Being afraid of open spaces is most often related to past or present suffering caused by an anxiety attack.
And this intense and disproportionate fear is the consequence of being exposed to or anticipating a large number of situations where it may be difficult to escape or in which asking for help may be difficult or embarrassing. The person will avoid these situations because of the intense anxiety caused by even just thinking about them.
This fear of open spaces and high anxiety are accompanied by the subjective feeling that something terrible is going to happen.
What is the fear of open spaces called?
Fear of open spaces and the need to avoid certain situations can occur in agoraphobia disorder, but can also be felt in other psychological disorders, such as phobic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
It consists of the appearance of anxiety and fear of a high number of situations in which the person thinks that it may be difficult to escape or ask for help. It is followed by a feeling of catastrophe accompanied by an anxiety attack.
We want to make it clear that agoraphobia may or may not include fear of open spaces, since there are many situations that can trigger anxiety in this disorder.
To be able to diagnose it, at least two of the following fears must be present:
Fear of open spaces: parking lots, large avenues, wide squares, outdoor sports venues
Fear of closed spaces: malls, stores, cinemas, theaters or concerts. They are usually crowded places with a lot of people.
Fear of crowds: very crowded places, they are usually very large open spaces such as football stadiums or large closed spaces such as shopping centers, which would cause double anxiety.
Fear of using means of transport: public (metro or trains) when the route is underground. Fear of planes and boats is also frequent, since they cannot get out of them for long hours. Finally, the fear of buses and private cars is not uncommon either.
Fear of incontinence or vomiting in public: sometimes anxiety can lead to fear of not being able to control the sphincters or vomiting in public. It may coincide with people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome that causes bouts of uncontrollable diarrhea.
Fear of the workplace: It usually occurs especially in people who have been out for a long time due to a work or anxiety problem.
Fear of leaving home alone: This fear is the most disabling and combines all of the above. Fear overwhelms the person to the point of not feeling safe outside the home and they need the company of a trusted person at all times, usually a family member or friend.
As we can see, agoraphobia is not just being afraid of open spaces, but there are many situations that can trigger anxiety, fear, and avoidance behaviors.
Symptoms of “agoraphobia”
When there is fear of open spaces we can list several types of symptoms that will make us identify if it is this disorder:
Fear of being alone.
Fear of being in places where it is difficult to escape.
Fear of losing control in public places.
Dependence on others.
Feelings of separation or estrangement from others.
Feelings of hopelessness
Feeling that the environment is unreal.
Having unusual agitations.
Staying at home for long periods of time.
Physical symptoms may include:
Chest discomfort or pain.
Sensation of suffocation.
Dizziness or fainting
Nausea or other gastric discomfort.
Why does this phobia occur?
Of all the types of phobias, agoraphobia is the one with the most intense association with the genetic factor. Its heritability is 61%. Although it is true that not only genetics are involved in the development of this disorder, having grown up in an environment where there was a separation with the parents, having suffered an assault or a robbery also predisposes them.
Likewise, some personality traits such as suffering from an anxiety disorder or a disposition to neurosis may also be risk factors.
What happens if you don’t leave your house?
Fear and anticipatory anxiety can seclude the patient at home in an attempt to feel safe and avoid agoraphobic situations, which can be multiple. This disorder is more common in women and usually appears between the ages of 20 and 30. It tends to become chronic and requires anxiety treatment to resolve and avoid secondary complications.
Not only the fear of open spaces or closed spaces can be disabling, but also avoidance behaviors can condition the severity of agoraphobia.
There are people who have to stop working because they are not even able to leave the house alone or use public transport. They may end up isolated from family and friends, shopping online and abandoning their obligations.
Agoraphobia is a potentially serious disease since it affects a person’s social, work, academic, family and economic life. In extreme cases, the patient may end up confined to their home for long periods of time.
To alleviate this fear of open and closed spaces, the presence of a trusted support person often helps to facilitate exposure to such situations. People with agoraphobia may feel that they are becoming dependent on their partners or family members. This situation is very problematic for their self-esteem and for their personal relationships. It is one of the reasons why it is advisable to ask for help as soon as possible.
Treat your fear of open spaces with our psychology specialists
Agoraphobia treatment should be as early as possible due to the great disability it can cause.
Psychotherapy or psychological treatment is very effective in agoraphobia. In many cases, it will be enough to improve the symptoms. Although it is true that, in some situations, it is necessary to consult with the doctor in case it is necessary to add medication to speed up the response to treatment.
Source: Psychomaster Blog
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