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Agoraphobia in Children and Adolescents

By

Josephine Elia

, MD, Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University

Last full review/revision March 2019 by Josephine Elia, MD

Agoraphobia is a persistent fear of being trapped in public situations or places with no way to escape easily and no one to help.

Agoraphobia may develop in adolescents, particularly those who have panic attacks, but is uncommon in children.

(See also Overview of Anxiety Disorders in Children and Adolescents and Agoraphobia in adults.)

Symptoms

Adolescents experience intense fear or anxiety during or before activities such as

  • Using public transportation
  • Being in open spaces
  • Being in enclosed public spaces (such as a store or movie theater)
  • Standing in line or being in a crowd
  • Being outside the home alone

Adolescents may have panic attacks when they try to do the distressing activity. They may then avoid that activity.

Diagnosis

  • Symptoms

For agoraphobia to be diagnosed, the fear or anxiety must

  • Persist for 6 months or more
  • Cause significant distress
  • Interfere with social, academic, or other functions

Treatment

  • Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy is especially useful for agoraphobia symptoms.

Drugs rarely help adolescents with agoraphobia, except to help control panic attacks.

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