How to overcome claustrophobia, the fear of closed spaces?
Overcoming claustrophobia cannot be done overnight. It takes a little time and motivation to achieve this. Do not wait until you suffer from it on a daily basis to get help, advice and treatment from a health professional. A phobia is too often avoided rather than treated. Stop letting yourself be invaded and learn to take control of yourself instead!
It is not necessarily easy to get rid of a phobia. It depends on how long the phobia has existed, but also on genetic predisposition, psychological and social factors. If the phobia has been in place for a long time, all your daily habits and reflexes will be affected. To treat it, time will be needed so that your brain can learn something other than what it has internalised for years. All our lives, we learn to pay attention to the dangers around us because they can endanger our lives. This is not a question of deconstructing a fear, because in a phobia it is unjustified. You can no longer distinguish your fears from the real danger. It is therefore necessary to put things back in place by working on the acquisition of new perceptions, knowledge and reasoning in order to gradually get rid of the phobia and get back to living properly.
Cognitive and behavioural therapies (CBT) to overcome the fear of confined spaces
Many therapies exist, but one of the most successful therapies for claustrophobia is cognitive behavioural therapy. You will learn that today you are conditioned! Your brain has conditioned itself through your experiences to present anxiety in certain situations. Thus, in this therapy, you will first learn how a phobia or an anxiety works and finally understand what happens to you when you are in a closed space. You will learn to prioritise the situations that are difficult for you according to the degree of anxiety experienced. You will learn to rank the situations that are difficult for you according to the degree of anxiety you feel, and with the therapist, you will rank the least anxiety-provoking situations from the most anxiety-provoking. This is usually combined with muscle relaxation techniques. Then you will move on to the desensitisation stage itself by imagining for a few minutes (and in a relaxed state), the situation placed at the lowest level of your anxiety hierarchy. This training is repeated until the imagined situation no longer generates anxious manifestations. You will then repeat this exercise for more anxiety-provoking situations. In a second phase, you will tackle the practical and behavioural part. You will gradually be confronted with the object of your fear until you are completely desensitised to it. Your therapist will, of course, be there to encourage you and help you to prevent your flight reactions. These exercises should be carried out several times, progressively and over a long period of time, to allow the learning of these new behaviours. For example, if your fear is to take the lift, you will start by getting in without closing the doors. The next time you take the lift, you close the doors for a few seconds only, then you gradually go up the floors and so on. In this way you will manage to make your claustrophobia disappear thanks to a phenomenon of habituation. To achieve this, you must be convinced that the situation to be overcome does not present any danger!
Treating fear of confined spaces with virtual reality exposure therapies
New technologies can also help you take the plunge. Virtual reality is becoming increasingly available to help treat phobias. Virtual reality exposure therapy will allow you to virtually expose yourself to the place that is anxiety-provoking for you. So you don’t have to imagine being in that place, you will be taken there virtually. The fact of being exposed in virtual reality to these anxiety-provoking places will allow you to bring back the anxiety that you feel in reality, so that you can learn to manage your emotions.
Once you are equipped with a helmet that allows you to see in 3 dimensions, you can face your phobia in the therapist’s office in complete safety. The playful aspect of this therapy will allow you to decondition your panic and regain confidence. The intensity of your disorder will determine the duration of the sessions (generally from 3 to 6 months).
The drug route to free oneself from the fear of confined spaces
Medication (anxiolytics, sedatives) can help you through an anxiety situation. But in no case will it allow you to treat claustrophobia. Other solutions such as yoga, meditation and relaxation can help you control your attacks.
Know that you are not alone. Claustrophobia affects many people. Talk to others who have gone through it and managed to overcome it. There are ways to get out of it even if the phobia has been present for a long time. Do not hesitate to contact a health professional, they will be able to advise you and give you the right exercises to do.