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Claustrophobia is the excessive, irrational, and unreasonable fear of being in small spaces with no escape or being closed-in. Exposure to the phobia, such as being in a crowded elevator, a room without windows, or sitting on an airplaine, triggers an anxiety response, often in the form of a panic attack. A panic attack consist of increased heart rate, increased breathing, sweating, and even screaming and violence as a reaction. Causes of claustrophobia can be past experiences, or possible genetic traits.

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The word claustrophobia originates from Latin claustrum which means "a shut in place" and Greek phobos, which means "fear". Research has shown that approximately 6% of people suffer the disorder worldwide, but the majority are not receiving treatment for it.

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The best way to overcome Claustrophobia is to gradually be exposed to the fear and eventually feel calm in the environment that once made the phobic anxious. A primary method of overcoming the fear is realizing it is nonsensical. Claustrophobia can be found under Axis I of the DSM IV with other mental anxiety disorders. It is characterized by these Points:
  • Persistent, unreasonable fear of an object/situation
  • Provokes an immediate anxiety response
  • Person recognizes that the fear is excessive
  • Interferes with normal routine


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People with claustrophobia can find the disorder hard to live with, as they will go to great lengths to avoid small spaces and situations that trigger their
panic and anxiety. They will avoid certain places like the subway/underground and will prefer to take the stairs over using a lift/elevator no matter how many
floors they need to ascend/descend.

•Rapid heart beat/increase in blood pressure
•Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
•Trembling or shaking
•Light-headedness or fainting
•Feelings of dread, terror, panic
•Looking for exits
•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

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The Claustrophobic Scale Method was developed in 1979, by interpreting the files of patients diagnosed with claustrophobia and by reading various scientific articles on the diagnosis of the disorder. At present, it consists of twenty questions designed to determine anxiety levels and desire to avoid certain situations. Many studies over the years have proven the scale effective. There are many theories floating around today but the exact cause of claustrophobia remains unknown. The fear of enclosed spaces is sometimes considered an irrational fear.
Possible treatments:
  • Behavior therapy- this will help to identify trigger points that cause the fear, a counselor will then work with a client to help ease the anxiety
  • Flooding- this is a strategy used to overwhelm the client with their fear in hopes to help that person overcome it
  • Counter-conditioning- Puts the person in a state of fear, but helps them to re-visualize and re-think about the situation to ease the anxiety
  • Neuro-linguistic programming
  • Anti-depressant or beta-blockers to slow heart rate and prevent panic attacks when in the state of fear/ close spaces