Overcoming Fear of Suffocation & Claustrophobia
Fear of Suffocation and Claustrophobia
Fear of suffocation and claustrophobia tend to be interlinked. People who worry about suffocation often dread being in small rooms, hot rooms or rooms without a window as they fear they will not get enough air. The reality is none of these places have a risk of suffocation. We only breathe in small quantities of air, even in small rooms there would be large volumes of air. A room two metres high and two metres wide would hold 8000 litres of air which would be enough oxygen to keep you alive for many hours.
The reality of the situation is no normal room is airtight. Air flows in through windows and under doors and we could not use that air up before its replenished. The air we breathe is limitless. The temperature of the room also has no bearing on the amount of oxygen in the room; it can only have an effect on your comfort levels. People with this fear often hyperventilate which only makes the symptoms worse.
Claustrophobia is in short is a fear of being in an enclosed space. Does being trapped in a lift scare you? or perhaps travelling through a tunnel makes you anxious? Sufferers can often feel distressed just with the thought of being in a bus, train or plane. Usually any small, enclosed space would trigger a panic attack especially if you felt trapped.
The problem with this way of thinking is it spreads to other places. Subways, lifts, small rooms are the classic scenario but the person’s intense fear is not restricted just to these places. The fear and the panic can be experienced in any place where the person perceives a confinement, closeness or trapped feeling. For example having your haircut and being confined, waiting in a queue, driving, talking to someone for a long period. For me having my hair cut, dentist chair, standing up and talking to someone all use to trigger panic attacks. Before this, I could do all these things and enjoy them. In short, I had developed lots of phobias and started having re-occuring panic attacks which led to panic attack disorder.
Furthermore sufferers can feel panic not just in an enclosed space, but what might happen with that space. If there in a small room is there enough air as discussed above or not being able to get help in some way. If you’re suffering from these issues then I strongly recommend your read my article challenging your thoughts. The worst thing you can do is run from these feelings. Some basic advice would be to stay in the situation and challenge your thoughts. In the case of suffocation just reading the first paragraph will give you hard facts that you will not suffocate. I would see the fear through and eventually you will see that it will subside THAT’S IF YOU DID NOT ADD TO THE FEAR WITH WHAT IF‘s. If you add to the fear with - 'what if a die in here', 'what if there are no exits', etc.; you will encourage the circle of fear. Remember Anxiety can only jump to full blown panic if you add fuel to the fire. That’s why you must challenge your thoughts. Preferably do this before you enter the situation which may cause you fear. Meditation and challenging your thoughts will bring out long term change.
“Holding on to anything is like holding on to your breath. You will suffocate. The only way to get anything in the physical universe is by letting go of it. Let go & it will be yours forever.” Deepak Chopra
Claustrophobia includes two components:
- Fear of the place – this means that person fears the limitation in movement and the feeling of being confined.
- Fear of the physical sensations – so if you have a fear of small rooms you may feel like your suffocating.
When a person is in a confined space they often have intense feeling of panic and this coupled with lots of bodily sensations such as sweating, difficulty concentrating, palpitations, muscle tensing, etc. Once the person removes themselves from the area which they perceive is dangerous the bodily sensations disappear. This happens because the person relaxes and does not have any more negative fearful thoughts about the surrounding they are now in. Their mind and body now fully accept the new surroundings. There is no trigger to set the fear off. In a bigger room or outside they have complete faith in their mind that even if they feel sweaty or their breath is restricted there fine so no horrible physical sensations are produced.
When a claustrophobic person or a somebody with panic attacks are in a confined area, they will often perform silly rituals to try and protect themselves from the panic. For example they will try sitting next to a window for more air, they will sit next to an aisle in a cinema, or situate themselves in a room so they can escape easier.
Claustrophobia is one of the most common phobias, but also one of the least treated phobias because many people do not seek help. This is mainly because
- Many people just use avoidance and try to get around the problem that way
- Many people do not know that it is perfectably treatable.
- Many people have just concluded that there is no help and have learned to live with the inconvenience but ultimately not life changing problem.
My anxiety and panic attacks left me with all sort of phobias and claustrophobic feelings. One by one I managed to overcome them but there is no magic pill. My free ebook (at the bottom of the page) is a great way to start understanding how you can cure yourself of this. My Resourse page gives you some great resources which have helped me along the way to reocovery. I especially recommend you read Claire Weekes books. They will teach you the fundamental techniques for overcoming fear. You can find an article I have written about her here.
Have you suffered from these conditions or perhaps you have other phobia's ? I would love to here from you......
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