Agoraphobia is often misunderstood. Many people think it is the fear of open spaces. In fact, it is not. It is typically seen as being the fear someone has of places that are often difficult to get out of if the person were to get embarrassed or simply want to leave. For instance, many people with agoraphobia are afraid to go to churches. The amount of people there is usually not the issue, as some would think. The issue and fear comes from the fact that the person would feel that they could not leave if they needed to, without drawing attention to themselves, which they would feel was embarrassing.
So, much like someone who is claustrophobic would be afraid of elevators because they feel closed in, a person with agoraphobia is afraid of being trapped or closed in by social situations.
There are many symptoms that those with agoraphobia may experience. Most of the time the initial symptom they get when they feel as if they cannot escape quickly, is panic. Just with any other panic attack, the person might feel that their heart is beating differently, they may feel flushed, may be lightheaded, may cry, or may feel tingles in their body. Many people will have twitching or other symptoms as well.
Usually these symptoms only occur when the patient is in a difficult situation or are anticipating a difficult situation. People with agoraphobia usually change their lifestyle and routine to avoid the places in which they feel these symptoms altogether. So, they may drive ten miles out of their way to a store they feel comfortable shopping in and so on.