Claustrophobia is a fear of closed-in or small spaces.
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The cause is not known. It may be a mix of genes and environment.
Things that may raise the risk of this problem are:
- Having other family members with the same problems
- Having other mental health problems, such as anxiety
Claustrophobia starts during the child or teen years.
Problems may be:
- Fast heartbeat
- Fast breathing
- Problems breathing
- Lightheadedness or fainting
- Feelings of dread or terror
A person may also:
- Look for exit doors when in a room
- Feel very nervous if doors are shut
- Not use elevators, subways, or airplanes
- Not travel in a car in heavy traffic
- Stand near exit doors in crowded places
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam will be done. This is often enough to make the diagnosis.
Claustrophobia may go away on its own. Others may need treatment to manage the fear. Options are:
- Mental health counseling, such as cognitive behavioral therapy
- Medicines to help control feelings of panic
There are no known guidelines to prevent this health problem.
American Psychiatric Association
Anxiety and Depression Association of America
Canadian Mental Health Association
Canadian Psychiatric Association
Anxiety disorders. National Institute of Mental Health website. Available at: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml. Accessed November 18, 2020.
LeBeau RT, Glenn D, et al. Specific phobia: a review of DSM-IV specific phobia and preliminary recommendations for DSM-V. Depress Anxiety. 2010 Feb;27(2):148-167.
Specific phobia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/specific-phobia. Accessed November 18, 2020.
Treatment. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Available at: https://adaa.org/finding-help/treatment. Accessed November 18, 2020.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Adrian Preda, MD Last Updated: 4/14/2021