Agoraphobia: a test of the separation anxiety hypothesis

Bruce A. Thyer, Randolph M. Nesse, Oliver G. Cameron, George C. Curtis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


It is commonly accepted that early traumatic separation experiences predispose to the development of agoraphobia in adults. This separation anxiety hypothesis has been incorporated into the diagnostic criteria of the DSM-III, despite the absence of substantial empirical support. In the present study, 14 objective questions pertaining to childhood separation anxiety experiences were answered by 44 agoraphobics and a comparison group of 83 simple phobics. In no instance did the agoraphobics report significantly greater separation trauma in childhood than the simple phobics. This suggests that better evidence is needed before acceptance of the separation anxiety hypothesis of agoraphobia. Psychological explanations regarding the etiology of the disorder may need to be discarded in favor of biological factors which are receiving increasing empirical support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)75-78
Number of pages4
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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