Avoidance Lasts More Than Six Months
To receive an official diagnosis of agoraphobia, an individual must experience these fears and avoidance for longer than six months. This is a new diagnostic criterion included in the DSM-5. In the DSM-4, which was the previous set of diagnostic criteria, only patients under eighteen years old needed to experience the avoidance for six months. This stipulation is included so the condition isn't overdiagnosed based on fleeting, unrelated, or transient fears. With that said, patients don't have to suffer for six months before seeking treatment. Even if the underlying cause isn't diagnosed as agoraphobia, fears severe enough to cause this avoidance should be treated. The longer the fear goes without treatment, the more ingrained the avoidant behaviors tend to become. Even if patients don't avoid every potentially triggering situation, they might still experience extreme and disproportionate stress that makes them want to avoid the situation. This can count toward a diagnosis. In the end, the exact label for the phobia doesn't matter. If individuals are experiencing fear so severe that it affects their day-to-day functioning, and they're avoiding situations for more than six months, there's some kind of anxiety disorder that needs treatment.
Read more about the signs of agoraphobia now.