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I am claustraphobic. Is there anyone out there like me?

By March 12, 2010 - 7:26am
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Have been claustraphobic for most of my life. I have tried to get help but putting me in that situation, I couldn't do it. Are there others who have this and what if anything, helped them.

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I was in the emergency room for symptoms of a stroke. The CT scan was normal but they wanted to keep me overnight. I had just gotten out of the hospital from a four day stay for another issue. I told them I was claustrophobic and I needed to be able to go outside. They told me that I would not be able to as I was attached to a heart monitor. I tried to explain that I just couldn't do it. They noted that I was a smoker and felt that that was why I wanted to be able to go out. I pleaded with them to make some concession so that I could get the tests I needed but I could still get outside a few times. They refused. They had given me a large dose of potassium which,for some reason really cranked me up, which increased my anxiety. In the end I was going into a panic attack and had to leave AMA. This is terrible!!! I need medical help but I cannot face being trapped in a hospital room. Because I left AMA I know my insurance will not cover it and I don't have any money, but the fear of being trapped was so strong that I had no control over it. I had to get outside. They suggested walking up and down the hall, but they just don't understand. YOU HAVE TO GET OUTSIDE!!!!!. I don't know what to do.

July 16, 2017 - 7:13pm

I'm slightly claustrophobic. Its when people are really close to me and I don't know them, don't like them, or whatever. It's also when I'm in complete darkness. It feels like the darkness is closing in on me. Are you like that?

September 15, 2012 - 7:54am
EmpowHER Guest

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

One psychologist wanted to hypnotise me. Even though I told him what caused my phobia, he thought that maybe it was something from my past life. He told of one lady who was extremely afraid of snakes, so he hypnotised her and he said that many years before this life that someone had beat her to death with a snake whip, so that was why she was afraid of snakes! Now that was a little much for me to take in, so I quite. Another psychologist didn't know much about claustraphobia, so she took a book down from the book shelf and started reading about claustraphobia to me. I knew more than she did. Another psychologist just wanted me to ride in a elevator. She opend the door and said, get it! When I didn't she wasn't very happpy about that. She didn't want to deal with me

March 16, 2010 - 6:16pm
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Della Marie)

Wow... I'm glad to see I am not the only one who feels this way. Claustrophobia controls my life as well. It seems that its getting worse as I get older. I am 28 now. My fiance lives on the 20th floor and I have only been to his house about 5 times in a year.. I always walk up.. But 20 is becoming a bit much for me. I decided to try and deal with my fear, so I booked a flight to miami from NY, and now I really don't know if I will be able to go through with it. I don't wanna get on the plane and in mid air decide to feel like I wanna get off, like I need to get off.. Pacing back and forth knowing that there is no possible way to get off that plane. Why am I this way..why does it have to control my life...

March 27, 2010 - 11:56am
(reply to Anonymous)


There are so many people who are claustrophobic. Have you ever seen a therapist for this, Anon?

I understand booking the flight, and trying to deal with your fear. That's a really fine step. But your fear about being on the plane and having a panic attack mid-flight will not help your fears, it might only make it worse. You are sort of self-treating by immersing yourself in a situation you can't get out of, and that may not be the best thing for you. Is this a flight for work or for recreation? Is it optional? What has been your reaction since you booked the flight?

I would suggest seeing a doctor before your flight and asking if you can have a small dose of anti-anxiety medicine, like Xanax, to take to help you through the flight.

Your boyfriend's apartment may be a better way to slowly expose yourself to what you are afraid of. I assume that you walk up because you are afraid of the elevator?

Do you think it would be possible for you to take the elevator for one floor? Knowing that the doors will open again in about 30 seconds and you can get off?

When one floor becomes possible, you could try two.

(He must be a good guy for you to walk up 20 flights of stairs!!)

Please know that 28 is not old, it's young. There are books on claustrophobia, or a therapist or counselor could probably help you in a few months.

You might be interested in this online claustrophobia support group. It's anonymous and free:


What sounds good to you as a next step?

March 29, 2010 - 11:23am
(reply to Diane Porter)

I have very similar symptoms, the flight one is a big one for me I start to panic now before the doors on the plane close as I know whats going to happen, and when in a car or taxi if I feel I can't just open the door and jump out I start to panic.
My biggest problem now is that it's starting to affect my job as I am sometimes put into situations I do ot like and this is an unavoidable part of my job, I have spoken to my doctor of the record so to speak and he is happy to do this as long as I am not endangering life but feer this may soon be the case and am worried that I could loose my job.
I am trying to find out if I would be covered under a disability so I could at least pay my bills if I did lose my job but unless I come out with the full extent of my attacks I cannot find this out!

July 27, 2010 - 12:18pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for your response. It appears that maybe you are experiencing a higher than normal anxiety over these situations. You said you have seen 3 psychologists? Have they prescribed you anything to try and curb your anxiety?

Your reaction to CLOSE situations will be the key to trying to get help. What is your reaction when a door closes behind you? Do you run out? Does your heart start racing? Does it feel as if you cannot breathe?

You also indicated that you know the reason behind your fear. You explained that something happened when you were 5 or 6 years old. Do you want to share that experience? Since you know this experience is key to your fear, trying to deal with that experience may be step 1 in a process of letting that fear go. We all share fear in a similar way, but it is how we deal with it that helps manage the fear.

There is no magic wand that will cure your anxiety and fears and there is no miracle pill. With this in mind, remember that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You are in control! You are strong and can overcome your fears.

So this all sounds great, right? You say, HOW DO I DO THIS? The key is behavior therapy. What triggers you to have anxiety or fear in close situations? Is it the walls? The door? The spider web on the ceiling? What is the first trigger point?

Since there are so many questions, I am also going to leave you some websites to browse. It is more for your information purposes although, if you are 10+ on your scale, you may want to seek help from a psychologist to try and curb your anxiety while working on baby steps to help control your fears.

Here are the websites for you:

Epigee Organization


Associated Content

I hope these are helpful. I am still curious on what your previous psychologists prescribed you and if the treatment helped at all? We, at EmpowHer, are here is help you in anyway that we can. Let us know as much information as possible to try and pinpoint helping you on your way to phobia freedom.

March 13, 2010 - 10:24am

Hi, Della Marie,

Welcome to EmpowHer. I'm so glad you wrote.

You are NOT alone. Many many people share your fear of being confined or being in small spaces. Claustrophobia is one of the major phobias that people experience. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health puts it in its 10 top phobias category.

This is good news for you, because it means that people are living with claustrophobia every day. And you can, too. Just because you haven't yet found the right treatment doesn't mean it's not out there. It is.

Can you tell us more about how you tried to get help and what didn't work for you? When you say "by putting me in that situation, I couldn't do it," I am thinking that a person you were working with tried to hurry you too much by exposing you to a frightening situation for you. Is that the case?

Do you have other phobias? Are you naturally an anxious person or a worrier, or is this the only major fear that you have?

Have you tried reading a self-help book on getting over claustrophobia? Would you be interested in us helping you find some titles?

When does your claustrophobia affect your life? Can you give us an idea about the extent to which it bothers you? For instance, can you take a short ride between floors on an elevator? Can you be in a small bathroom? Can you fly on an airplane? Are you okay in a crowd? What other situations are either fine or bothersome for you?

What happens when you become claustrophobic? What symptoms do you feel and how severe are they?

Please let us know some of the answers to these questions so that we might be able to help.

March 12, 2010 - 8:24am
(reply to Diane Porter)

Thanks for responding. I think I have read every book on claustrophobia. I have seen 3 different phycologist. If you would grade me on a score from 1 to 10, I would be a 10+. Can't do elevators, flying, bathrooms, back seat of a car unless I am next to the window. It is not just small spaces. I can't manage any place where there isn't an open door and then I don't trust that, thinking someone will close it. I need to see a dentist but I have been unable (never bothered me before) to have someone over me. Can't stand to be in pitch darkness. I am afraid to be "put under" with anaesthetics. The fear has controlled my life. I am so embarrased and few people know it. I can't do a lot of things with my friends because I am always wondering if I will be put in a situation that I can't handle. I know why I am this way, and have had it since around 5 or 6. What happens when I am claustrophobic? Like being buried alive. D.M.

March 13, 2010 - 8:36am
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