What is agoraphobia?

Behind the technical term “agoraphobia”, which sounds very similar to the super-soft wool of the famous Angora bunny, hides a serious  anxiety disorder , namely claustrophobia.  It belongs to the phobias and is a fear directed towards a specific object or situation.

There is usually a lack of clarity about the correct use of the term (Agora, Greek: = marketplace, public meeting place), because agoraphobia is often confused with the fear of narrow spaces (claustrophobia). On the other hand, it is correct that it describes the fear of crowds and large squares. Hence the still common German translation “claustrophobia”.

The “fear of claustrophobia” manifests itself in the fact that affected people avoid public places and situations. They fear that if something embarrassing happens to them or they find themselves in a dangerous situation, they won’t be able to flee quickly enough.

The definition has changed

Agoraphobia used to be just the fear of public places or wide streets, more precisely: of crowds of people, of the public. According to an expanded definition that takes into account newer medical findings, the term also includes the fear of getting threatening or embarrassing physical symptoms in a situation and of not being able to get away without help, of losing control over oneself. Agoraphobia is now understood to mean:

  • Still the fear of wide squares, avenues, streets, (empty) halls and (church) rooms, etc., but only rarely as the sole sign of illness.
  • Fear and therefore avoidance of situations in which it might be particularly uncomfortable or dangerous to have an anxiety attack: to leave the “protective” house and (alone!) to go shopping, to work, to leisure activities, etc.
  • The use of difficult to understand, z. T. ridiculous aids to alleviate such fears such. companion, symbolic protective objects such as a walking stick or other familiar objects, children’s or shopping trolleys, pets, “escape-proof” corner seats near the door, sunglasses, etc.


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