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What is agoraphobia? Is it disabling?

On Behalf of | Nov 10, 2023 | Social Security Disability (SSD)

Anxiety disorders come in many different forms, and agoraphobia is one of them. While it may not be as well-known as some other mental health disorders, its effect on the 0.9% of the adult U.S. population who suffer from it can be profoundly disabling. In fact, more than 40% of people with agoraphobia have it to a severe degree.

Agoraphobia is an extreme fear of being forced to leave an environment that feels safe. Doing so can bring on severe anxiety or trigger a panic attack. 

How does agoraphobia manifest?

Agoraphobia often starts after a traumatic or stressful event, such as a physical assault or a public panic attack. Feeling unsafe outside of the most familiar environments, it’s not unusual for someone with agoraphobia to avoid public places as much as possible. 

Some people who suffer from this condition may even become essentially trapped in their homes because they feel too overwhelmed when they try to leave. The inability to leave their home without suffering crippling panic attacks can make work, school, socializing, religious activities and hobbies practically impossible.

Many people who suffer from agoraphobia realize that their fears are irrational (or their reaction to what might be a perfectly rational fear is too extreme), but they’re helpless to stop it. That can lead to depression, which only worsens the situation. The inability to leave familiar environments can also make it challenging for agoraphobics to seek medical and mental health treatment, which can add to their troubles.

It’s important to understand that agoraphobia is a very real anxiety disorder. Sufferers cannot just “snap out of it” or “make” themselves go to unfamiliar places. If you or someone you love suffers from severe agoraphobia, it may be time to learn more about what it takes to obtain Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits.