Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia is a fear of enclosed spaces. It is a psychiatric anxiety disorder that belongs among the phobias.

Causes

The cause of claustrophobia is often unclear. It is not a rule, but sometimes it may result from a situation in the past where a person has been trapped in a confined space and could not get out (e.g. elevator failure etc.). The memory of this event may even seem to be forgotten but it stays in the subconsciousness and affects the patient.

Symptoms

Claustrophobic patients hate enclosed spaces. The fear is usually related to fear of being trapped or imprisoned. The anxiety can progress into uncontrollable panic attack. The victim tries to escape and suffers from shortness of breath and extreme fear of suffocation. Serious claustrophobia is a contraindication to the examination by magnetic resonance imaging. The examined patient must stay for a certain time inside the machine, which produces very loud noises. It is related to a certain psychological discomfort even in a healthy person and it is totally intolerable for a patient with claustrophobia.

Treatment

The therapy must be complex. Psychotherapy is of a great importance as it familiarizes the patient with his fear and teaches him how to cope with it. An effective method is the gradual exposure of the patient to situations provoking the anxiety to help him to overcome them. This process has to be gradual and requires the consent of the patient. The drugs are used antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications (anxiolytics).