I had an episode a few days ago.
Well, I always knew I had this thing about confined spaces. But I thought it was just related to the crowd and crowded areas.
It wasn’t that serious, mind you. But I will always avoid going to lectures where there will be a lot of people because one time in class, I almost fainted. That was the first episode I had and that was when I suspected I had the fear of crowds – Enochlophobia
Back to my story, a few days ago I had another episode but in a different scenario. Previously, I would experience shortness of breath, palpitation of the heart, increased sweating, nausea, and dizziness and I’ll generally have a feeling of suffocating, sometimes when I was in a densely crowded hall.
No matter how large the hall was. But on this occasion, I wasn’t in a crowded hall. I was in a small space with another woman. The room was full of fabrics, it was a tailor’s shop. I remember marvelling at all the different fabrics and how they weren’t arranged orderly before I started getting the symptoms.
Luckily for me, I finished up in time before it became a full-blown panic attack. Now it is quite evident that it was claustrophobia.
Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder whereby a person experiences a fear of enclosed or tight spaces. It can come in different situations.
Like in my case, I eventually realised that it wasn’t the crowd I was afraid of. I was afraid that the space was not big enough to accommodate all of us. It was also the same situation in the tailor’s shop, I thought the fabrics didn’t have enough room.
People experience these symptoms in different places. Some in an elevator, bus, small rooms, etc. Whatever the case may be, it’s good to know that what you’re experiencing has a name and you’re not alone in it.
Claustrophobic symptoms can vary from person to person. It can be mild nervousness or a full-blown panic attack. However, it cannot be diagnosed as a phobia by the doctor until it affects your day-to-day activities and your ability to live a normal life.
The symptoms include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fast heartbeat
- Shaking or trembling
- Dry mouth
- Hot flashes
- Chest tightness or pain
- Confusion or disorientation
- Choking sensation
- Urge to use the bathroom
- Fear of harm or illness
There’s no cause for alarm if the symptoms are mild and don’t occur frequently. However, it will be wise to see a doctor once you start getting the symptoms.
Claustrophobia may arise as a result of a gene defect. Researchers have found a possible trace of a gene defect that can lead to claustrophobia.
It is therefore assumed that it can be passed down from parent to offspring. Another thing that can give rise to phobia is a childhood traumatic event.
Traumatic events such as bullying, abuse, and being stuck in a small space for a long time. If one has another phobia, it can give rise to claustrophobia.
Most people tend to avoid their fears. Take the easy way out and avoid tight spaces. While that can achieve momentary peace, it is not a lasting solution.
Avoiding an issue doesn’t erase the presence of that issue. You only prolong the time it takes you to attend to the issue. The best approach in a severe case of claustrophobia is to seek professional help.
A psychologist comes in handy in such situations. He/she will help you face your fears head-on. Any of these therapies below can help in the treatment of claustrophobia:
This type of therapy put your fears right in front of you. It presents the situation that scares you the most, thereby allowing you to get accustomed to it.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
In this type of therapy, you talk about your feelings and thoughts. Those thoughts that lead to your fear. This type of therapy can be taken alone or combined with exposure therapy.
Virtual Reality (VR)
This therapy uses modern technology. Computer simulations of tight space, giving you the feeling of actually being there, help you overcome your fears.
Relaxation and Visualization
Finding and mastering ways you can relax in the face of what triggers your fears can be the smartest way to conquer your fears.
In some cases, antidepressants are prescribed by your doctor. These drugs help you deal with your fears.