Patients suffering from Claustrophobia become panic stricken when they are in enclosed spaces. This may be a small room or a lift or even in a crowed place. Some individuals would rather climb many flights of stairs to the upper floors of a building than be enclosed in a lift. In severe cases the feelings of panic can spread to other areas such as the underground, buses and trains. A particular form of claustrophobia is the fear of flying where patients avoid air travel and find alternative means of transport to avoid being shut in an aeroplane.
Claustrophobia can be treated successfully either by the use of individual psychotherapy or hypnotherapy. If hypnotherapy is used then the patient is asked to imagine, during the hypnosis, the situation in which the panic attacks occur and this anxiety is counteracted by the use of a special place. As the treatment progresses and the patient becomes comfortable with one situation a more difficult scenario is introduced and so on, until the individual is able to cope with the feared situation without anxiety. In some cases this can only be achieved by having the therapist accompany the patient into the feared situation in real life. This is called “In Vivo Desensitization”.
Psychotherapy enables the patient to gain insight into the underlying reason for their claustrophobia. However, it is still essential that the patient is encouraged and assisted by the therapist to gradually face the feared situation and eventually become anxiety free.