Fighting your way through a busy mall. Waiting in line for a sold-out show. Stepping into a crowded elevator. For you, these situations are nothing unusual; it’s just going about your day-to-day life. But for someone suffering from agoraphobia, these everyday occurrences can cause crushing chest pain, rapid heart rate, disorientation, and an overwhelming sense of anxiety and panic.
If you’re a friend or relative to one of the 1.7 percent of Americans suffering from this extreme anxiety disorder, you already know how debilitating agoraphobia can be. Agoraphobics often find themselves unable to go to school or work, run errands, or attend social events; in the most extreme cases, they’re not even able to leave the home.
So what causes agoraphobia? It can stem from a variety or combination of factors, including genetics, life experiences, and psychological traits. Agoraphobia is more common in women, with onset usually beginning in the late teenage years, though it has been known to develop much later in life as well. The Mayo Clinichighlights seven risk factors that can lead to agoraphobia or are associated with the disease: