Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate August 2001

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You know it is coming. No, you can't feel it creeping up on you, but it is there, nonetheless. At any moment, in any place, it could grasp you in its powerful jaws and refuse to release its grip until it has ravaged your mind, leaving you a trembling shell of the person you once were. All at once, almost as if bidden by its all-consuming presence in your thoughts, it is there. Your heart begins racing at an alarming rate. Suddenly, breathing becomes laborious and you feel as if there is not enough air in the world to satiate your growing hunger for its soothing properties. The room begins to spin while you choke, gasp, and tremble. Beads of sweat course in streams down the goose bumps on you arms. Thoughts screech across your terrified mind. Are you going crazy? Are you about to die? Then, as suddenly as it appeared, it is gone, leaving you shaking and heaving, having experienced yet another panic attack .

Your only comfort is that you were at home when it happened, though it is unlikely that you would have been anyplace else, given the fact that you have locked yourself away in your home now for the past several weeks for fear that a panic attack might occur someplace where you may embarrass yourself. What is causing this erratic and abnormal behavior? Does terror like this have a name? Yes. That name is agoraphobia.

In the past, agoraphobia has commonly been associated with a fear of wide, open spaces.

The truth lies much deeper than that, however. Agoraphobia is the fear of having a panic attack at any time and at any place where you might become embarrassed . It is a condition which develops when a person begins to avoid places...