Claustrophobia: Causes & Symptoms

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Fear is a natural part of life, and an important part of our evolutionary development, but extreme fears are classified as “phobias”, and one of the most serious and potentially life-altering is claustrophobia.

What is Claustrophobia?

Claustrophobia is defined as an intense fear of being enclosed in a small space or room without an escape route. Unlike some other common fears (e.g., spiders, the dark, heights), it is often classified as an anxiety disorder and can result in panic attacks when people are placed in these restrictive situations.

Causes

Claustrophobia can be triggered by everything from elevators and airplanes to subway cars and hotel rooms with windows that don’t open. When people are aware of their claustrophobia, they will often go to great lengths to avoid being exposed to those conditions, such as climbing dozens of flights of stairs, rather than entering an elevator.

Claustrophobia

This intense phobia is not simply a matter of being “afraid”, but can also be caused by the size of one’s amygdala, a genetic predisposition to claustrophobia, and classical conditioning.

Symptoms

The symptoms of claustrophobia are similar to many other anxiety disorders or panic attacks, namely:

  • Excessive sweating
  • Elevated heart rate
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea
  • Confusion
  • Tightness in the chest
  • Genuine fear of imminent harm
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