What is Claustrophobia?
Claustrophobia is a kind of anxiety disorder in which the patient feels an intense and irrational fear of some situation or for a particular object. People suffering from high level of anxiety generally have a huge risk of Claustrophobia. Generally, it is seen that people with Claustrophobia panic when they go inside an elevator or an airplane (1). They also remain uncomfortable in a small crowded room that does not have any window. Sometimes it is also found that these people also fear to wear tight-necked clothing.
Symptoms of Claustrophobia
Patient with Claustrophobia generally experience the following symptoms:
- Excessive fear in crowded, confined and small space
- Dry mouth
- Headache and numbness
- Chest pain
- High blood pressure
- High heart rate
- Tightness in chest
- Disorientation and high state of confusion
Causes of Claustrophobia
The main cause of Claustrophobia is still not known exactly. However, it is believed that Claustrophobia is mainly caused due to a panic attack that occurs due to the imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Apart from that, it may also be caused due to some bad childhood experiences. It is also seen that Claustrophobia occurs when a person is traumatized in a certain situation in which he or she falls on the trap.
How is Claustrophobia Diagnosed?
When it is needed to diagnose the condition of Claustrophobia, the psychologists or psychiatrists look at some behavior of the patient. Generally, the psychologist or psychiatrists check the severity of the symptoms in the patient. If they observe some certain behavior such as unreasonable and excessive fear of a particular situation, excessive fear of tight space, fear inside a vehicle, fear inside a building, fear in the crowded and closed room or when the person prefers to take the stairs instead of riding in the elevator then psychologist or psychiatrists determine that the person is suffering from Claustrophobia (1).
Treatment of Claustrophobia
The treatment of Claustrophobia actually depends on the severity of symptoms of the patient. The following are some common treatment that psychologist or psychiatrists adopt in treating the condition of Claustrophobia (1):
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- In this type of therapy the mind of the patient is retrained in such a way that he no longer feels the threat of anything that he used to. In this process, the patent is slowly exposed to the situation that he fears so that he can deal with his fear and anxiety. Facing the situation that causes the fear may help the patient to deter people from seeking the treatment.
- Drug Therapy- To treat Claustrophobia with drug therapy, doctors give the patient some antidepressants and other relaxants medication that helps the patient to manage the symptoms. However, this solution will not solve the underlying problems.
- Relaxation and Visualization Exercise- In this process, doctors ask the patient to take deep breathe, do meditation and perform some muscles relaxing exercises. This will help the claustrophobic patient to deal with all kind of negative thought and anxiety.
- Alternative or Complementary Medicine- In this process, some kind of supplement and natural products are given to the patient suffering from claustrophobia so that they can deal with the negative thought and anxiety.
- Observing Others- In this process, the claustrophobic patient should be exposed to the situation where he can see that other people are confronted with the phobic trigger without any fear. This will encourage the patient suffering from claustrophobia to do that activity that he fears and will slowly get confidence as he tries to imitate.
The condition of Claustrophobia can debilitate the person if proper treatment is not taken on time. So in case, you observe the symptoms of Claustrophobia in any of your near and dear ones it is very important that you take him or her to a psychologist or psychiatrists to check if he or she has Claustrophobia. In case Claustrophobia is detected, you should continue psychotherapy, exercise as well as medication. You can also go for some kind of behavioral technique. For example, if you observe that the patient is afraid of getting into the movie theater then you can accompany him to the theater frequently and should first sit in the back row and then you should gradually move to the middle row along with other moviegoers. This kind of cognitive behavioral therapy will help him in a great way to come out of the symptoms of Claustrophobia during this gradual desensitization.
- Paddock M, What’s to know about claustrophobia?, Medical News Today, 2017;