Claustrophobia

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.

  • Causes

    The cause of claustrophobia is not well known, but it is likely a combination of genetic factors and a person's environment..

  • 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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  • Diagnosis

    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is based on your history of persistent or excessive fear that may:

    • Be triggered by anticipating an event or situation
    • Cause panic attacts associated with the fear-causing situation
    • Interfere with normal daily activities
    • That is not explained by another disorder

  • Prevention

    There are no current guidelines to prevent claustrophobia.

  • Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of developing a claustrophobic anxiety attack include:

    • Family history
    • History of anxiety or nervousness when in an enclosed room or space
    • Repeated avoidance of situations that have brought on a previous anxiety attack

  • Symptoms

    Claustrophobia usually develops early in life during childhood or the teenage years. Claustrophobia may bring on feelings similar to a
    panic attack, which may cause:

    • 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: