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How can I get rid of claustrophobia?

Thursday, 18 March 2004
Answered by: Dr. Irwin Ziment
Professor of Medicine,
University of California Los Angeles (UCLA),
USA
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Q. I suffer from extreme claustrophobia. I feel I can't breathe in a closed and dark place and I fear getting suffocated. I also have problems while travelling in aircrafts and trains with air conditioners and I always look for open spaces. The problem gets more aggravated in hot and humid weather. Recently, when i delivered a baby, I became unwell when spinal anaesthesia was administered to me. I became panicky and started screaming in the operation theatre as it was very warm and the ceiling was very low too. Since then my condition has become worse. Wearing tight fitting clothes also scares me as I fear I will get suffocated. Is there any cure for claustrophobia? Is it due to some ENT problem, as I breathe only through my nose and I feel that I do not get enough oxygen. What can I do to get rid of this fear?

A.  Claustrophobia is not associated with any anatomical defect, therefore it needs to be treated as a psychological problem. Behaviour modification, biofeedback, aversion de-conditioning, positive imagery and similar techniques can be applied by a qualified psychologist. A psychiatrist may be able to help by exploring the historical events leading to the development of the claustrophobia, or it may be more efficient to prescribe a simple anti-anxiety medication such as alpaca. Yoga breathing exercises would offer an alternative method for controlling the problem.

A.  Claustrophobia is not associated with any anatomical defect, therefore it needs to be treated as a psychological problem. Behaviour modification, biofeedback, aversion de-conditioning, positive imagery and similar techniques can be applied by a qualified psychologist. A psychiatrist may be able to help by exploring the historical events leading to the development of the claustrophobia, or it may be more efficient to prescribe a simple anti-anxiety medication such as alpaca. Yoga breathing exercises would offer an alternative method for controlling the problem.

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