CLAUSTROPHOBIA: The Fear Of Small Spaces Phobia (Symptoms & Treatment)

Claustrophobia is a situation of fear whereby individuals experience deep dread and aversion to small or enclosed spaces and go great lengths to avoid confrontations with small spaces.

Have you ever been in a tunnel, airplane, mine, elevator or playhouse and felt trapped? Did you feel like you can’t escape? Do you subconsciously feel choked when in small spaces or enclosed spaces? You’re probably claustrophobic. For phobics living in big cities, this can cause poor work functioning and overall wellbeing of the individual.


Worldwide, about 4% known and unknown individuals suffer from claustrophobia. The causes include;
1. People with spatial distortion have higher chances of being claustrophobic. They tend to have an exaggerated sense of their personal space.
2. Generally, people with higher tendency towards anxiety disorders are also likelier to be claustrophobic.
3. Those with a history of panic disorder or prone to panic attacks are likelier to have the fear of small and confined spaces.
4. Traumatic past experiences are also known to play a role in the development of the fear of small spaces. For example, children whom have been trapped accidentally in closets or punished are at higher risks for developing Claustrophobia.
5. Some theories also suggest that it could be an evolutionary phobia, which means that the fear of small spaces could have some evolutionary benefit.

This phobia is highly complex and the diagnosis and further treatment is based on reducing the intensity of anxiety and panic attacks when stimulated.

CLAUSTROPHOBIA The Fear Of Small Spaces Phobia (Symptoms & Treatment)
fear of confines spaces


* Respiratory symptoms such as being choked or unable to breathe
* Hyperventilation
* Accelerated heartbeat palpitations
* Sweating and fainting
* Feeling sick or nauseated
* Shaking
* Thoughts or images of being buried alive or trapped
* Thoughts of death
* Feeling like running away
* Inability to distinguish between what is real and unreal.
These symptoms include both physical and psychological symptoms.


Sometimes, a claustrophobics reacts severely even to the mere thoughts of or confrontation with a small space. Most expert psychologists advise parents and loved ones to attend counseling with the phobic to help calm the symptoms during sessions and offer support as well.

Other methods include;

* Modeling techniques: Here, the phobic is placed strategically to watch another phobic encounter the stimulus (enclosed or small spaces) and also watch the recovery process, where the other phobic visibly calms down and faces his fears squarely. This acts as a means of physical and emotional support.
* Self help techniques: for example, rather than rush off an elevator, a phobic motivated himself to stay in for a bit and try to get accustomed to the up and down movement and focus on reality rather than his negative misconceptions about small spaces.
* Exposure therapy; the phobic is gradually exposed to his fear until he can realize that he’s in no scary situation whatsoever and that the fear is irrational.
* Cognitive behavioral therapy; where the individual confront his fear and change his negative thoughts. It also helps him differentiate reality from non-reality.
* Drug therapy and medication; tranquillizers, anti-depressants, anti-anxiety pills can be administered on a short term basis to sensitized phobics because of side effects such as withdrawal and sluggishness. This drugs should only be used by the prescription of an expert psychologist.

In conclusion, the severity of claustrophobia can never be understood by non-phobics and hence, love and care should be given to the sufferers. However, with proper treatment and motivation, you can conquer the fear of enclosed and small spaces.

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