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What is Claustrophobia?
Claustrophobia- Fear of confined spaces.
Claustrophobia is a relatively common condition which is classically defined as an intense fear of being in a small, shut-in or confined space (from the Latin, claustrum, meaning an enclosed space). Surveys indicate that it affects between two and five per cent of the population at anyone time, most commonly in the age group between eighteen and twenty-five years, although it may appear in childhood. Also, it is more prevalent in females than in males and is among the 'top ten' of the most commonly recorded phobias.
Symptoms of Claustrophobia
Very few sufferers seek help for their condition and it is believed that this is partly because many are unaware of the effective treatment that is available.
Victims cope by avoiding feared situations that may cause significant inconvenience, particularly if their claustrophobia is experienced in response to a broad range of stimuli. However, it can be difficult to completely avoid claustrophobic situations and the degree of distress endured by sufferers can be considerable. In some instances, the phobia can have potentially more serious consequences as, for example, in the case of a person who needs a diagnostic medical imaging scan, but is unable to undergo the procedure because of his inability to endure being enclosed within the machine.
Questioning claustrophobics about the nature of their fear does not usually provide satisfactory answers. Sufferers are often puzzled themselves about what exactly frightens them or what they think will happen to them. However, detailed studies of claustrophobia have revealed that it is a complex condition in which two aspects combine to maintain fear.
Treatment of Claustrophobia
Four main methods of treatment have been applied to claustrophobia and these are graduated exposure, cognitive therapy, interoceptive therapy and single session treatment based on intensive graduated exposure and discussion. Single session treatment and exposure therapy have proved to be the most effective, followed by the cognitive and interoceptive approaches, with most patients showing reductions in fear and negative beliefs.
The high success rate of therapy is particularly encouraging, given the entrenched nature of pre treatment, negative cognitions in claustrophobia, which are not amenable to change by discussion alone. In common with other phobias, treatment allows the claustrophobic person to discover that his catastrophic cognitions do not come to pass. It is possible that including breathing or relaxation exercises and self-help measures in a treatment programme might also be of benefit, particularly to those who retain a reduced level of claustrophobia following therapy.