What is really a phobia?
A phobia is a form of anxiety disorder in which someone has an intense and irrational fear of certain objects or situations. Anyone that suffers from high levels of anxiety is at risk of developing a phobia. Claustrophobia or the fear of enclosed spaces is one of the most common phobias.
A person who has claustrophobia may feel panic inside an elevator, aeroplane, crowded room or another closed area. People who suffer from claustrophobia feel that they cannot breathe because of the tight space.
The cause of anxiety disorders such as phobias is actually a combination of genetic vulnerability and life experience. However, with appropriate treatment, people usually overcome claustrophobia and other phobias.
What are the symptoms of an anxiety attack?
When a person that suffers from claustrophobia feels trapped in a closed space, they might feel anxiety attacks. In addition, these are the symptoms of anxiety attacks:
- accelerated heart rate
- hyperventilation, or ‘over-breathing’
- nausea (feeling sick)
- fear of actual harm or illness.
The previous are symptoms of all types of anxiety attacks. In addition, we also give you specific symptoms of claustrophobia. When they are in a tightly closed area, the signs of claustrophobia may include:
- When you are inside a room. You automatically check for the exits, stand near the exits or feel alarmed when all doors are closed
- When you are inside a vehicle. You avoid travelling when traffic is heavy
- When you are inside a building. You prefer to take the stairs rather than the lift
- When you are at a party. You stand near the door in a crowded room, even if the room is large
- And in extreme cases. For a person with severe claustrophobia, a closed-door will trigger feelings of panic
How to treat claustrophobia?
Treating phobias, including claustrophobia, relies on psychological methods. Which methods will experts use, depends on the person. Some of the most common methods are:
Flooding. this is a form of exposure treatment, where they expose the person to experiencing their phobic trigger until the anxiety attack passes. When they realize that they experienced their biggest fear and nothing happened, can be a powerful form of therapy.
Counter-conditioning. if the person is far too fearful to attempt flooding, then counter-conditioning can be an option. The expert teaches the person to use specific relaxation and visualisation techniques when experiencing phobia-related anxiety. This slowly eases the way into the phobic trigger. And, the person concentrates on attaining physical and mental relaxation. Eventually, they can confront the source of their fear without feeling anxious.
Modelling. The person watches other people confront the phobic trigger without fear. This encourages the person to face any challenge themselves.
How long should the treatment last?
Depending on the severity of the person, experts may treat them as an outpatient or, sometimes, as an inpatient. Generally, treatment consists of around eight to 10 weeks of bi-weekly sessions.