Agoraphobia may arise from the fear of having a panic attack in a setting from which there is no perceived easy means of escape. Alternatively, social anxiety problems may also be an underlying cause. As a result, sufferers of agoraphobia avoid public and/or unfamiliar places, especially large, open spaces such as shopping malls or airports where there are few places to hide. In severe cases, the sufferer may become confined to his or her home, experiencing difficulty traveling from this safe place. Although mostly thought to be a fear of public places, it is now believed that agoraphobia develops as a complication of panic attacks. Approximately 3.2 million adults in the US between the ages of 18 and 54, or about 2.2%, suffer from agoraphobia. Agoraphobia generally first strikes in a person's 20's or 30's, helping distinguish the disorder from childhood phobias.
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