Behavior: The Panic of Open Spaces

Overcoming the terrors of agoraphobia

For years Manhattan Poet Joel Oppenheimer, now 47, took exactly the same route from his Greenwich Village apartment to his local bar, the Lion's Head. One day he tried a more circuitous route, walking along different streets. Midway to the bar he broke out in a cold sweat, suffering from heart palpitations, jelly legs and vertigo. "I had no control over my body," he said. "It was total panic."

Diagnosis: agoraphobia, the most common and disabling of all the phobias, one that may afflict as many as 2.5 million...

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