Claustrophobia is the fear of being trapped or confined in enclosed spaces and it can be truly life limiting. The fear can focus on not having enough oxygen or not being able to escape. The person dealing with this fear often will experience high levels of anxiety and may find it difficult to breath. This may lead to the person experiencing feelings of panic which may develop into a full panic attack. Claustrophobia is closely related to anxiety and therefore can manifest itself with similar symptoms such as increased blood pressure, tension, hyperventilating, sweating, nausea and fainting, making everyday activities almost impossible to undertake. A simple trip to the shops can be fraught with stress, so much so, the person ends up not leaving their house.
Life with Claustrophobia
Living with claustrophobia is extremely difficult and most sufferers would say they are being totally controlled by their condition 24 hours a day. Any enclosed area could send them into a panic attack and often they will find themselves looking for the exits whenever they enter an enclosed area such as a cinema or restaurant. Smaller enclosed spaces such as elevators, basements, airplanes and crowded spaces such as bars and shops can become no go areas. Avoiding these areas and situations can have catastrophic effects on the individual’s lives as well as on the lives of their families. This limiting condition could prevent an individual from ever travelling abroad or going to a family occasion such as a wedding or anniversary party.
The good news is claustrophobia can be treated successfully. The first step is acknowledging and accepting it is possible to take control of your condition and overcome it. The person needs to accept the process to recovery is a slow one and tiny steps need to be taken so they don’t feel overwhelmed by the task ahead. Setting attainable goals is essential and once they are reached then the individual can progress on to the next challenge. Learning to live with your condition whilst you are trying to get over it can be difficult so whilst giving yourself challenges you must also be aware of your limits at that time. If you want to see if you are ready to travel on holiday for example, perhaps a weekend away to a UK city like York or Cambridge is the place to start. If a hotel full of people fills you with dread then perhaps a serviced apartment in the city of your choice, would be the best option giving you that feeling of space, peace and privacy.
Breathing and relaxation techniques are vital during this whole process of recovery. Often in moments of panic, people can hold their breath. Controlling a panic attack starts with breathing steadily. Practicing breathing techniques and using them in times of stress can help enormously as well as learning relaxation methods. There is plenty information online and in books to help you practice relaxation or meditation techniques and practicing with the help of specific CD’s can be very helpful.
Being positive, taking ownership of your condition and keeping informed by reading as much as you can will be of great benefit. Not going out can lead to increasing isolation from family and friends so empowering yourself with knowledge and perhaps sharing your experiences online with others can make you feel you that are not suffering alone. If you feel however that you are not making the progress you would like then don’t be hard on yourself. Perhaps engaging the support of an expert would be best for you. They will be well versed in dealing with your condition and will help you plan a schedule of recovery, working at a pace that suits you with continued support along the way.
Bio - Living with Claustrophobia was written by Karen James, Mother, Grandmother and prolific writer for Business and Health Sectors including Citystay Cambridge