Claustrophobia: Closed and dark spaces

Claustrophobia is a disorder that is related to the fear of staying in closed spaces (especially if they are small and have no light) and, above all, to the terrifying consequences that the individual senses when they are in this type of situation.

What is Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia is classified within the generic category of  anxiety disorders , reaching the consideration of specific phobia and, in particular, of a situational type.

People with  agoraphobia  also fear being locked in place.

The spaces in which it occurs are closed in the style of an elevator, a room, a car or a railroad car, in which the individual anticipates a negative consequence or a notable physical discomfort.

It goes without saying that each subject affected by this fear experiences it in their own way.

While some manifest fear when facing specific places, in others fear is much more generalized, and may show anticipatory anxiety, or what is the same,  prior to exposure .

What are the causes of fear of closed spaces

In almost all cases, claustrophobia manifests itself because  the human psyche recalls a traumatic event  with the same characteristics.

In this sense, it should be noted that, although until some time ago it was believed that such negative experiences were only relevant if they originated in childhood, studies in this regard have shown that this is not the case and that, therefore, the trigger for the disorder is liable to occur in any phase of the road cycle.

However, it is also perfectly feasible to suffer from this phobia without previous negative experiences, simply  due to imitation  or vicarious learning, due to certain physiological characteristics in relation to the amygdala or due to genetic predisposition.

What symptoms does this disorder present?

In the same way that happens in other phobias or disorders, the claustrophobic will experience a feeling of  anguish, sweating, overwhelm, tachycardia or respiratory distress , among other symptoms that will disappear as soon as they leave the dreaded situation.

Likewise, thoughts of an anticipatory and negative nature about what may happen in the confined space in question flow rapidly and the claustophobic does not assess the situation realistically.

Despite being one of the best known phobias and being limiting, many of the people who suffer from it tend to minimize its harmful consequences by avoiding those places where they know that the negative symptoms will be activated.

In addition, if they have no other option than exposure to the feared places, they will try to do it accompanied or looking for the position they consider safest, such as standing next to a window or door, although this gesture may not decrease your considerable feeling of discomfort.

How claustrophobic behavior interferes in the life of the sufferer

Estimates indicate that this phobia can affect one in 20-30 people, to varying degrees. Although we have already mentioned that it can make an appearance at any time in life, the truth is that the average age of onset is around 20 years.

The low percentage of patients who request professional help, simply avoiding closed places, often produces  an effect of generating new phobic situations  that interfere even more in their social life.

Thus, some individuals are unable to go to the movies or discos and even to go to their own workplaces when the performance of the jobs implies having to travel or stay in closed or dark spaces.

Imagine the case that a job promotion depends on a plane trip in which the subject feels that he is short of breath or that his heart is shooting.

Another case could be that the health of a person depends on a medical test such as an MRI or a CT scan that requires staying still for a few minutes inside a machine whose mere vision produces sweat in the claustrophobic.

Nothing in particular would have to make the subject choose not to face either of the two situations, with the consequent negative consequences associated with such a decision.

How to cope with the phobia

From  cognitive behavioral therapy it  is possible to carry out a broad evaluation in which those factors that initiate and maintain the claustrophobic problem will be studied in order, later, to begin  a treatment designed for the patient to remain in places that cause fear , in a calm and quiet way. without causing any conflict.

In view of this, the patient will undergo  one  training in various skills  that allow exposure to the feared situation in a positive way, teaching the same time the detection techniques of their limiting thoughts and negative, and the processing in other more adaptive that allow exposure to the dreaded places.

Breathing training and relaxation techniques  will empower you to face situations calmly and serenely, avoiding the intensification of negative symptoms.

Once the person is prepared and with the tools and skills required for exposure to the situations that cause this phobia,  a ranking of the situations  in which the problem appears will be made.

From there, she will be gradually exposed to her fear, being able to tolerate the anxiety that it entails for her and allowing it to diminish over time.

The purpose of the treatment is for the patient to get used to what he fears  and to verify that the interpretation, both of the situation and of the threats perceived prior to exposure to it, does not correspond to reality.

It should be remembered that the exposure can be carried out in the imagination or live and that before it is carried out, practice and training of the skills that facilitate the patient to maintain the feared situation as calm as possible is required.

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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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