What is claustrophobia and how to deal with it
People of all ages can suffer from claustrophobia, and there are many reasons for this – from stress experienced in childhood to a genetic predisposition. Sometimes claustrophobia can go away on its own. However, it becomes a serious problem when fear interferes with daily activities. In this case, you can not do without the help of a specialist.
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What is claustrophobia
The word claustrophobia comes from the Latin claustrum, meaning “enclosed place,” and the Greek phobos, “fear.”
Claustrophobia is the fear of enclosed spaces. In the International Classification of Diseases, it belongs to the group of specific (isolated) phobias. The only or predominant symptom of such disorders is the fear of certain situations that do not pose a danger . In the case of claustrophobia, not only does the person avoid or fear enclosed spaces, but even anticipating or thinking about them can cause anxiety.
It is believed that about 12% of the world’s population has this fear, and most of them are women . Claustrophobia can accompany a person throughout life or occur in episodes of varying duration. According to studies, anxiety disorder occurs in one in 10 people under the age of 16 .
Any enclosed space can trigger fear, but the most common places are:
- subway train;
- locker rooms, small showers;
- MRI machine, pressure chamber, etc.
Some claustrophobic people experience mild anxiety when in this situation, while others experience a panic attack lasting up to 30 minutes.
Symptoms of claustrophobia
Manifestations of claustrophobia are different for everyone, and the degree of fear is always assessed individually. There are quite a lot of symptoms, all of them can be divided into two groups .
Physical symptoms of claustrophobia:
- labored breathing;
- dry mouth;
- chest pain.
Emotional symptoms of claustrophobia:
- feeling of overwhelming anxiety or fear;
- fear of losing control;
- feeling an urgent need to get out of the situation;
- understanding fear as irrational, but inability to overcome it.
Causes of claustrophobia
“All mental disorders consist of symptoms, the totality of which determines the syndrome, and then the diagnosis follows,” explains Maria Svininnikova , psychiatrist, psychotherapist at GMS Clinic. Claustrophobia is a symptom expressed in the fear of enclosed spaces, and it is extremely rare in isolation.
Claustrophobia can be caused by unpleasant experiences or stressful situations, such as turbulence during a flight or getting stuck in a tunnel between stations. Another risk factor is psychological trauma experienced in childhood.
“For example, parents often punished the child by leaving him in a dark room, or he accidentally closed himself in a closet and could not open it. But even in this case, claustrophobia will go in combination with something else, ” Maria Svininnikova gives an example .