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Is agoraphobia more common in men or women?    

Agoraphobia has been referred to as a “women’s disease.” Approximately four times as many women are diagnosed with agoraphobia than men. This, however, does not mean that an equal number of men are not experiencing the anxiety symptoms of agoraphobia. A number of potential reasons for the greater number of agoraphobia diagnoses among women are currently being explored in research:

- Women are more likely to engage in help-seeking behavior, therefore, more women are actually diagnosed with agoraphobia.

- Masculine sex-role stereotypes make it hard for men to openly admit feelings of anxiety.

- When men do experience the symptoms of agoraphobia they are more likely to turn to alcohol and get diagnosed as alcoholics.

- Female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) decrease during the pre-menstrual phase making it easier for women to develop conditioned anxiety responses.

- Traditional female sex roles prescribe women to react to anxiety by engaging in dependent and helpless behavior (like the behavior of an agoraphobic).

- Women are more likely to stay at home alone during the day, making them more likely to become aware and worry about unusual bodily sensations.

Research studies that have investigated reasons for the larger number of females with agoraphobia have not produced a clear explanation. While there are some convincing studies to support each of the above explanations, there are equally convincing studies that don’t. Explaining the gender gap in the diagnosis of agoraphobia is an area in need of further research.

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