The Relationship Between Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety

Agoraphobia: Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

The Relationship Between Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder that causes intense fear of becoming overwhelmed or unable to escape or get help. Because of fear and anxiety, people with agoraphobia often avoid new places and unfamiliar situations, such as:

  • Open or enclosed spaces.
  • Crowds.
  • Places outside your home.
  • Public transportation.

How many people have agoraphobia?

About 1% to 2% of adults in the United States have been diagnosed with agoraphobia. Roughly 2% of adolescents experience it. Agoraphobia is more common among women. It usually starts before age 35.

What are the risk factors for agoraphobia?

Risk factors for developing agoraphobia include:

  • Having panic attacks or other phobias.
  • Experiencing stressful life events, such as the death of a loved one, being attacked, or being abused.
  • Having a nervous or anxious nature.
  • Responding to panic attacks with excess fear and apprehension.
  • Having a relative with agoraphobia.

It is not clear what causes agoraphobia. However, it is often associated with an existing panic disorder. Panic disorder causes short, intense attacks of fear for no particular reason. About a third of people who have panic disorder develop agoraphobia. But agoraphobia also can occur alone.

What does agoraphobia feel ?

Everyone experiences anxiety sometimes. But an anxiety disorder causes excessive worry that affects daily activities. Agoraphobia can make you feel extreme fear and stress, which may cause you to avoid situations.

The signs of agoraphobia are similar to a panic attack. You may experience:

If you think you have agoraphobia, and the anxiety is interfering with your daily life, you should talk to a primary care provider or psychiatrist. If you are afraid to visit a medical office in person, you may be able to schedule a telephone or video appointment.

The healthcare provider may ask you:

  • Do you get stressed about leaving your house?
  • Are there any places or situations you avoid because you’re afraid? Why are you afraid?
  • Do you rely on others to do your shopping and errands?

A healthcare provider can diagnose agoraphobia your symptoms, how often they happen and how severe they are. It is important to be open and honest with your healthcare providers.

Your provider may diagnose agoraphobia if you meet specific standards developed by the American Psychiatric Association.

To have a diagnosis of agoraphobia, a person must feel extreme fear or panic in at least two of the following situations:

  • Using public transportation.
  • Being in an open space.
  • Being in an enclosed space, such as a movie theater, meeting room or small store.
  • Standing in a line or being in a crowd.
  • Being your home alone.

Agoraphobia treatment usually involves a combination of treatment methods: therapy, medication and lifestyle changes.

A therapist can help you work through your fears. Using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a mental healthcare provider can help you recognize thoughts that cause you anxiety. Then you’ll learn ways to react more productively.

Using relaxation and desensitization techniques, your provider may have you imagine a scary situation and manage the feelings. Eventually, you will be able to take part in activities that produce anxiety, and you will know how to manage your emotions. Over time, therapy can train the brain to think differently.

Your healthcare provider also may suggest medications called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs). Those medications can treat depression and anxiety disorders.

You can manage agoraphobia with lifestyle changes:

  • Avoid alcohol, drugs and caffeine (coffee, tea and soda, for example).
  • Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Practice breathing exercises.

There is no proven way to prevent agoraphobia. However, it is easier to manage in its earlier stages. The more you avoid situations, the more fearful you may become.

Some people with severe agoraphobia are unable to leave their home at all and are totally dependent on others for help.

Agoraphobia can also lead to other health problems if left untreated, including depression, alcohol or drug abuse and other mental health disorders. These are reasons why it's important to seek mental health help early.

About a third of people with agoraphobia overcome the disorder and become symptom-free. Another half learn to manage their symptoms better but still have some anxiety.

You and your loved ones will need to have patience as you heal from agoraphobia. Many people need 12 to 20 weeks of CBT (talk therapy) if they also take medication. Without medication, therapy might take up to a year.

Take good care of yourself, take your medications as prescribed and practice techniques you learn from your therapist. And don’t allow yourself to avoid situations and places that spark anxiety. The combination can help you do things you enjoy with less fear.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Many people avoid talking about anxiety disorders. Agoraphobia can make you feel afraid and isolated. But with treatment, you can manage the symptoms and lead a full life. If agoraphobia or any anxiety disorder affects the way you live your life, call your healthcare provider. An open, honest conversation can lead to the help you need to live a full life.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/14/2020.



Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety — Are They Connected?

The Relationship Between Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety

photo by: Joice Kelly

Have a total lack of interest in leaving your house lately? And between agoraphobia and social anxiety, not sure where you fall?

Can social anxiety become agoraphobia?

You had social anxiety before all the recent lockdowns, but it seemed to ease. Now the world is opening up again, and it’s back with a vengeance. You are worried that it’s not just anxiety anymore, but agoraphobia.

Instead of one becoming the other, it’s more ly you have both at the same time. Agoraphobia and social anxiety have many similarities, and do intersect as  a common ‘co-morbid‘ (occurring together) diagnosis. 

But there are also differences, and understanding them can help you get the right treatment.

What is agoraphobia?

The cliché of agoraphobia is someone cowering at home, afraid to leave. But the condition is far more complex. And the fear is not just of ‘leaving the house’ or of  ‘wide open spaces’.

Agoraphobia is a fear is of being in any sort of situation where you might be trapped, or could only escape in an obvious and embarrassing way. You are afraid that in that situation you will have a meltdown. So essentially, the fear is of having a public panic attack with an audience.

And that fear is enough that often, yes,  it seems easier to stay home.

The NHS estimates that two in 100 people in the UK have panic disorder.  And of those people, a third go on to have agoraphobia. And they suggest that women are more than twice as ly to have agoraphobia than men. 

Symptoms of agoraphobia 

Agoraphobia can mean you:

  • are afraid to leave the house alone
  • avoid crowded places malls  and public transport
  • don’t ‘trapped’ places elevators, tunnels
  • sit near the door or by the aisle if you must take a bus or train
  • can feel trapped and panicky waiting in queues
  • feel more comfortable going out with a person you trust
  • don’t wide open spaces fields (which are hard to get as so big).

If you get diagnosed with agoraphobia, you might also get a diagnosis of panic disorder, or, at the very least, high anxiety.

By: Kristin Schmit

What is social anxiety?

Social anxiety isn’t really about places, it’s about people. And more than just people, it’s about the thoughts you believe people are having. 

If you have social anxiety disorder, you are afraid of being looked at and judged negatively. So you fear places full of people, but only as that involves possible scrutiny.

And you can just as easily have social anxiety over meeting one person as being in a crowd, if you think that one person might judge you.

Similarities of agoraphobia and social anxiety

Both of these conditions will: 

  • make your social life a challenge
  • involve racing thoughts and feelings of fear.


When it comes to agoraphobia vs social anxiety, the difference is:

  • fear of cf closed in or too big places vs fear of people
  • avoiding a public meltdown vs avoiding being judged
  • don’t being trapped vs don’t being looked at
  • feel better with a friend vs often feel better alone.

So we’ve already seen that panic disorder often comes alongside agoraphobia.

In fact most cases of agoraphobia develop as a result of panic disorder. You have a public panic attack, then become so afraid of this embarrassing situation recurring you become agoraphobic. 

Depression is another ‘co-morbid’ condition here. The loneliness and sense of being ‘flawed’ that can arise from your inability to just go out and be social can mean you have issues with low moods and negative thinking.

But I never had a panic attack before

It is possible to become agoraphobic without panic. In such rare cases, it would be about other phobias. You might, for example:

  • fear public places where a terrorist attack could occur
  • or be afraid of picking up a virus or illness in a crowded place
  • or simply be afraid of doing something embarrassing if you are in public.

Why do I have this condition?

So why did you end up with panic attacks, fears and phobias? Why are you agoraphobic when your friends aren’t?

most mental health conditions, scientists don’t have an exact answer, but think it’s a combination of biological and environmental causes (the situations you lived through).

Biology wise, you might have been born with a genetic leaning towards experiencing anxiety and panic. Research shows this seems to be a dysfunction in the way certain brain circuits manage themselves, a sort of ‘imbalance’ of neurotransmitters, as well as issues in how your brain responds to perceived threats.

And your natural tendency towards anxiety and panic would then have been ‘triggered’ by things childhood trauma or an extremely stressful life change.

Can therapy help my agoraphobia and social anxiety?

Yes. And it’s highly recommended. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is the most common form of talk therapy offered. It helps you recognise and question your fearful thoughts, turning them into balanced thoughts that trigger less panic.

Your CBT might also be mixed with exposure therapy, where you slowly and with support accustom yourself to situations that make you fearful.

Ready to stop letting fear and anxiety rule your life? We connect you to some of London’s most highly rated psychologists and psychotherapists. Or use our online booking platform to find UK-wide therapists for all budgets. 

Still have a question about agoraphobia and social anxiety, or want to share your experience with other readers? Post in the comment box below. 

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Difference Between Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety

The Relationship Between Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety

As a mental illness treatment center in Boca, we know that agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder are often mistaken for each other despite their distinct qualities.

Though both conditions are types of anxiety disorders and can cause a person to avoid particular situations, the contributing factors to social anxiety and agoraphobia are different.

We’re looking into the difference between agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder and the importance of understanding these disorders individually.

Agoraphobia Meaning and Symptoms

Many people merely associate agoraphobia with the fear of leaving your home, but it’s more than that. Agoraphobia is the fear, anxiety, or avoidance of several of the things :

  • Open spaces
  • Crowds
  • Waiting in line
  • Leaving the house or being away from home alone
  • Having a panic attack in public places
  • Being in situations where escape might be difficult
  • Being in situations where they couldn’t be easily helped
  • Public transportation
  • Enclosed spaces ( elevators)

People with agoraphobia may avoid specific places crowds, buses, elevators, and bridges. Agoraphobia causes may include existing panic disorders or other phobias, genetics, environment, and learned behaviors.

The most distinct characteristic of agoraphobia is that the fear and anxiety caused by the place or situation don’t equate to the actual risk or danger present.

When exposed to any triggering situation, a person with agoraphobia may experience symptoms :

  • Increased heart rate
  • Chest pains
  • Difficulties breathing
  • Excessive sweating and shaking
  • Stomach troubles
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Feeling control
  • Feeling as if they’re dying

Many of these individuals can cope with their symptoms if they’re with someone else. A big contributing factor of agoraphobia is the fear of leaving the house alone, which is why having company can help.

Agoraphobia and panic disorder often occur simultaneously. Many of its symptoms are related to the fear of having a panic attack in public. According to data from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication, 86.

3 percent of individuals with agoraphobia also suffered from panic disorder.1

At Banyan Mental Health, we offer various mental health programs in Boca Raton that have helped people with panic disorder and anxiety disorders agoraphobia. As with any other form of mental illness, a lack of treatment may lead to worsening symptoms.

Social Anxiety Disorder Definition and Symptoms

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia) is the fear of embarrassing oneself, offending others, or being rejected by others. Some common symptoms of a social anxiety disorder include:

  • Fear of being in situations in which you may be judged
  • Worrying about embarrassing or humiliating yourself in front of others
  • Intense fear of talking or interacting with strangers
  • Fear of others noticing your anxiousness
  • Fear of showing physical symptoms that may cause you embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations or people for fear of embarrassment
  • Avoiding situations where you may have everyone’s attention
  • Having anxiety over a feared activity or event
  • Feeling intense fear or anxiety in a social situation
  • Analyzing your performance or finding flaws in your interactions with others
  • Expecting the worst-case scenario from a negative expiring during interaction with others

Causes of social anxiety disorder symptoms can include inherited traits, brain structure, and learned behavior their environment.

A person with a social anxiety disorder may avoid common social situations interacting with strangers, going to parties or social events, going to school or work, starting conversations, dating, and more.

These symptoms can change over time and may worsen when the person is facing a lot of stress. Our anxiety treatment in Boca is recommended for anyone who’s struggling with anxiety, regardless of whether they believe their condition is severe or not.

Panic Attacks in Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety

When comparing agoraphobia vs social anxiety disorder, it's important to know that both can co-occur with panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden feeling of intense fear or worry that has no specific cause.

Panic attacks often cause symptoms increased heart rate, a sense of impending doom, trouble breathing, and nausea.

A panic disorder diagnosis requires the person to experience recurring panic attacks as well as fear or worry that they’re going to experience a panic attack in the future.

Individuals with panic disorder are at high risk of developing agoraphobia, which can result from an experience with panic attack triggers. However, the same is true for people with social anxiety disorder. Panic disorder and social anxiety are also distinct conditions that can occur simultaneously.

What Is The Difference Between Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety Disorder?

The difference between social anxiety and agoraphobia is that a person with agoraphobia fears having anxiety attacks or losing control in specific situations, while a person with social anxiety worries about being judged or feeling embarrassed in social situations.

Although agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder can both cause avoidance of certain situations, this avoidance is different. Also, people with social anxiety are not known to have agoraphobia.

Both anxiety disorders can each coincide with panic disorder and can cause a person to engage in substance abuse in an attempt to cope with their symptoms. This can cause a whole other set of problems.

If you're wondering, «Do I have agoraphobia or social anxiety disorder?», we can help. Our Banyan mental health program offers treatment to help people with agoraphobia, social anxiety, and other related mental disorders.

We can also help diagnose any condition you may have. If you or someone you know needs substance abuse treatment or mental health care, call us now at 888-280-4763 for more information about our mental illness treatment in Boca.


Agoraphobia vs. Social Anxiety Disorder — The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab

The Relationship Between Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety

Agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder are similar yet distinct mental health disorders. Though both are types of anxiety disorders and can result in an individual avoiding specific situations, the underlying causes of agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder are different.

Article at a Glance:

Here are a few facts to consider when comparing agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder:

  • Agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder are both types of anxiety disorders
  • A person with agoraphobia fears or avoids situations worry that they may experience anxiety or panic that they cannot escape or control
  • A person with social anxiety disorder fears or avoids social situations fear that they may embarrass themselves or be judged negatively by others
  • Anxiety disorders often co-occur with addiction
  • Anxiety disorders can complicate treatment and recovery for substance use disorder

Agoraphobia Definition and Characteristics

Agoraphobia is defined as the fear, anxiety or avoidance of two or more of the following situations or places:

  • Open spaces
  • Enclosed spaces
  • Crowds or waiting in line
  • Being away from home alone
  • Public transportation

The defining characteristic of agoraphobia is that the fear or anxiety provoked by the situation is disproportionate to the actual risk or danger posed by the situation.

There are several physical symptoms of agoraphobia. When exposed to a triggering situation, a person with this anxiety disorder may experience:

  • Racing heartbeat or chest pain
  • Sweating or shakiness
  • Labored breathing
  • Stomach trouble and nausea
  • Headache or dizziness
  • Feeling control
  • Feeling they are dying

Those with severe agoraphobia will completely avoid triggering situations and may even refuse to leave their homes. They may also turn to alcohol or substance abuse to manage their symptoms, which can have detrimental long-term consequences.

Social Anxiety Disorder and Symptoms

Social anxiety disorder is rooted in the fear that the individual will embarrass themselves, offend others or be rejected.

The symptoms of social anxiety disorder include an unusually high level of anxious feelings when in social situations.

As a result, an individual with social anxiety disorder will either endure social situations with great difficulty or avoid them altogether. agoraphobia, individuals with social anxiety symptoms may use alcohol or other substances to cope.

Shared Association with Panic Attacks

Agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder can both occur with panic attacks. A panic attack is a sudden, causeless feeling of extreme fear or worry coupled with increased heart rate, sense of impending doom, shortness of breath and nausea.

Panic attacks may be rare or frequent.

A diagnosis of panic disorder, or panic attack disorder, requires an individual to not only experience recurring panic attacks but also experience fear or worry that they are on the verge of experiencing a future panic attack.

A person with panic disorder is at an increased risk of developing agoraphobia, and the onset of agoraphobia is often triggered by a panic attack in a specific situation. This diagnosis is called panic disorder with agoraphobia. However, panic disorder and agoraphobia can occur separately.

Social anxiety and panic attacks are similarly related. Individuals who experience panic attacks are more ly to also have social anxiety. Further, individuals who experience panic attacks tend to have more severe cases of social anxiety disorder.

How Agoraphobia and Social Anxiety Differ

Though agoraphobia and social anxiety may both result in individuals avoiding situations, the reasons for the avoidance are not the same. Further, individuals with social anxiety disorder are not known to also have agoraphobia.

The difference between agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder is that a person with agoraphobia fears having an anxiety attack or losing control in specific situations while a person with social anxiety disorder worries about experiencing embarrassment or judgment in social situations.

Both anxiety disorders can cause a person to attempt to manage their symptoms by using substances tranquilizers, alcohol, marijuana, pain killers, cocaine, tobacco and stimulants.

Rate of Co-Occurrence

Though agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder do not co-occur often, there is a correlation between anxiety disorders and substance use disorders. The co-occurrence of anxiety disorders and substance use disorders is associated with higher disability and increased severity of symptoms than is expected for each disorder separately.

Addiction and substance abuse can mask symptoms of anxiety disorders and lead to anxiety being untreated. Treating substance abuse without also addressing co-occurring anxiety disorders increases the risk of substance abuse relapse. For the best outcomes, it is best to consider and treat co-occurring anxiety disorders when treating addiction and substance abuse.

Both agoraphobia and social anxiety disorder can lead to addiction and substance abuse as individuals seek to cope with these often debilitating mental illnesses.

If you or a loved one is using addiction or substance abuse to handle symptoms of agoraphobia or social anxiety disorder, The Recovery Village can help.

Contact The Recovery Village today to learn about the various treatments available.

  • Sources

    Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. “Impact of the DSM-IV to DSM-5 Changes on the National Survey on Drug Use and Health [Internet].” June 2016. Accessed May 10, 2019. “Agoraphobia.” May 8, 2015. Accessed May 11, 2019. “Agoraphobia: Causes.” December 18, 2018. Accessed May 11, 2019.

    Potter, Carrie M., et al. “Situational panic attacks in social anxiety disorder.” Journal of Affective Disorders, October 2014. Accessed May 11, 2019.

    Richards, Thomas A. “Differences Between Social Anxiety and Panic Disorder.” Social Anxiety Institute, 2019. Accessed May 11, 2019.

    Vorspan, Florence, et al. “Anxiety and Substance Use Disorders: Co-occurrence and Clinical Issues.” Current Psychiatry Reports, February 2015. Accessed May 11, 2019.

    McHugh, R. Kathryn. “Treatment of Co-occurring Anxiety Disorders and Substance Use Disorders.” Harvard Review of Psychiatry, March 1, 2016. Accessed May 11, 2019.


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