Fear of Confined Spaces

Fear of Confined Spaces

Having a fear of enclosed spaces is called claustrophobia.

Claustrophobia can cause people to avoid confined spaces, such as lifts, tunnels, tube trains, and public restrooms. This avoidance may further exacerbate the condition.

Claustrophobia can originate from a one-time trauma of any age, developed when the person was a child (for example, growing up with one or more claustrophobic parents) or developed with age. Approximately 10% of the population may experience claustrophobia in their lifetime.

symptoms can include:

  • An uncontrollable urge to urinate
  • Chest pain
  • Chills or feeling hot
  • Choking feeling
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Feeling like the walls are closing in
  • Headache
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Ringing in your ears
  • Sweating
  • Shaking

Impact of Claustrophobia

Being claustrophobic can severely limit your life, causing you to miss out on things you would otherwise enjoy and even place undue stress on your health. For example, claustrophobia can be a challenge when it comes to travel.

  • Flying gets the trip over with quickly but forces you to confine yourself to a small seat surrounded by strangers.
  • Train travel provides large comfortable seats and allows you to walk around, but takes a long time, perhaps leaving you feeling trapped.
  • Driving can feel confining but gives you the ability to stop for stretch breaks whenever you like.

Coping with Claustraphobia

Although avoiding enclosed spaces is one way to avoid experiencing symptoms of fear and panic, avoiding coping often makes fear and anxiety worse. When you encounter a situation that triggers claustrophobia, it may be helpful to find ways to reduce panic and fear. You can try:

  • Taking mindful deep breathes
  • Imagining a peaceful place
  • Using distraction to keep your mind off the fear
  • Reminding yourself that you are safe
  • Practicing meditation to help calm your mind and body

Some people find relief through hypnosis and other alternative forms of treatment. Others find that self-help methods such as visualisation an help them through claustrophobia attacks. If you decide to try alternative methods of treatment, be sure to get the approval of your mental health professional.

If you struggle with claustrophobia whilst traveling – please visit the fear of flying / driving tool on the Fears and Phobias category.

Do you avoid certain situations because you fear you will be trapped?

Do you think therapy could help?

What self-help methods could you implement today to help you through your fear?


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