Claustrophobia – How to Overcome the Fear of Closed Space?


People who avoid using the elevator, always leave the doors and windows open and try to stay as close as possible to the exit, do all this, obeying obsessive fear. They experience fear of being in narrow or enclosed spaces and don’t wear clothes with a tight collar. Such people suffer from claustrophobia – a psychopathological disorder characterized by fear of closed space. Most claustrophobic people are afraid when they are indoors or in crowded places, but there are cases when people suffering from this disorder begin to panic in the Barber’s chair or during dental procedures. Even in a large, bright room claustrophobia can overtake anxiety, turning into a real panic attack, if anything limits a person’s movement. The causes of claustrophobia can be different, and sometimes a person has no idea what was the impetus for the development of the disease.

Psycho-traumatic Experience as the Cause of Claustrophobia

The most common cause of the phobia of cramped spaces is a trauma experienced in childhood. Over time, the details of the traumatic situation can completely be erased from the memory, but they continue to affect the person from the depths of the subconscious. You can fully understand the unreasonableness or illogicality of your actions, but, at the same time, you are unable to act in a different way. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud argued that unconscious experiences give attitudes to a person and encourage him/her to act in a certain way.  Everything that has shocked the imagination of a child affects its future life. Often parents put a child in a corner or lock him/her alone in the room by way of a punishment, thereby limiting the child’s movement. A frightened child feels defenseless. In the future, the consciousness will always connect closed spaces with fear and anxiety. In addition, any terrible event that occurred in the room (e.g., fire), can lead to the attitude that being in a confined space can be life-threatening and cause phobia. Psychological causes of the disorder may also be:

  • fear of being in closed spacesswimming in the pool (river, lake) when inability to swim;
  • a long stay in the elevator when it breaks;
  • forced long stay in the bus or car with a strong feeling of discomfort;
  • children’s games, during which the child can get stuck somewhere (for example, in the fence).

Psychological claustrophobia can develop both in children and the adults. A psycho-traumatic situation can cause a phobia for a person of any age. Fear of being in enclosed spaces can manifest itself in people who one have been buried under the rubble of buildings or were in captivity for a long time. Miners who find themselves under the rubble, persons who have served their sentences in correctional institutions, may subsequently begin to suffer from claustrophobia.

Other Reasons why Obsessive Fear Can Develop

Some theories consider the fear of closed space as an instinctive manifestation. They argue that the fear – reaction is innate and not evoked in nature. The knowledge that in the open space there is more chance of survival than in the room is inherent in a person at the genetic level and can manifest itself instinctively. Supporters of this point of view believe that every person is to some extent prone to the development of pathological syndrome, and the manifestation of unhealthy reactions is the result of a certain combination of circumstances and characteristics of the psyche.

Claustrophobia can also develop against the background of a neurotic disorder or after severe diseases that caused depletion of the body. Phobias can also develop after suffering the cramped space panic attacks (for example, when Vegetovascular dystonia). According to some reports, the fear of being in closed spaces is the result of organic brain disease. There is an opinion that children can inherit this disorder from their parents. According to the results of studies 10% of people with claustrophobia have one of the parents suffering from the same phobia. In addition, the fear of cramped spaces can be transmitted to children at the level of behavior. Trying to be like parents in everything, the child first thoughtlessly copies their behavior, and then begins to experience real fears.

Manifestations of Phobia and Methods of Treatment

Manifestations of claustrophobia can be divided into physiological and psychological ones. The first include:

  • fear of narrow spacerapid heartbeat;
  • feeling of compression in the chest area;
  • shortness of breath, dry mouth;
  • fit of coughing;
  • heat in the face and neck;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • urge to urinate or defecate;
  • numbness, cold limbs.

Psychological manifestations of claustrophobia are the strongest strong anxiety and fear. If the disease is not treated, it can worsen and become chronic. There are several ways to solve the problem:

  1. fear of closed space in oldDrugs. Such treatment is aimed at coping with the symptoms of anxiety and helps only for a while. Drugs can not eliminate the cause of the problem, and after the course of taking the pills ends, the fear comes back.
  2. Relaxation. This method can help to cope with claustrophobia, if the degree of its severity is not too high. Relaxing methods include breathing exercises, meditation techniques, neuromuscular relaxation.
  3. Psychotherapy. The effectiveness of psychological therapy will be high enough if you contact a specialist who has the necessary level of qualification. The main psychotherapeutic methods of treatment of fear of enclosed space include cognitive-behavioral therapy, Gestalt therapy, psychoanalysis and strategic psychotherapy.

The first attack of claustrophobia remains in a person’s memory for a long time. In the future, people are afraid to experience such feelings again and avoid “threatening” places. Fear in a person is caused not by the premises themselves, but by what can happen to him in these “dangerous” rooms. Only a competent psychotherapist will help the patient to understand the causes of anxiety disorders and get rid of them.


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