Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder which affects about two percent men and four percent of women. It is generally diagnosed when an individual is in their 20s. Merck defines it as a fear of “being trapped in situations or places where with no way to escape easily if anxiety or panic develops.” It is common for agoraphobics to avoid places which they may fear. Some may wonder whether or not there is a genetic link for agoraphobia.
Agoraphobia May be Hereditary
Studies which have been on twins have shown that there may be some link between agoraphobia and genetics. That said, it is important to keep in mind that agoraphobia itself is not believed to be directly inherited due to one’s genetic makeup.
According to the Agoraphobia Resource Center, the studies which have been done on agoraphobia and genetics show that people are likely to inherit a predisposition for anxiety and excitable personality types. These individuals are more likely to become diagnosed with agoraphobia than others, so it ultimately increases the chances of an individual becoming diagnosed.
Reasons Agoraphobia May Run in Families
Experiencing a traumatic life event, such as sexual abuse, is known to increase one’s chances of becoming diagnosed with agoraphobia. If two siblings were both abused when they were children, they may both be more likely to experience agoraphobia than two siblings who were never abused.
Another one of the risk factors of agoraphobia is having alcohol or substance abuse disorder. Studies have shown that alcoholism is more likely to run within families, though there is a lot of controversy about whether it is due to genetics or learning behavior (i.e. being around a parent who is always drinking).
Yet another theory is that children with agoraphobic parents may be more likely to also experience the phobia because of avoidance. If they are kept out of situations or places that their parent feared, they may be more likely to fear the same places – especially because they will be unfamiliar with them.
Keep in mind that the amount of research which has been done on whether agoraphobia is hereditary seems to be only minimal. While there may be some link between agoraphobia and genetics, there is not a 100 percent chance that someone who has an agoraphobic family member will also be diagnosed with the condition. Just like other personality disorders and conditions which have proved to have a genetic link, having a family member with the condition does not guarantee that you will also have it.
Agoraphobia Resource Center, “Is Agoraphobia Hereditary?”
Mayo Clinic, “Agoraphobia: Risk Factors.”
Merck, “Phobic Disorders.”
Vanderbilt University Psychology Department, “Alcohol and Genetics.”