A different approach to agoraphobia is to view it as an anxiety-driven attempt to find a secure base or a space associated with a caregiver or significant other, which is reminiscent of the attitude of the toddler who does not wander far from her mother (i.e., secure base) when exploring her world.

When stressed or threatened, adults like children turn to their secure base, embodied by a spouse, partner or parent, because we have an innate need to know the physical location of our loved ones at any point in time. Supporting this view, previous studies have equated spaces of fear and spaces of security with the public and private domains respectively. Accordingly, public spaces arouse fear while private spaces promote a sense of security and safety.

By contrast, immobility is experienced as threatening since it hinders the search for a secure base, and as a result such situations could potentially trigger a panic attack.

Another aspect of agoraphobia that is highlighted in this perspective is the notion that the boundaries of the self are fluid and permeable, which translates into symptoms of depersonalization and derealization that individuals with agoraphobia may experience. This sense of loss of self is typically provoked under the impact of feelings of anxiety and panic.

Viewed in this light, individuals with agoraphobia lack ‘internal” security which prompts them to substitute spatial manifestations of security like their home for internal security, and when they are not available they are at risk for agoraphobic experience.


Holmes, J. (2008). Space and the secure base in agoraphobia: a qualitative survey. Area 40 (3): 375-382

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