Being Female – Agoraphobia is more common in females than in males.
Nervous or Anxious Temperament – Some people tend to become more nervous than others in certain situations.
Traumatic Life Events – Extreme or traumatic events can sometimes lead to agoraphobia or panic attacks.
The diagnosis of agoraphobia is normally made by a mental health professional, however, it is suggested a complete physical examination is done before a diagnosis is made. Many of the symptoms of agoraphobia, such as chest pain, are similar to symptoms of heart disease. A physical exam will rule out physical conditions.
A thorough psychological evaluation should also be conducted. This should include describing:
- Symptoms of your panic attacks
- When and how often you have attacks
- How long attacks last and how intense they are
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM-IV) the criteria for agoraphobia is:
A) anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult (or embarrassing) or in which help may not be available in the event of having an unexpected or situationally predisposed Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms. Agoraphobic fears typically involve characteristic clusters of situations that include being outside the home alone; being in a crowd, or standing in a line; being on a bridge; and traveling in a bus, train, or automobile.
B) The situations are avoided (e.g., travel is restricted) or else are endured with marked distress or with anxiety about having a Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms, or require the presence of a companion.
C) The anxiety or phobic avoidance is not better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as Social Phobia (e.g., avoidance limited to social situations because of fear of embarrassment), Specific Phobia (e.g., avoidance limited to a single situation like elevators), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (e.g., avoidance of dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (e.g., avoidance of stimuli associated with a severe stressor), or Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., avoidance of leaving home or relatives).