Agoraphobia is usually a complication of panic disorder. Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder in which you experience attacks of intense fear (panic attacks) that for no apparent reason trigger intense physical symptoms. Panic attacks can be very frightening. When panic attacks occur, you might think you're losing control, having a heart attack or even dying.

You may develop agoraphobia when you begin to make a connection between your panic attacks and one or more situations in which those attacks have occurred. You may avoid similar situations in an attempt to prevent future panic attacks. People with agoraphobia are especially likely to avoid circumstances in which it would be difficult or embarrassing to escape if a panic attack were to occur, such as in a crowded stadium or an airplane.

In some cases, fear of having a panic attack may be so great that you may not be able to leave the safety of your home. In other cases, you may be able to overcome your fear and tolerate most situations as long as you're accompanied by a trusted companion.

Rarely, agoraphobia may occur without an accompanying panic disorder.

Apr. 21, 2011