Understand claustrophobia: when close to fear

Understand fear

Claustrophobia: When narrowness becomes fear

People under one claustrophobia suffer, can not or can hardly bear to be in closed, confined or crowded spaces. Whether by plane, bus, subway, cinema, department store or elevator – claustrophobic fears can occur in many situations, and sometimes all of a sudden.

They are widespread in everyday life. It is believed that about five to eight percent of the population is using claustrophobic anxiety different forms of expression, with twice the number of women affected. But the good news is that sufferers can fight claustrophobia well with the right therapy!

Claustrophobia: definition and demarcation

Claustrophobia (English: Claustrophobia) belongs to the so-called specific (isolated) phobias, by which neither reasonable nor within a normal level fears are to be understood, which are caused by certain triggers. Etymologically, the term is composed of the Latin word “claustrum”, which can be translated as “lock, lock, bar”, as well as from the Greek word for fear – “phobos”.

By definition, claustrophobia is a fear of closed spaces and narrowness or a fear of being locked up.

Claustrophobic fears may occur as part of a so-called agoraphobia (from the Greek “agora”, the marketplace) occur. Affected persons fear that they will not be able to escape in certain situations or in certain places if they have one claustrophobic panic attack or that they do not get help in such a case. These phobias usually occur in larger, public places, on trips or in a large crowd. However, they can also affect tight spaces, which is why claustrophobia could also fall into the clinical picture of agoraphobia.

Nevertheless, the term of claustrophobia (Claustrophobia) necessarily of the commonly used in the vernacular synonym designation of agoraphobia delineate. For according to scientific (he) definition applies in contrast to the general colloquial language: who is under claustrophobia >in front of wide squares. Claustrophobic people, on the other hand, are fomented by staying in confined, confined spaces claustrophobia is more appropriate. The claustrophobia represents the exact opposite of claustrophobia – only that is not used in everyday life rather so linguistically.

Claustrophobia | Claustrophobia is a common phenomenon. But how to fight, how to treat, how to overcome? (© marcinmaslowski / Fotolia)

Trigger of claustrophobic panic attacks

A claustrophobic panic attack can have different triggers depending on the severity of the phobia and the cause of the anxiety disorder. While some sufferers are “only” afraid in an elevator, others can not bear to stay in any enclosed or confined space.

Sick people can suddenly develop claustrophobia or general anxiety in a variety of situations, especially when staying in:

  • Plane, bus, train, metro or tram
  • closed, confined spaces
  • Premises with a big crowd
  • Cinema hall, opera or theater
  • lifts
  • changing rooms
  • cars
  • public toilets

For many a claustrophobic, certain medical examinations are like a nightmare. So there is nothing worse for many than to get into the “tube”. This refers to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in which patients usually have to remain in the narrow tomograph for several minutes. People with claustrophobic fears often can not get through the MRI. For these, however, there is the option of having the MRI scan performed with a sedative (see also tranquilizers vs. herbal remedies). In addition, many medical practices are now also equipped with such magnetic resonance tomographs, which are open at the side and thus not restrict the patients too much.

MRI claustrophobia | The idea for a medical examination in some kind of “scanner” / “tube” or similar. to have is hell for many claustrophobic people. Accordingly, the first symptoms of panic already appear at the thought of terms such as CT, MRI and the like. on (© emirko / Fotolia)

Claustrophobic fears: These are the symptoms

Just as diverse as the triggers are the symptoms of claustrophobic anxiety. In addition to a mental discomfort and anxiety or panic thoughts often occur also very strong physical reactions. These include, for example:

  • Palpitations, tachycardia
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Tremble
  • sweats
  • nausea
  • difficulty in breathing
  • feeling faint
  • Urinary and stool urge

Claustrophobic people are always afraid of losing control in certain situations. They think they are suffocating, dying, going crazy or passing out. And that’s why those affected want only one thing: escape the situation as quickly as possible.

The claustrophobia symptoms, however, can also occur just outside the actual sticky situation. Frequently, those affected only have to remember to drive for example with the elevator or see a picture of a narrow room and they are already in a panic.

Four women in a tight elevator – claustrophobic anxiety? (© eyeQ / Fotolia)

As with all phobias, it is typical of claustrophobia that sufferers show avoidance behavior (see Avoidance Behavior Definition). For fear of a certain circumstance, the claustrophobic man avoids it. So he no longer takes a bus or a train out of fear of the narrowness or he pushes the MRI examination further and further, because he fears the stay in the device. Over time, this avoidance behavior can adjust to more and more situations, so that the everyday life of those affected can sometimes be drastically reduced.

Possible claustrophobia causes

As a rule, there is no sole reason for a claustrophobic anxiety disorder. Rather, several claustrophobia causes come together, with the most important being:

    Genetic disposition: Some researchers assume that only such people develop phobias, such as claustrophobia or claustrophobia, if they are particularly vulnerable. Consequently, an indiv >Claustrophobia, claustrophobia | The symptoms are relatively clear or very similar for all those affected, but the exact causes remain largely unclear even today. Therapy / treatment is correspondingly challenging. (© Tatyana / Fotolia)

Diagnosis: This is how the doctor diagnoses “Claustrophobia”

First, the doctor must secure his diagnosis in the case of suspicion of space anxiety / “claustrophobia”. He asks the patient about his

  • Complaints (symptoms),
  • when they occur and
  • if the states of anxiety to very specific objects or situations are bound. In addition, it is important for the attending physician to learn,
  • how long the symptoms last and
  • how strong these are.

With this information it is possible for the expert to find out whether the patient is suffering from a “real” (pathological) claustrophobia or is not yet causing another illness, such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia.

Since symptoms such as palpitations, sweats and tremors, which are typical for an anxiety disorder, can also occur with different physical illnesses, the patient must also be examined physically. Only then can the doctor rule out that organic causes, such as hyperthyroidism, underlying the complaints. As a rule, therefore, various laboratory values ​​are determined and an ECG is created.

Claustrophobia treatment and prognosis

As threatening as the inexplicable and intangible states of anxiety may be with claustrophobia and claustrophobia, the good news is that these anxiety disorders can be treated and overcome well. The sooner the therapy begins, the better the chance of being able to completely combat the diseases. After all, the chances of recovery are up to 80 percent. For claustrophobia treatment there are several possibilities:

  • Medication: Especially at the beginning of a therapy certain medications can relieve the patient. For example, some antidepressants suppress fears. However, drug treatment should only be a temporary measure. Because drugs can not solve the basic problem permanently and thus cause no cure (see also: drug treatment of anxiety disorders).
  • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy: In this therapeutic approach, the affected patient finds out in conversation with a psychotherapist, which experiences and fears of the past could be responsible for his phobia. He can then work these up with the help of his therapist, which in the best case, the signs of claustrophobia or claustrophobia disappear.
  • Behavioral therapy: Controlled by the therapist, the claustrophobic person is confronted bit by bit with the anxiety-provoking situations. The goal of the therapy is that the person concerned learns that he does not have to suffocate or die when, for example, he enters an elevator. Each time, the fear diminishes, and so long, until at some point the reason wins.
  • Hypnosis: A popular and commonly used treatment for claustrophobia is hypnosis, which brings to light the causes of anxiety disorder. The only problem is that not everyone can engage in hypnosis (see also our article on anxiety & Hypnosis). In addition, the therapist should always give the go-ahead for this measure.
  • Homeopathy and Schüssler salts: Claustrophobic fears can be – so at least some people believe – also overcome with the help of homeopathy, the selection of homeopathic remedies (including Natrum muriaticum, Aconitum and Arnica) should necessarily be made by a reputable homeopath. Certain Schuessler salts, such as potassium sulfuricum D6, potassium phosphoricum D6 or magnesium phosphoricum D6 can also have a supporting effect. Concerning Schüssler salts, affected persons should also be advised by naturopaths; here also a comprehensive eBook about Schüssler salts).
  • Treat anxiety self: Depending on the severity of the phobia and the strength of those affected, claustrophobic people can treat their own fear. For example, it often helps to consciously expose oneself to fears and to talk about it with other people. In this way, they manage to overcome the claustrophobia and they can get rid of them permanently.

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Christina Cherry
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