Claustrophobia is a fear of closed-in or small spaces. Treatment can help manage this condition.
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The cause of claustrophobia is not known. It may be a mix of genes and environment.
Things that may raise the risk of claustrophobia are:
- Family members with claustrophobia
- Other mental health problems, such as anxiety
Claustrophobia starts during the child or teen years.
Problems may be:
- Fast heartbeat
- Fast breathing
- Problems breathing
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Feelings of dread or terror
A person may also:
- Look for exit doors when in a room
- Feel very nervous if doors are shut
- Not use elevators, subways, or airplanes
- Not travel in a car in heavy traffic
- Stand near exit doors in crowded places
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
Claustrophobia may go away on its own. Others may need treatment to manage the fear. Options are:
- Mental health counseling, such as cognitive behavioral therapy
- Medicines to help control feelings of panic
There are no known guidelines to prevent claustrophobia.
- Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders.
- LeBeau RT, Glenn D, et al. Specific phobia: a review of DSM-IV specific phobia and preliminary recommendations for DSM-V. Depress Anxiety. 2010;27(2):148-167.
- Specific phobia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/specific-phobia.
- Treatment. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Available at: https://adaa.org/finding-help/treatment.
- Adrian Preda, MD
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