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How Can I Manage Claustrophobia Symptoms?


Updated December 22, 2009

Question: How Can I Manage Claustrophobia Symptoms?

Claustrophobia can be quite insidious, limiting your life in all sorts of unexpected ways. Some find it impossible to attend crowded events. Others delay needed medical tests, such as MRIs.

Answer: No matter how your claustrophobia affects you, there are steps you can take to keep it under control. Here are some tips for managing claustrophobia.

Plan Ahead

Although it will not cause a phobia, fear of the unknown can make it more difficult to manage. Before any new activity, ask questions of experts in that field. Learn which days are less crowded at your local amusement park, for example. Ask to see the MRI machine well before your scheduled procedure.

Gathering information can help you learn what to expect. However, it is equally important not to become obsessed. Once you have the needed information, resist the urge to constantly perform more research.

Use Relaxation Techniques

Whenever your claustrophobia symptoms begin to appear, use relaxation techniques to keep them at bay. Deep breathing and guided visualization are just two of the most common ways to manage anxiety. If you are unfamiliar with these techniques, ask your doctor for suggestions.

Avoid the urge to self-medicate. Alcohol and over-the-counter medications can take the edge off, but you may become dependent on these substances over time. If you feel that you need medications to combat your claustrophobia, talk to your doctor. He or she can help you choose appropriate over-the-counter remedies, or prescribe something that is right for you.

Bring a Friend

A supportive friend or relative who is aware of your claustrophobia can help you stay calm and relaxed when you're in a triggering situation. He or she can even preview certain activities for you to let you know what to expect. It is important to choose your support person carefully, however, as that person should be neither overly protective nor prone to pushing too hard.

Seek Professional Help

Although claustrophobia symptoms can be successfully managed, the underlying condition may continue to worsen if left untreated. If claustrophobia is limiting your life, it is best to seek professional guidance as soon as possible. Talk therapy and medications may be used alone or together to help you overcome your claustrophobia. Treatment success rates are generally good and, in the long run, will be much more effective than continually monitoring situations and your own reactions to them.


Fact Sheet: Claustrophobia. Better Health Channel. Government of Victoria, Australia. October 2007. Retrieved August 7, 2009 from http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Claustrophobia?open

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