ag·​o·​ra·​pho·​bia | \ ˌa-g(ə-)rə-ˈfō-bē-ə How to pronounce agoraphobia (audio) , ə-ˌgȯr-ə- \

Definition of agoraphobia

: abnormal fear of being helpless in a situation from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing that is characterized initially often by panic or anticipatory anxiety and finally by the avoidance of open or public places

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Did You Know?

The agora was the marketplace in ancient Greece; thus, agoraphobia often involves fear of public places and crowds. But it also may involve fear of being in shops, or even fear of being in open spaces, or fear of traveling alone. It may also be a fear of experiencing some uncontrollable or embarrassing event (like fainting) in the presence of others with no help available. Agoraphobia can be hard to understand for those who don't suffer from it, especially because it can take so many different forms, but it is often a serious and socially crippling condition.

Examples of agoraphobia in a Sentence

a patient suffering from agoraphobia
Recent Examples on the Web Physically, the museum is only a short distance from the agoraphobia of the relentlessly edifying Mall. Washington Post, "At 100, the Phillips Collection doesn’t seem to have aged," 24 Nov. 2020 Her ability to interact with the world in those difficult days was limited by a type of agoraphobia. Simon Callow, The New York Review of Books, "Early Life isn’t Everything," 24 Sep. 2020 Wendy Sparrow, 44, an author from Port Orchard, Washington, has OCD, agoraphobia (fear of places or situations that might cause panic) and post-traumatic stress disorder. Elizabeth Lawrence, Scientific American, "COVID-19 Worsens Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder—but Therapy Offers Coping Skills," 18 June 2020 But Decker and the film’s screenwriter Sarah Gubbins (who adapted Susan Scarf Merrell’s novel) weave the reality of Shirley’s struggles with agoraphobia and anxiety into a fictional horror story of sorts. David Sims, The Atlantic, "An Unconventional Biopic About a Horror Master," 8 June 2020 Fred becomes increasingly caught up with his academic life, while Rose forms a tenuous connection with Shirley, who is struggling with anxiety and agoraphobia and self-medicating with prescription drugs and alcohol. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Review: Elisabeth Moss gives a brilliantly subversive performance in Shirley," 7 June 2020 The two are stuck in a codependent swirl, fueled by Shirley’s depression and agoraphobia and Stanley’s philandering and awash in their heavy drinking. Mark Olsen, Los Angeles Times, "Elisabeth Moss and Josephine Decker reveal ‘inner sorcery’ of Sundance premiere ‘Shirley’," 25 Jan. 2020 Obsessive compulsive disorder, phobias, elimination disorders, psychosis, panic disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, agoraphobia, and catatonia deserve our clinical attention, care, and compassion — not our laughs., "An Examination of College Crunch Time," 16 Nov. 2019 The medicine is for the management of anxiety disorder, the short-term relief of symptoms of anxiety, and the treatment of panic disorder, with or without agoraphobia, according to Mylan. Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY, "Generic Xanax drug, Alprazolam, recalled for 'potential presence of a foreign substance'," 29 Oct. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'agoraphobia.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of agoraphobia

circa 1871, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for agoraphobia

borrowed from German Agoraphobie, from Greek agorā-, combining form of agorá "place of assembly, agora entry 1" + German -phobie -phobia

Note: The term was introduced by the German neurologist and psychiatrist Carl Friedrich Otto Westphal (1833-90) in "Die Agoraphobie, eine neuropathische Erscheinung," Archiv für Psychiatrie und Nervenkrankheiten, Band 3, Heft 1 (1871), pp. 138-161. Westphal gives as his vernacular equivalent Platzfurcht.

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Time Traveler for agoraphobia

Time Traveler

The first known use of agoraphobia was circa 1871

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Cite this Entry

“Agoraphobia.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for agoraphobia



English Language Learners Definition of agoraphobia

: a fear of being in open or public places


ag·​o·​ra·​pho·​bia | \ ˌag(-ə)-rə-ˈfō-bē-ə How to pronounce agoraphobia (audio) \

Medical Definition of agoraphobia

: abnormal fear of being helpless in a situation from which escape may be difficult or embarrassing that is characterized initially often by panic or anticipatory anxiety and finally by avoidance of open or public places

More from Merriam-Webster on agoraphobia

Nglish: Translation of agoraphobia for Spanish Speakers Encyclopedia article about agoraphobia

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