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Sufferers of agraphobia may have had an experience linking emotional trauma with sexual abuse. Such experiences do not have to happen to the sufferer: watching sexual abuse occur (even in movies or on television) can act as a trigger to the condition. The body then develops a fear of the experience occurring again as a way of 'ensuring' that the event does not occur.
In some cases sex abuse hysteria, caused by misinformation, overzealous or careless investigation practices, or sensationalist news coverage, can cause agraphobia as well: This being different than the PTSD-driven agraphobia that comes from real situations of sexual abuse. Day care sex abuse hysteria is one example of this erroneously caused agraphobia. Many people who were originally accused or even found guilty were later found to be innocent of sexual abuse, their ordeal having been caused by hysteria and misinformation-driven agraphobia.
A professional and carefully done investigation is necessary to determine which type of agraphobia may be occurring in any particular case. Newer standards for sexual abuse investigation have been developed in some states (and are mandated by courts) in order to prevent such hysteria-driven agraphobia from causing prosecution of the innocent. These new standards are not uniformly applied or followed in all states, however.
Malicious intent can also sometimes cause hysteria-driven agraphobia in children. For example, a vindictive or abusive parent may purposely try to instill agraphobic hysteria in a child in order to manipulate a false accusation by a child against the other parent in a divorce child-custody case, or to trigger a damaging police investigation in order to abuse an innocent parent. This sometimes results in the prosecution of the parent who tried to cause the false accusation. Courts are increasingly viewing proven cases of intentionally induced agraphobia in children as a form of child abuse, as well as being a crime against the falsely accused target adult.
Symptoms include breathlessness, abnormal sweating, nausea, dryness of the mouth, anxiety attacks, heart palpitations and excessive shaking.
Some sufferers are afraid at all times, while some react to different stimuli, including a reminder of a traumatic event that occurred in the past which triggered the development of the agraphobia.