Psychology and Psychiatry


Claustrophobia - This is a pathological symptom, meaning a phobia of confined spaces and the fear of cramped spaces, such as an elevator, small rooms, showers, tanning salons and others. In addition, limited places with large crowds, such as claustrophobia in an airplane, can also cause fear. This type of phobias along with the fear of heights are considered the most common pathological fears.

A person suffering from this disease is afraid that he may become ill, which is why he always seeks to occupy a place closer to the exit. Claustrophobia is also manifested by bouts of uncontrollable unconscious panic. It accompanies the neuroses of different etiologies.

Claustrophobia causes

To date, scientists have not been able to identify a single list of causes leading to the development of this fear. The only thing that is known for certain is that the fear of confined spaces and tight spaces accompanies serious internal conflicts. Quite often, the disease occurs as a consequence of a previously suffered mental trauma, for example, a fire in the theater.

Many experts are inclined to believe this point of view, which is based on the claustrophobic origin of the childhood sense of danger that children have experienced in infancy. Basically, the tendency to claustrophobia and agoraphobia is transmitted genetically and is conditioned by upbringing in the family. In addition, scientists have deduced the following pattern. Subjects who are afraid of stability and strive for discoveries and changes most often suffer from claustrophobia, and subjects who are afraid of everything new, any changes, innovations - are agoraphobic. After all, the difference between claustrophobia and agoraphobia lies in the fact that people suffering from phobia in confined spaces have a more developed instinct for discoveries, and subjects suffering from agoraphobia have a territorial instinct, an instinct for protecting their own territories and stability in life.

Claustrophobia usually scares any restriction of freedom. It is worth noting that all people eager for change, but who are afraid of stability, have signs of claustrophobia.

The subject of claustrophobic phobias often becomes preoccupation with objects that pose a direct threat to the survival of the individual. Claustrophobia is not innate, but the fears of confined spaces are easily assimilated, in particular with regard to things that directly endanger health, survival and personal security. For example, if the mother of a child suffers from claustrophobia (she is afraid of elevators), then she will most likely pass on this fear to her child. Since she will constantly say that the elevator is dangerous, that it is better to walk, and when the child is with her mother, he will always have to go up with her on foot. As a result, the baby will not be able to find out for himself how dangerous the elevator is.

According to many psychologists, the past experience is the trigger for claustrophobia - the strongest feeling of fear, transferred, as a rule, by a child in a confined space. This may be a basement, storage room, in which the child was locked in childhood in the form of penalties. Or a closet in which the kid was playing hide-and-seek and was accidentally locked in it. It can also be caused by a fall into the pool if the child does not know how to swim, the loss of parents in a large gathering of people, a fall into the pit and the inability to get out on their own for a long time.

The statistics asserts that the chances of claustrophobia in children increase due to difficult childbirth, if the child gets stuck while passing through the birth canal. Since this situation affects the subconscious of the infant. Also among the common causes are brain injuries and various diseases.

There is a theory that claustrophobia can be caused by a reduced amygdala (the part of the brain that controls the response of the human body during periods of fear).

Based on the many studies conducted, it can be concluded that absolutely all phobias are present in the body of a living person, but are in a state of rest. They are called evolutionary survival mechanisms. Previously, survival instincts were essential to humans. Today, this property remains in the genetic memory and does not develop due to the lack of need.

Claustrophobia symptoms

Psychologists believe that two main symptoms are fundamental: fear of suffocation (it seems that there is not enough air in the room) and a phobia of restriction of freedom.

An attack of claustrophobia is characterized by the appearance of symptoms such as:

- fear of lack of oxygen in a confined space;

- fear of illness or accidental harm;

- heart palpitations and shortness of breath;

- increase in blood pressure;

- the appearance of dizziness;

- increased sweating;

- the state resembles pre-unconscious, possible faint;

- feeling of insuperable danger;

- tremor;

- pain in the chest;

- nausea;

- Tickling sensation and dry mouth;

- the strongest cough;

- panic.

However, mostly claustrophobic patients are not frightened by the closed space itself, but by the fact that oxygen may end. This panic is usually caused by rooms that are not equipped with windows of small size. Such premises include: small rooms, locked spaces, basements, airplanes and other transport, elevators.

Anxiety and panic attacks can manifest themselves not only in confined spaces, but can also be triggered by the need to stay in one place for a long time (standing in line). With the passage of magnetic resonance therapy is also possible the occurrence of an attack of claustrophobia.

People prone to claustrophobia can unknowingly make any decisions and act in such a way as to avoid a frightening situation or panic by any means. For example, when entering a room, the subject will unconsciously search for a way out and stop next to it. When closed, these people are experiencing anxiety. Sick people do not get into their own car at rush hour, when heavy traffic and a large crowd of people to avoid being in traffic jams.

Often, an attack of claustrophobia can be accompanied by a panicked desire to take off all your clothes.

There are common signs of claustrophobia with other phobias, such as the occurrence of a pronounced reaction from the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. This reaction is characterized by profuse sweating, dryness in the mouth, heart rhythm disturbances in some cases, shortness of breath and weakness in the whole body. With the appearance of fear, the adrenal glands begin to produce a huge amount of adrenaline, which contributes to a sharp expansion of blood vessels, as a result of which patients are often prone to dizziness and collapse.

Claustrophobia treatment

Treatment generally has a positive outcome if it occurs in combination. This means that the treatment of claustrophobia should be used drug, psychological and psychotherapeutic effects. As a drug therapy, antidepressants are usually used. They are prescribed to relieve an attack of panic, which manifests itself in an acute form, with the aim of giving peace to the patient and the possibility of rest of his nervous system.

Many different methods are used for the treatment of claustrophobia, but the main ones are the introduction of the patient into a hypnotic trance, neuro-linguistic programming techniques (NLP), regular desensitization therapy and some logotherapy techniques.

Directly treatment occurs as follows. The psychotherapist introduces a claustrophobic patient into a state of hypnotic sleep, for maximum comfort and relaxation. Then the doctor tries to identify and eliminate the cause that caused the claustrophobia, and inspires the patient with information by means of which he completely and irrevocably forgets about his obsessive irrational fears, and his self-confidence and self-confidence is strengthened.

The method of systematic desensitization therapy is based on educating the patient in various ways that promote relaxation. Self-relaxation techniques are indispensable in case of sudden onset of acute claustrophobia.

Often for the treatment of claustrophobia special exercises are used, having the following names; "forcing", "flood" and "mismatch." Exercise is equally popular. For example, the most effective method of muscle relaxation according to the method of Jacobson has proven itself.

Increasingly common in the treatment of various phobias in recent years receives neuro-linguistic programming. It is based on the inclusion in the therapeutic practice of various speech turns, with the help of which the patient reprograms himself. However, at the beginning, the patient should realize the degree of his fear and try not to allow himself to be completely captured by panic states, which deprive the person of the ability to think and act reasonably. The psychologist must teach the patient how to get out of such states in such situations correctly and without harming the nervous system.

In those moments when a claustrophobic person feels an approach of attack and realizes that there is no way to avoid it, it is recommended to force yourself to relax as much as possible. It is for this purpose that psychologists and psychotherapists teach patients the proper relaxation techniques based on special breathing, in which air is inhaled through the nose and the entire emphasis is placed on how the air passes. In no case, and under no circumstances is it recommended to panic. It is simply forbidden. Do not look around, in order to find an unexpected escape or exit. The best option is to concentrate your gaze on a particular object, which is approximately at eye level and attentive to study it.

Subjects prone to bouts of claustrophobia should learn to manage and control their own behavior, the flow of their thoughts. An important role in this is given to the ability to think abstractedly, to create all sorts of images and fantasies. The most correct is to try to hold in your mind a pleasant image or a vivid picture that evoke exclusively positive emotions. If you try to follow all the recommendations listed above, then the claustrophobic attack passes fairly quickly, within a few minutes. And the state foreshadowing panic disappears without a trace. However, this does not mean that claustrophobia should not be treated. Therefore, before implementing any recommendations, you should first visit a specialist.

The main task of any psychologist is to teach a claustrophobic person to look his own fear in the eye. Immersion in a situation that causes uncontrollable fear should occur gently, so that the patient can relax and more calmly accept the situation that causes him irrational fear. A positive result is when a patient perceives a frightening situation calmly and naturally. The psychologist should try to help the person to relax as much as possible, since it depends on this whether the patient can be distracted from fear. Besides relaxing vivid images, memories of experienced funny moments or situations, listening to pleasant and quiet music also contribute to maximum relaxation. Such fear as claustrophobia in an airplane is successfully treated with the help of recreating a situation with a frightening aspect on a special simulator.