Managing the Challenges of Claustrophobia

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Claustrophobia is a life-altering condition. It is the fear of enclosed spaces that makes people feel trapped. What happens next vary depending on the severity of your phobia, but some people even go so far as being unable to breathe when they are, for example, stuck in an elevator. This kind of anxiety is common in people in varying degrees, though it is also a treatable condition. There are many treatment programs and exercises one can do to work through these challenges.

Being claustrophobic is different from being annoyed when you are in a tight and enclosed space. Claustrophobia causes irrational fear in people. That fear is so much more than the “danger” posed. How do you know you have a phobia? You are avoiding triggering situations, so much so that it affects your normal everyday life. For example, even though you work on the fifth floor of a building, you’d rather take the stairs (even when you’re running late) than the elevator.

Affects Normal Activities

While claustrophobia is treatable and manageable, it does affect your normal everyday activities. Going up and down a high-rise building is a problem because you have to ride an elevator. You can’t dine in a crowded restaurant on Friday night because it will be so uncomfortable for you. Train and plane rides are anxiety-inducing, too, as well as driving through tunnels and using revolving doors.

But probably the most problematic would be when you need to have an MRI or CT scan. The only upside now is that there’s an open MRI machine for people who have severe claustrophobia. And yes, it’s as effective as the enclosed MRI.

Managing Claustrophobia

Many people with claustrophobia will choose to avoid situations that might trigger it. This is not an effective long-term solution because you cannot keep avoiding situations and places. You need to learn how to deal with and live with the phobia without letting it affect every aspect of your life.

Breathe Slowly and Count

Meditation will do you good. You will learn how important taking deep breaths is and how to focus your energy on your breathing and not on what’s happening around you. When you take deep breaths, count one to three with each breath. Slowly release the air and do it until you feel calm.

woman in the elevator

Focus on Something Safe

When you ride an elevator, focus on something safe such as the screen that shows the floor number or even your watch. Count the seconds on your watch. You won’t even notice that it took your mind off being in a crowded space. You may even wear headphones and play soft and soothing music as the elevator goes up or down.

Repeat a Mantra in Your Head

Keep a mantra with you at all times. Repeat this mantra when you find yourself stuck in a situation or place that will trigger your phobia. What kind of mantra is effective? “I am safe, and I should not be afraid.” Repeating this or any variation of this will help you calm down. Remind yourself that your fear and anxiety will pass and that these feelings should not define you.

Challenge the Trigger

Challenge what’s triggering your claustrophobia by repeatedly doing it. If you managed to ride a one-hour plane ride without any incident, then work from there. Ride a train that will go through a tunnel. Take the elevator instead of the stairs. Do it incrementally, so you are not also forcing yourself to get over these fears. Repeat to yourself that these fears are irrational and that they shouldn’t stop you from enjoying your life and everything it has to offer.

Visualize a Place or Moment That Calms You

Whenever you get stuck in a situation that triggers your phobia, visualize a place or moment that brings you calm. Whether it’s the sound of the ocean or a childhood memory, focus on that in your mind. You need not resist the attack once it is there. Try to stay calm and focus on what you need to do to get over it. Slowly, you will feel the fear ebb away, and calmness will wash over you. Whenever you find a place that brings you calm, hold on to it in your memory and use that when you find yourself in unpleasant situations.

Suffering from any phobia is unpleasant. It affects your routine, as well as the things that you can normally do. If managing your phobia on your own doesn’t work, remember that there are professionals who can help you deal with it. Do not be afraid to seek help. This can be addressed only if you face it.

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