Claustrophobia: what is a claustrophobic being?

Claustrophobia is the phobia of confinement. It can be a real disability so it is important to treat it. Cognitive and behavioral therapies are effective.

What is Claustrophobia?


Claustrophobia is a phobia that consists of panic and fear of confinement, enclosed spaces: elevators, subways, and trains, but also small or windowless rooms.


Claustrophobia occurs at a time when the person is in a state of fragility. An event in childhood (having been locked up for example) or a traumatic event in an enclosed space (having been assaulted in the subway for example can explain claustrophobia. Scientists see phobias in general as genetically transmitted fears.


The diagnosis is clinical. Fear of being locked up must meet 5 criteria for a psychiatrist to make a diagnosis of phobia: a persistent and intense fear of being in a closed place (or anticipating this situation) with the impossibility of reasoning, an immediate and systematic reaction as soon as the person is in a situation of confinement, awareness of the excessive and irrational nature of his fear, Situations in which the person is going to be in an enclosed place are avoided at all costs or experienced with a lot of anxiety, claustrophobia strongly disrupts the person’s activities.

In addition, these disorders should not be explained by another disorder (agoraphobia, post-traumatic stress)

The persons concerned

4 to 5% of the adult population suffers from claustrophobia. This is one of the most common phobias.

4 to 10% of radiologists’ patients cannot bear to go into scanners or MRIs. Children may also suffer from claustrophobia.

Risk factors

People with anxiety disorders, depression, and excessive use of medications, drugs, or alcohol are more at risk of developing phobias.

Symptoms of claustrophobia

As with all phobias, the first symptom is an intense and irrational fear: fear of being in an enclosed space or fear of anticipating an enclosed space. This can be related to breathing. Claustrophobic people are afraid of running out of air.

Physical manifestations of claustrophobia

  • Fear can cause a real panic attack with its signs:
  • Palpitations, heartbeat, or rapid heartbeat
  • Feeling short of breath or choking
  • Feeling dizzy, empty-headed, or fainting
  • Sweating, hot flashes, chest gene,
  • Fear of dying, of losing self-control

Treatment of claustrophobia

Cognitive and behavioral therapies (CBT) work well on phobias. This therapy aims to expose the person to what causes his phobia, from afar and in a reassuring setting, and then closer and closer to make the fear disappear. Being confronted with the phobic object in a regular and progressive way rather than avoiding it makes fear disappear. Psychoanalysis can also be a solution to treat claustrophobia.

Drug treatments can be prescribed temporarily: anxiolytics, and antidepressants.

Relaxation and practicing yoga can also help people who suffer from claustrophobia.

Phobia: natural treatments

Essential oils with calming and relaxing properties can help you prevent anxiety attacks. You can use for example dermal or olfactory essential oils of sweet orange, neroli, and small-grain bigarade.

Prevention of claustrophobia

Claustrophobia, like other phobias, cannot be prevented. On the other hand, when a phobia develops, it is important to take care of it before it becomes a disability in everyday life.

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