Munson Health
 
Claustrophobia

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by McCarthy AA
 

Definition

Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by irrational fear of enclosed or small spaces. People with claustrophobia often describe it as feeling trapped without an exit or way out. Claustrophobia involves emotional and physical reactions to triggering situations. The fear of claustrophobia may be intense, but treatment can help manage or overcome it.
Common Physical Reaction to Triggering Situations
Physical reaction anxiety
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Symptoms

  • Sweating
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Trembling
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Nausea
  • Feelings of dread, terror, panic
Other symptoms of claustrophobia may include:
  • Automatically and compulsively looking for exits when in a room or feeling fearful if doors are shut
  • Avoiding elevators, riding in subways or airplanes, or cars in heavy traffic
  • Standing near exits in crowded social situations
 

Treatment

Claustrophobia can disappear in adulthood. If it does not, treatment is usually necessary to overcome the fear. Talk with your doctor or mental health provider about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:

Medication

Your doctor may prescribe medications to control the panic and physical symptoms of claustrophobia. These include antidepressants and antianxiety drugs. They will not cure the condition but are often helpful when used with psychotherapy.
 

RESOURCES

Anxiety and Depression Association of America
http://www.adaa.org

American Psychiatric Association
http://www.healthyminds.org

 

CANADIAN RESOURCES

Canadian Mental Health Association
http://www.cmha.ca

Canadian Psychiatric Association
http://www.cpa-apc.org

 

References


Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Accessed July 22, 2013.


Specific phobia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed/what.php. Updated March 13, 2013. Accessed July 22, 2013.


Treatment. Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Available at: http://www.adaa.org/finding-help/treatment. Accessed July 22, 2013.

 

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