“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.”
— Louisa May Alcott
Practical ways to cope with the fear and panic
Fear is a predator! If it senses any chink in the armor it will pounce!
Claustrophobia is a type of anxiety disorder. It is characterized by the fear of and avoidance of confined spaces.
As a person who knows what it feels like to wrestle with this dreaded evil, I utilize some practical ways of subduing this beast without the use of medicine.
In many of my day-to-day activities, I am forced to use the elevator at my place of work. The thought of having to use an elevator causes my heart rate to accelerate and beads of sweat on my brow. If there is someone else in the elevator with me I can handle the anxiety better.
When I find myself alone in that elevator fear begins to unfurl on the inside creating a tornado of anxiety, with the potential to leave nothing but debris in its wake.
It feels like a tomb and I fear the doors will never reopen.
I imagine my co-workers finding me in a whimpering heap on the floor of the elevator. Not a comforting thought in my position.
I will go to any lengths to avoid the triggers unless there is no other recourse.
Phobias generally develop during childhood or our teenage years and manifest by the avoidance of small and confined spaces. Phobias create the belief that ‘something awful’ will happen if you remain in that situation. Your flight or fight response is activated with physical symptoms such as: —
- dry mouth
- Sweaty palms
- Wobbly legs
- Pressure in the head
- Getting hot or cold
- Racing heart
- The feeling of dread or terror
Your thinking becomes clouded and you are consumed with one thought — ‘I’ve got to get out!’.
Emotionally, the person feels great fear and trepidation and has a sense of dread and doom.
How is it diagnosed?
Claustrophobia is characterized in one of four ways.
Though a definitive cause is not known, many people who experience claustrophobia may find its origins stem from a single incident or trauma. They may experience symptoms from getting trapped in an elevator, locked in a cupboard by a sibling, etc., which triggered their anxiety. Some other etiologies may be:-
- A traumatic birth event
- A learned behavior
- The result of a difficult life situation
- A symptom of generalized anxiety disorder
Ways I cope with the dread: —
- Always have my charged cell phone with me.
- I pray to calm my mind.
- I try to ride with others.
- Find something interesting to read/listen to on the ride up and down.
- Think calming thoughts, (go to your happy place).
- I take the stairs if at all possible.
- Locate exit doors in a room
- Medication is always an available option as well.
I cannot pinpoint the origins of my phobia. The only causative factor for me could be birth trauma. According to totalhealth.co.uk a traumatic birth could result in a “body memory”. A “body memory” is an innate consciousness in the construction of different short-term body images and provides real-time information about the posture and location of our bodies.
My mom recalls mine was a long and difficult labor. Perhaps being stuck in the birth canal could be a possible cause of the anxiety disorder.
Whatever its origins, one option is to try to recognize the triggers and manage them before they become a full-blown issue. Employ the above strategies and try to calm yourself as much as you can. Have your cellular device with you at all times and try to engage yourself in something interesting.
I feel that having my cell with me enables me to at least call for help and not feel so helpless or alone.
I employ these strategies, pray that the elevator ride goes quickly, and breathe a sigh of relief as the door begins to open.
Please feel free to share any tips you use in coping with fear and panic.
Thank you for reading.