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The term agoraphobia has been widely misunderstood Its literal definition suggests a fear of open spaces However this is an incomplete and misleading view Agoraphobics are not necessarily afraid of open spaces Rather they are afraid of having panicky feelings wherever these fearful feelings may occur For many they happen at home in houses of worship or in crowded supermarkets places that are certainly not open In fact agoraphobia is a condition which develops when a person begins to avoid spaces or situations associated with anxiety Typical phobic situations might include driving shopping crowded places traveling standing in line being alone meetings and social gatherings Agoraphobia arises from an internal anxiety condition that has become so intense that the suffering individual fears going anywhere or doing anything where these feelings of panic have repeatedly occurred before Once the panic attacks have started these episodes become the ongoing stress even when other more obvious pressures have diminished This sets up a feedback condition which generally leads to increased numbers of panic attacks and for some people an increase in the situations or events which can produce panicky feelings Others experience fearful feelings continuously more a feeling of overall discomfort rather than panic A person may fear having anxiety attacks losing control or embarrassing himherself in such situations Many people remain in a painful state of anxious anticipation because of these fears Some become restricted or housebound while others function normally but with great difficulty often attempting to hide their discomfort Agoraphobia then is both a severe anxiety condition and a phobia as well as a pattern of avoidant behavior Individuals do not develop agoraphobia because they are unintelligent or weak In fact the opposite is true Studies have shown that agoraphobics are highly intelligent highly sensitive people who were generally brought up in a perfectionist way Their rearing style usually included lots of rules strong achievement needs perhaps critical parents or school-teachers and sometimes families living
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