Fear of Enclosed Spaces

Fear of enclosed spaces, or claustrophobia, is an intense or irrational fear of small spaces or the possibility of having no escape from an enclosed space.

People suffering from this type of phobia will go to extreme lengths to avoid situations involving small rooms, spaces, or elevators. This avoidance will frequently impact on the person's professional and personal life by avoiding taking elevators, going into a basement or small office, and sometimes even medical procedures such as MRI or CT scans.

EFFECTIVE TREATMENT IS AVAILABLE

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can help us re-engage with these situations and teach us specific skills and strategies to cope with the anxiety. This approach allows us to face our fears in a safe, gradual way.

Asking for help is the first step.
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Tips for overcoming claustrophobia

Here are some quick tips you can use to overcome your fear of enclosed spaces:

 

  • Learn how to manage anxiety. Skills like controlled breathing and progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) are powerful tools to combat anxiety. 
  • Stop avoiding situations. When we avoid or leave situations that cause us anxiety, we reinforce the anxiety response. Try to stay in the situation until the anxiety subsides. It might feel like it would take forever, but often only takes 10-20 minutes.
  • Stop using safety behaviours to cope. Safety behaviours are things we do to try and cope in the short term, but keep us from learning that we can manage anxiety in the long term. Safety behaviours can include drinking alcohol to relax the anxiety, having another person do things for us like hanging up the washing, or needing to check under everything before we go to bed.
  • Make an exposure hierarchy. Seek out situations that cause you a mild amount of anxiety (e.g. a 10 or 20 on a scale of 0-100, where 100 is the scariest situation imaginable). Stay in this mildly uncomfortable situation until the anxiety subsides.