home or close relatives.


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