Difference Between Agoraphobia and Claustrophobia

Agoraphobia and claustrophobia are two of the most common phobias that people suffer from. While both of these phobias can lead to intense feelings of fear and panic, they are very different from one another. Agoraphobia is the fear of being in situations where escape may be difficult or embarrassing, whereas claustrophobia is the fear of being in enclosed spaces.

What is Agoraphobia?

Agoraphobia is based on the Greek word "agora" which means "place of assembly" or "marketplace". Affected individuals often think that they can turn to no one for help when panic attacks would likely occur or they feel that being in a crowded place would be very embarrassing since they would probably manifest anxiety symptoms.

Thus, the number of people in the room is a big factor in escalating the fear. Agoraphobia is one of the common phobias that is why it is specified in the DSM 5. The diagnostic criteria specify a marked fear of at least two of the following −

  • Using public transportations like ships and buses

  • Being in open spaces like public markets and parking lots

  • Being in enclosed areas like cinemas or theaters

  • Being in a crowd or a long queue

  • Being out of the house alone

What is Claustrophobia?

Claustrophobia came from the Latin word "claustrum" for "a closed-in place" is the irrational fear of confined spaces. Actually, what triggers the fear is the thought of what could happen in a certain enclosed area.

For instance, an individual may feel trapped and may often think that he would eventually gasp for air when in a small room. Some of the usual places that evoke such fear are −

  • Elevators

  • MRI scanners

  • Vehicles such as cars, trains, and planes

  • Revolving doors

  • Tunnels or caves

  • Small bathrooms

  • Cellars

Differences: Agoraphobia and Claustrophobia

Both agoraphobia and claustrophobia can be debilitating and can significantly impact an individual's ability to function in their daily lives. However, the underlying causes of these phobias are different. Agoraphobia is often associated with a fear of losing control or having a panic attack in public, while claustrophobia is associated with a fear of confinement or restriction.

Treatment options for agoraphobia and claustrophobia may differ as well. For agoraphobia, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy can be effective. These therapies aim to help individuals learn how to manage their anxiety in situations that trigger their fear. Exposure therapy involves gradually exposing the individual to situations that they fear while providing them with coping strategies and support.

For claustrophobia, exposure therapy can also be effective. This may involve slowly increasing the amount of time an individual spends in an enclosed space while providing support and guidance. Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and meditation may also be helpful for individuals with claustrophobia.

The following table highlights the major differences between Agoraphobia and Claustrophobia −




Source of Fear

People with agoraphobia fear wide and often populated places such as amusement parks and airports.

Individuals with claustrophobia fear confined spaces which often restricts movements like MRI scanners, public toilets, and elevators.


"Agora" is a Greek word which translates to "place of assembly" or "marketplace".

"Claustrum" is a Latin word which means "closed-in space".


The DSM 5 states that around 1.7% of adolescents and adults in America are diagnosed with agoraphobia every year.

However, claustrophobia has a less solid statistic regarding affected individuals; sources claim that around 2-12% Americans manifest the symptoms.

Fear of Medical Procedures

People with agrophobia fear less about medical procedures than claustrophobia.

As compared to agoraphobia, claustrophobia is more closely related with medical procedures as claustrophobics fear MRI scanners and hyperbaric oxygen chambers. Some may also feel marked anxiety when undergoing x-ray procedures


In conclusion, agoraphobia and claustrophobia are two very different phobias that can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. While both can lead to intense feelings of fear and panic, the underlying causes and treatment options may differ.

It is important for individuals who suffer from these phobias to seek treatment and support in order to manage their symptoms and improve their overall well-being.

Updated on: 25-Apr-2023


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