Agoraphobia Therapy in Edinburgh

Agoraphobia can have an important impact on your life, especially when it prevents you from leaving your home. This situation can be overwhelming and paralysing. Therapy offers valuable assistance in overcoming these fears by providing step-by-step guidance, enabling you to confront and gradually change behaviours associated with agoraphobia. We are here to help you through this process.

What is agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder characterised by an intense fear of specific situations or places, with a heightened apprehension that escape might be challenging or embarrassing, and assistance may be inaccessible during a panic attack. While bustling public spaces such as supermarkets, shopping centres, trams, trains, planes, and airports are often the focal points of fear for those with agoraphobia, any public setting, even seemingly tranquil places like an empty park, can trigger distress.


The anxiety stems from the belief that there are no readily available means of escape or assistance if the anxiety becomes overwhelming. People with agoraphobia may experience symptoms of a panic attack when confronted with stressful situations. In fact, this disorder frequently develops following one or more panic attacks, intensifying the concern about the possibility of a recurrence. Consequently, those affected tend to avoid circumstances that provoke anxiety, sometimes venturing out only in the presence of a friend or partner. Everyday tasks such as grocery shopping may be replaced with online orders as part of a behavioural adaptation known as avoidance. 


Overall, agoraphobia frequently leads to difficulty feeling secure in various public settings. The intensity of the fear can be so profound that it may create a strong reluctance to leave the comfort of your home.


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Types of agoraphobia

While there isn’t a distinct categorization of various types of agoraphobia, a common differentiation is often made between agoraphobia accompanied by panic disorder and agoraphobia without panic disorder.


Agoraphobia with panic disorder and agoraphobia without panic disorder share the common thread of anxiety in public spaces, but they differ in their association with panic attacks:


Agoraphobia with panic disorder

People experience recurrent and sometimes unexpected panic attacks, which are intense episodes of fear accompanied by physical and cognitive symptoms. The fear of having a panic attack becomes a central concern, leading to avoidance of situations perceived as potential triggers.

Agoraphobia symptoms are intricately linked with the occurrence of panic attacks, creating a cycle of anxiety and avoidance.


Agoraphobia without panic disorder

Unlike the previous case, individuals with only agoraphobia do not necessarily experience frequent panic attacks. The fear and avoidance behaviours extend beyond concerns about panic attacks, often involving more generalised anxiety about being in public spaces.

When to seek help for agoraphobia?

While some individuals may find relief from mild agoraphobia symptoms through self-help techniques and lifestyle changes, recovering from more severe cases often requires professional support. Agoraphobia can significantly impact one’s life, limiting daily activities and causing distressing emotional and mental states.


It is often time to seek help for agoraphobia when the impact of the problem significantly limits your life and hinders your ability to leave the house, if self-help techniques and lifestyle adjustments aren’t effectively addressing your disorder, and you find that your ability to engage in daily activities is progressively diminishing.


In such situations, therapy can provide a supportive space to delve into the intense emotions and thoughts that are taking a toll on your well-being.


Therapy for agoraphobia

Evidence-based therapies, notably cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), are frequently employed and recommended for agoraphobia. In addition to CBT, approaches like acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT), and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT) have proven effective in addressing this condition. These therapeutic modalities are not mutually exclusive; in fact, they often complement each other, offering a comprehensive approach to tackling agoraphobia. 


Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT is a well-established and evidence-based approach that has shown success in treating agoraphobia. In CBT for agoraphobia, the focus is on identifying and restructuring negative thought patterns and beliefs that contribute to anxiety. For instance, individuals with agoraphobia often harbour the unfounded belief that experiencing a panic attack could be fatal. CBT works towards instilling a more realistic mindset, emphasising that although a panic attack may be distressing, it is not life-threatening and will eventually subside. This shift in perspective can result in more positive actions, encouraging clients to confront situations that previously elicited fear. CBT involves exploring the thoughts and perceptions associated with leaving familiar environments, engaging in exposure exercises to gradually confront feared situations, and developing coping strategies to manage anxiety.


Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT): ACT is another valuable approach used in conjunction with CBT. ACT emphasises accepting uncomfortable feelings rather than trying to eliminate them. It helps clients to separate from negative thoughts, detaching from them and recognizing them as passing mental events rather than absolute truths. It encourages clients to commit to actions aligned with their values, creating a more flexible and adaptive response to anxiety. This approach helps clients build resilience and develop a mindful approach to facing the challenges of agoraphobia.


Compassion-focused therapy (CFT): CFT is employed to cultivate self-compassion and understanding. This is particularly relevant in agoraphobia, where people may experience self-criticism and judgement. CFT helps shift the focus towards self-kindness, promoting a more supportive and nurturing relationship with oneself as one confronts and manages agoraphobic symptoms.


Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT): This approach integrates mindfulness practices into the therapeutic process. It combines elements of CBT with mindfulness techniques to enhance awareness of thoughts and emotions. For agoraphobia, MBCT can be beneficial in developing a non-judgmental awareness of the present moment, reducing reactivity to anxious thoughts, and promoting a sense of well-being.

Our approach to agoraphobia counselling

As specialists in anxiety disorders, particularly agoraphobia, we enjoy helping clients facing these challenges. Our expertise lies in employing evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), to effectively address agoraphobia. Additionally, we integrate resources from alternative approaches like acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), compassion-focused therapy (CFT), and mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), recognizing the diverse needs of individuals. Whether dealing with agoraphobia in isolation or alongside panic disorder, our primary objective is to establish a secure and non-judgmental environment. We are dedicated to providing a space where each person can freely discuss their difficulties and work towards overcoming them.



Agoraphobia is characterised by the fear or avoidance of situations or places where escape might be difficult or help might not be available in the event of a panic attack or other incapacitating symptoms. Common symptoms of agoraphobia include:


➤   Severe anxiety or panic attacks when in or anticipating being in situations that trigger agoraphobia.


➤   Actively avoiding places or situations that might provoke anxiety, such as crowded spaces, public transportation, or open areas.


➤   An overwhelming fear of embarrassment, humiliation, or scrutiny, especially in public settings.


➤   Reliance on a trusted person or a specific safe place to feel secure, leading to avoidance of going out independently.


➤   Experiencing physical symptoms during anxiety, such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, chest pain, or nausea.


➤   Persistent worry and anxiety about the possibility of having a panic attack, often leading to preemptive avoidance of certain situations.


➤   Social withdrawal and isolation due to the fear of encountering triggering situations.


➤   A reluctance or inability to leave the safety of one’s home, sometimes to the extent of becoming housebound.


Although the precise origins of agoraphobia, and many other mental health disorders, remain unknown, there are identifiable risk factors that can contribute to the development of this condition:


Genetic factors: A family history of anxiety disorders may increase the likelihood of developing agoraphobia.


Brain chemistry: Imbalances in neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and norepinephrine, which play a role in regulating mood and anxiety.


History of panic disorder: Agoraphobia often co-occurs with panic disorder. Individuals with a history of panic attacks may develop agoraphobia as a way to avoid situations where panic attacks have occurred.


Environmental factors: Stressful life events, major life changes, or a history of childhood adversity.


Personality factors: Certain personality traits, such as being prone to anxiety or having a high level of sensitivity to stress.

Learned behaviour: Observing others’ fearful reactions or experiencing negative incidents in specific situations.

Do you offer agoraphobia therapy near me?

The Edinburgh Therapy Service offers both in-person agoraphobia counselling in Edinburgh (United Kingdom), and online therapy accessible worldwide You can find our exact location here. We specialise in therapy for anxiety disorders, offering a range of evidence-based approaches including CBT, ACT, CFT, MBCT, and customised combinations tailored to your specific needs. 

Your agoraphobia therapist in Edinburgh


We understand the significant impact that agoraphobia can have on your overall well-being, and we’re here to provide the support and guidance you need during this challenging period.


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Further reading

The Edinburgh Therapy Service is a psychotherapy and counseling practice based in Edinburgh, Scotland (United Kingdom). We offer therapy both in-person in Edinburgh and online, available in English and Spanish.

Contact info

Contact us for more information or to book your first appointment: [email protected]