An overwhelming fear of being in public places
The agoraphobic syndrome is a complex phobic disorder that usually occurs in adults. The major features are a variable combination of characteristic fears and the avoidance of public places, such as streets, stores, public transportation, crowds, and tunnels.
Agoraphobia is derived from the Greek element agora which means an "assembly" or "marked place"; not "open spaces", as is commonly stated by some people. The term agoraphobia refers to the fears of streets and crowded places, not to "open spaces".
The central feature of this phobia is a fear of being in embarrassing situations or in places or conditions from which escape might be difficult or in which help may not be available in case of experiencing a "panic attack".
Typically, in the late teens or early twenties, a person develops anxieties about leaving the security of his or her home after a series of unexpected anxieties occur.
Next appears the anticipatory dread that panic and a feeling of helplessness or humiliation (catagelophobia) will return in certain settings or situations, such as crowds, stores, elevators, buses, subways, airplanes, theaters, tunnels. This refers to any place from which there is no easy escape or access to help.
Often the uncontrollable fears spread in time, as from the initial fear of being in a crowded department store, to a terror of taking the bus or crossing the bridge that would get one there, to going into the street in front of one's building, or to entering the elevator in the building.
The sufferer may finally become completely "homebound", afraid even to leave the bedroom to go into other rooms of the house or apartment. It is estimated that between 65% and 95% of reported agoraphobic sufferers are women.
The agora unit of words.
See agoraphobia in the phobia-word list.