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DSM-III

Diagnostic Criteria

A. The individual has marked fear of and thus avoids being along or in public places from which escape might be difficult or help not available in case of sudden incapacitation, e.g., crowds, tunnels, bridges, public transportation.

B. There is increasing constriction of normal activities until the fears or avoidance behavior dominate the individual's life.

C. Not due to a major depressive episode, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Paranoid Personality Disorder, or Schizophrenia.

Subtypes

  • Agoraphobia with Panic Attacks
  • Agoraphobia without Panic Attacks

Differential Diagnosis

In Schizophrenia, Major Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Paranoid Personality Disorder there may be phobic avoidance of certain situations. The diagnosis of Agoraphobia is not made if a phobia is due to any of these disorders.

DSM-IV

Diagnostic Criteria

A. Anxiety about being in places or situations from which escape might be difficult (or embarrassing) or in which help may not be available in the event of having an unexpected or situationally predisposed Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms. Agoraphobic fears typically involve characteristic clusters of situations that include being outside the home alone; being in a crowd or standing in a line; being on a bridge; and traveling in a bus, train, or automobile. (Note: Consider the diagnosis of Specific Phobia if the avoidance is limited to one or only a few specific situations, or Social Phobia if the avoidance is limited to social situations.)

B. The situations are avoided (e.g., travel is restricted) or else are endured with marked distress or with anxiety about having a Panic Attack or panic-like symptoms, or require the presence of a companion.

C. The anxiety or phobic avoidance is not better accounted for by another mental disorder, such as Social Phobia (e.g., avoidance limited to social situations because of fear of embarrassment), Specific Phobia (e.g., avoidance limited to a single situation like elevators), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (e.g., avoidance of dirt in someone with an obsession about contamination), Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (e.g., avoidance of stimuli associated with a severe stressor), or Separation Anxiety Disorder (e.g., avoidance of leaving home or relatives).

DSM-5

Diagnostic Criteria

A. Marked fear or anxiety about two (or more) of the following five situations:

  1. Using public transportation (e.g., automobiles, buses, trains, ships, planes).
  2. Being in open spaces (e.g., parking lots, marketplaces, bridges).
  3. Being in enclosed places (e.g., shops, theaters, cinemas).
  4. Standing in line or being in a crowd.
  5. Being outside of the home alone.

B. The individual fears or avoids these situations because of thoughts that escape might be difficult or help might not be available in the event of developing panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating or embarrassing symptoms (e.g., fear of falling in the elderly; fear of incontinence).

C. The agoraphobic situations almost always provoke fear or anxiety.

D. The agoraphobic situations are actively avoided, require the presence of a companion, or are endured with intense fear or anxiety.

E. The fear or anxiety is out of proportion to the actual danger posed by the agoraphobic situations and to the sociocultural context.

F. The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is persistent, typically lasting for 6 months or more.

G. The fear, anxiety, or avoidance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.

H. If another medical condition (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease, Parkinson's disease) is present, the fear, anxiety, or avoidance is clearly excessive.

I. The fear, anxiety, or avoidance is not better explained by the symptoms of another mental disorder - for example, the symptoms are not confined to specific phobia, situational type; do not involve only social situations (as in social anxiety disorder); and are not related exclusively to obsessions (as in obsessive-compulsive disorder), perceived defects or flaws in physical appearance (as in body dysmorphic disorder), reminders of traumatic events (as in posttraumatic stress disorder), or fear of separation (as in separation anxiety disorder).

Note: Agoraphobia is diagnosed irrespective of the presence of panic disorder. If an individual's presentation meets criteria for panic disorder and agoraphobia, both diagnoses should be assigned.

Differential Diagnosis

When diagnostic criteria for agoraphobia and another disorder are fully met, both diagnoses should be assigned, unless the fear, anxiety, or avoidance of agoraphobia is attributable to the other disorder. Weighting of criteria and clinical judgement may be helpful in some cases.

Specific phobia, situational type

Differentiating agoraphobia from situational specific phobia can be challenging in some cases, because these conditions share several symptom characteristic and criteria. Specific phobia, situational type, should be diagnosed versus agoraphobia if the fear, anxiety, or avoidance is limited to one of the agoraphobic situations. Requiring fears from two or more of the agoraphobic situations is a robust means for differentiating agoraphobia from specific phobias, particularly the situational subtype. Additional differentiating features include the cognitive ideation. Thus, if the situation is feared for reasons other than panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating or embarrassing symptoms (e.g., fears of being directly harmed by the situation itself, such as fear of the plane crashing for individuals who fear flying), then a diagnosis of specific phobia may be more appropriate.

Separation anxiety disorder

Separation anxiety disorder can be best differentiated from agoraphobia by examining cognitive ideation. In separation anxiety disorder, the thoughts are about detachment from significant others and the home environment (i.e., parents or other attachment figures), whereas in agoraphobia the focus is on panic-like symptoms or other incapacitating or embarrassing symptoms in the feared situations.

Social anxiety disorder (social phobia)

Agoraphobia should be differentiated from social anxiety disorder based primarily on the situational clusters that trigger fear, anxiety, or avoidance and the cognitive ideation. In social anxiety disorder, the focus is on fear of being negatively evaluated.

Panic disorder

When criteria for panic disorder are met, agoraphobia should not be diagnosed if the avoidance behaviors associated with the panic attacks do not extend to avoidance of two or more agoraphobic situations.

Acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder

Acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can be differentiated from agoraphobia by examining whether the fear, anxiety or avoidance is related only to situations that remind the individual of a traumatic event. If the fear, anxiety, or avoidance is restricted to trauma reminders, and if the avoidance behavior does not extend to two or more agoraphobic situations, then a diagnosis of agoraphobia is not warranted.

Major depressive disorder

In major depressive disorder, the individual may avoid leaving home because of apathy, loss of energy, low self-esteem, and anhedonia. If the avoidance is unrelated to fears of panic-like or other incapacitating or embarrassing symptoms, then agoraphobia should not be diagnosed.

Other medical conditions

Agoraphobia is not diagnosed if the avoidance of situations is judged to be a physiological consequence of a medical condition. This determination is based on history, laboratory findings, and a physical examination. Other relevant medical conditions may include neurodegenerative disorders with associated motor disturbances (e.g., Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis), as well as cardiovascular disorders, Individuals with certain medical conditions may avoid situations because of realistic concerns about being incapacitated (e.g., fainting in an individual with transient ischemic attacks) or being embarrassed (e.g., diarrhea in an individual with Crohn's disease). The diagnosis of agoraphobia should be given only when the fear or avoidance is clearly in excess of that usually associated with these medical conditions.