Very few of us enjoy being trapped in a crowded lift or a narrow tunnel. However, for those who have claustrophobia, situations like that can be utterly debilitating. Claustrophobia is defined as an extreme or irrational fear of confined spaces. It causes a range of challenging and unpleasant symptoms in those who experience it and can also impact their ability to carry out daily activities such as getting on the subway or using public toilets. If claustrophobia is something that you struggle with, hopefully, this post will help you to understand better both the symptoms and how to cope with them.
What are the symptoms of claustrophobia?
The symptoms of claustrophobia vary from person to person, with some people experiencing much more severe ones than others. Reactions can range from mild anxiety to full panic attacks depending on the person and the situation. For some people, even thinking about being in a small or enclosed space can induce these reactions. Some of the most common physical sensations the condition can produce include:
- shaking or trembling
- increased heart rate
- feeling faint or lightheaded
- tightness in the chest or chest pain
- hot flushes or chills
- a dry mouth
- disorientation or confusion
- a choking feeling
- ringing in the ears
- shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- a sensation that the walls are closing in
- a desperate urge to escape
How can I manage these symptoms?
A common response people have to claustrophobia is simply to avoid putting themselves into a situation that triggers their symptoms. However, this is generally not a viable solution in the long term because often these circumstances are unavoidable in normal life, and avoidance can also make the fear worse. For example, a common trigger is having an MRI scan, but refusing these could have serious medical consequences. Luckily the staff at quality clinics such as Express MRI can help to put your mind at ease or administer a sedative to make the procedure easier.
One method you can try is systematic desensitization, where you gradually expose yourself to situations that trigger your claustrophobia in a safe and supportive environment with the aim of making them less frightening. This can be done by yourself or with the help of a professional. Other effective treatments are cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and rational emotive behavioral therapy (REBT). These involve focusing on your thoughts and emotions to try and change unrealistic and unreasonable ones into healthy ones. It’s best to work with a trained psychologist or counselor who can guide you through the process and ensure that you get the most out of it.
Some tactics that you can use while in the grip of a panic attack include taking slow deep breaths, reminding yourself that your fear is irrational and will pass, focusing on something else, and visualizing a place or person that makes you feel relaxed. If you feel it necessary, your physician might be able to prescribe anti-anxiety medication as a short-term solution; however, ideally, you don’t want to have to rely on pharmaceutical intervention in the long run.