• Claustrophobia


    Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by irrational fear of enclosed or small spaces. People with claustrophobia often describe it as feeling trapped without an exit or way out. Claustrophobia involves emotional and physical reactions to triggering situations. The fear of claustrophobia may be intense, but treatment can help manage or overcome it.
    Common Physical Reaction to Triggering Situations
    Physical reaction anxiety
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    The cause of claustrophobia is not well known, but it is likely a combination of genetic factors and a person's environment..

    Risk Factors

    Factors that may increase your chance of developing a claustrophobic anxiety attack include:
    • Family history
    • History of anxiety or nervousness when in an enclosed room or space
    • Repeated avoidance of situations that have brought on a previous anxiety attack


    Claustrophobia usually develops early in life during childhood or the teenage years. Claustrophobia may bring on feelings similar to a panic attack , which may cause:
    • Sweating
    • Rapid heart beat
    • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
    • Trembling
    • Lightheadedness or fainting
    • Nausea
    • Feelings of dread, terror, panic
    Other symptoms of claustrophobia may include:
    • Automatically and compulsively looking for exits when in a room or feeling fearful if doors are shut
    • Avoiding elevators, riding in subways or airplanes, or cars in heavy traffic
    • Standing near exits in crowded social situations


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is based on your history of persistent or excessive fear that may:
    • Be triggered by anticipating an event or situation
    • Cause panic attacts associated with the fear-causing situation
    • Interfere with normal daily activities
    • That is not explained by another disorder


    Claustrophobia can disappear in adulthood. If it does not, treatment is usually necessary to overcome the fear. Talk with your doctor or mental health provider about the best treatment plan for you. Options include:


    The most common type of treatment for claustrophobia involves mental health counseling targeted to overcoming the fear and managing triggering situations.
    Different types of strategies include:
    • Relaxation and visualization techniques designed to calm the fear when in a claustrophobic environment
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)—an approach that involves learning to control the thoughts that occur when confronted with the fear-inducing situation in order to change the reaction


    Your doctor may prescribe medications to control the panic and physical symptoms of claustrophobia. These include antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs. They will not cure the condition but are often helpful when used with psychotherapy.


    There are no current guidelines to prevent claustrophobia.


    American Psychiatric Association http://www.psychiatry.org

    Anxiety and Depression Association of America http://www.adaa.org


    Canadian Mental Health Association http://www.cmha.ca

    Canadian Psychiatric Association http://www.cpa-apc.org


    Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Accessed July 22, 2013.

    Specific phobia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated March 13, 2013. Accessed July 22, 2013.

    Treatment. Anxiety Disorders Association of America. Available at: http://www.adaa.org/finding-help/treatment. Accessed July 22, 2013.

    Revision Information

  • LiveWell personal health survey

    How healthy are you really? Find out – free.Learn more

    It's time to stop guessing. If you want to make some changes but just aren't sure how, the free personal health survey from LiveWell is a great place to start.

  • HeartSHAPE Spotlight

    At risk for a heart attack? Learn more

    Fight heart disease and prevent heart attacks. HeartSHAPE® is a painless, non-invasive test that checks pictures of your heart for early-stage coronary disease.

  • Calories and Energy Needs

    Calorie NeedsLearn more

    How many calories do you need to eat each day to maintain your weight and fuel your physical activity? Enter a few of your stats into this calculator to find out.

  • Ideal Body Weight

    Ideal Body WeightLearn more

    Using body mass index as a reference, this calculator determines your ideal body weight range. All you need to do is enter your height.

  • Body Mass Index

    Body Mass IndexLearn more

    This tool considers your height and weight to assess your weight status.

  • Can we help answer your questions?

    Wellmont Nurse Connection is your resource for valuable health information any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Speak to a Nurse any time, day or night, at (423) 723-6877 or toll-free at 1-877-230-NURSE.