Fear of Open Spaces

Information on the causes of agoraphobia and anxiety related to the fear of being in wide open spaces.

Select a Topic

  1. What is Fear of Open Spaces?
  2. What Causes Fear of Open Spaces?
  3. Diagnosing Fear of Open Spaces
  4. Help for Fear of Open Spaces
  5. More Information on Fear of Open Spaces

What is Fear of Open Spaces?

The fear of open spaces (also referred to as agoraphobia) is defined as a form of anxiety disorder that causes an abnormal fear of open spaces, crowded public places or leaving a safe location. The person experiencing the fear is usually not afraid of open spaces or people but fears being in an embarrassing situation where he or she may not be able to escape from the situation. This disorder develops initially after the sufferer experiences a panic attack, usually in a public place, and afterwards the attacks may occur without warning.

As a result of the randomness of these attacks, the sufferer expects future panic attacks to occur and fears situations where attacks may occur. The fear of open spaces is a very distressing condition, and may impact negatively on daily living, social situations, work and relationships. People with this condition rarely venture out in public and may often need to be accompanied. If left untreated, the fear of open spaces can lead to serious health problems such as panic or obsessive disorders, depression and tension.

Diagnosing Fear of Open Spaces

Common symptoms and signs of the fear of open spaces vary from person to person and may include:
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid breathing
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Mild feelings of discomfort, panic or anxiety which leads to intense fear
  • Fatigue
  • Sense of impending doom

What causes Fear of Open Spaces?

The fear of open spaces occurs as a result of an internal anxiety or panic disorder that becomes severe or out of control causing the individual to avoid situations or locations where feelings of panic may be experienced.

The unconscious mind makes a negative association linking crowded public places, open spaces, leaving a place where you felt safe and protected or emotional trauma. People who are shy and cautious by nature have low confidence levels and tend to be worriers or perfectionists may also develop this phobia. These phobias may also be learned unintentionally.

Help for Fear of Open Spaces

Various treatment options can help reduce the symptoms associated with the fear of open spaces as well as develop coping skills and manage fear and anxiety effectively. Medications such as anti-anxiety and anti-depressive drugs such as Zoloft, Paxil or Prozac may be prescribed to treat anxiety and panic attacks.

These drugs are potent and have some severe side effects and withdrawal symptoms. A beneficial treatment for the fear of open spaces is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) together with desensitization which involves using breathing and relaxation techniques to help the individual learn to cope with the situation and address his or her fear, panic or anxiety. In addition, therapeutic approaches such as hypnotherapy, visualization therapy, meditation or yoga can also how to relax and distress.

More Information on Fear of Open Spaces

Tips to cope with the fear of open spaces

In order to manage the fear of open spaces, certain things can be done to alleviate phobic symptoms and these include:

  • Be realistic and embrace your fears by taking one step at a time
  • Replace negative self-talk with positive affirmations and the belief that you can beat this fear
  • Keep a journal to track your progress and express your emotions
  • Explore other interests or hobbies such as painting, joining a book club or to gain more confidence in yourself
  • Learn relaxation techniques such as various types of breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, pilates or guided mental imagery to cope with the situation
  • Eat a well balanced diet, exercise regularly and follow health sleep routines to reduce stress and anxiety
  • Join a support group where you can discuss your fear and feelings with people who are experiencing the same phobia
  • Educate and empower yourself about your condition so that you can understand it better
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