Types of Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an irrational fear of enclosed or small spaces, says the Diagnostic and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders. A claustrophobic patient does not fear being in closed spaces, but the negative consequences of being in that place. Some of these feared consequences might include restriction, entrapment and suffocation. A claustrophobic patient may have a panic attack when forced to be in a small, enclosed space.

Claustrophobia can be very frightening. Credit: champja/iStock/Getty Images

Fear of Small Places

Most closed spaces entail a degree of entrapment. Some claustrophobic patients are afraid of all tight or small places while others only fear one particular kind of place. The most typical ones include cars, trains, airplanes, elevators, small rooms, cellars, caves, crowded areas, and tunnels. Claustrophobic patients also often refuse to go through such medical imaging tests as MRI that forces them to remain in a tight place for a relatively long period of time. The fear of restriction can cause some claustrophobics to be fearful of certain everyday situations like the barber’s chairs or waiting in lines because they see the situation as confining.

Fear of Restricted Movements

Many claustrophobics are afraid of situations in which their movements are restricted. This may be true even in a situation where there is lots of space around the person. A claustrophobic patient might be afraid of rollercoaster rides because he cannot move in the seat. In the same manner, a claustrophobic might be afraid of crowds because the people there prevent him from running or moving fast. This condition may be so severe that a patient refuses to wear a cast after they broke a bone.

Fear of Suffocation

Many people who are afraid of being restricted to small places also fear suffocation. These patients may believe that there isn’t enough oxygen in the room in which they are confined to. Many claustrophobics remove items of clothing during panic attacks since they believe that this would make it easier for them to breathe. Some claustrophobic are not able to dive because they are afraid of suffocation and may remove diving masks even if they are under the water.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
Load Comments

Copyright © 2019 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use , Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy . The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.