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Hi. I am glad to know I am not the only one with such severe symptoms.
I too am claustrophobic; however, it only became a severe problem about 2 years ago (I am a 28 year old woman). My worst symptoms are in elevators, airplanes, boats, extremely crowed places (for example the mall on christmas), or on the top floors of buildings. These places will often induce a panic attack, in which I am shaky, nauseous, dizzy, have a rapid heart rate, and feel out of control. I sometimes am uncomfortable in cars (if there is alot of traffic) or in rooms with the door closed, but in these situations the uncomfortable feeling usually passes and I am able to "forget" about the feelings of being confined if I can distract myself with a task or talking about something else with whomever is with me. Sometimes I have found doing math in my head works as a distraction.
When I first went to my doctor, I did not make the connection to my symptoms and confined spaces, and he sent me to a neurologist who thought my symptoms may due to atypical migraines or a general anxiety disorder. The neurologist prescribed Klonapin, which just gave me more panic attacks and amplified my claustrophobia. Since then, I have gone to a different doctor who has prescribed a very low dose of alprazolam (xanx), which I double the dosage if I know I am going to going on plane or be in place that is an extreme trigger for me.
This prescription has REALLY HELPED! I could not imagine getting on plane without it. I have also found that just having the pills on me helps, I do not need to take them, but knowing that they are there acts as a security blanket. I am not sure if this is the healthiest of ways to deal with the problem, but it has allowed me much more freedom in my daily life.
My main fear in all situations is not being able to get out and the feeling of being out of control that goes along with this fear, for example what if I'm in a crowded place or in an elevator and feel like I am gong to start screaming or run away because I am scared, having a panic attack, and can't get out. If I have my prescription bottle with me, I know that even if the elevator does break and the doors dont open or if I feel like I am having a panic attack I just cant handle on my own, I can take one of my pills and in 5-10 minutes I won't feel that out of control helpless feeling anymore.
Within the past year, I have been able to reduce the frequency with which I take the alprazolam and am now only taking it when I am going on a plane or a similar situation, like a cruise ship (which my husband is trying to convince me to try, but I have not yet gotten up the desire/courage as I dont think I would be a very fun cruise companion).
I am still having clastrophobia related panic attacks, but they seem to be less severe and the decrease in severity seems to be due to the fact that I know I can make them stop by taking a pill, which gives me a feeling of getting back control over the situation.
I am not sure if this would be helpful to everyone, as my fear mainly centers around the panic attacks that confined spaces cause, rather than the confined spaces themselves, but I thought I would share my story in the hope that it might help someone. I know your stories helped me feel less alone and less embarrassed about my claustrophobia. So thank you all for that.
Additionally, as for the question of disability and your job, I could be mistaken, but I think if you can be "on" the record with your doctor and not have that get back to your job. that way if you lose your job, there will be a record of you symptoms and you can apply for disability. I'm pretty sure medical records are sealed; however, this may vary by state or by what you job is and who you work for. I would ask my doctor about this specifically, as he/she may know or be able to tell you where to look to find out.

September 17, 2010 - 1:15pm


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