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Title: Agoraphobia : mental disorder or societal constraint? : a gendered exploration of symptoms of agoraphobia in a non-clinical population
Author: Fell, Alison
ISNI:       0000 0004 2697 9552
Awarding Body: University of East London
Current Institution: University of East London
Date of Award: 2002
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The first aim of the research was to extend the work of Gelfond (1991) to consider how far the symptoms of agoraphobia were present in a non-clinical sample of males and females. This was achieved using both statistical and qualitative (Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis) methods. The results indicated that both male and female participants' experience discomfort when alone in public places on a continuum with clinical descriptions of agoraphobia. Two differences between clinical and non-clinical accounts were identified. The first being that differences appeared to be dimensional (e. g. intensity, preoccupation). Secondly, non-clinical participants' accounts did not describe 'catastrophic misinterpretations' of physiological arousal as seen in clinical accounts. The second aim of the research related to how a gender analysis of male and female participants' accounts of their use of public places alone would contribute to our understanding of agoraphobia. Statistical results suggested that only female participants were significantly avoidant of public places alone compared to when they were accompanied. In addition, three qualitative tools of analysis (Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis, Rhetorical Discourse Analysis and Foucauldian Analysis) were adopted. These analyses highlighted social processes by which lone women may experience greater discomfort than lone men in public places, as well as exploring how such processes predispose males and females to react to discomfort in different ways. It is argued that these social processes 'prepare' women, in particular, for anxiety and avoidance on a continuum with symptoms of agoraphobia. This in turn provides an explanation as to why the majority of those diagnosed with agoraphobia are women. This poses questions for the assertion in DSM IV (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) that social practices that restrict women's use of public places should be distinguished from agoraphobia. Clinical and research implications are discussed.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available