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Agoraphobia in Children and Adolescents

By Josephine Elia, MD, Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Professor of Pediatrics;Attending Physician, Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University;Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children

Agoraphobia is a persistent fear of being trapped in 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.

Adolescents fear or are anxious about such activities as

  • Using public transportation

  • Being in open spaces

  • Being in enclosed spaces

  • 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.


  • Symptoms

For the disorder to be diagnosed, the fear or anxiety must persist for 6 months or more, cause significant distress, and interfere with social, academic, or other functions.


  • Behavioral therapy

Behavioral therapy is especially useful for agoraphobia symptoms. However, drugs rarely help children with agoraphobia because children often continue to fear that they may have a panic attack, even long after attacks have been well-controlled by drugs.