Everyone experiences fear from time to time. However, a phobia is an irrational and excessive reaction to fear, often accompanied by a deep sense of dread and panic. The reaction in a phobia is disproportionate to the scenario and can cause excessive anxiety.
Although most people who experience phobias know that their reactions are excessive, the understanding does not diminish their experiences.
According to a recent survey, one relatively common but largely ignored phobia is cleithrophobia. The condition affects the lives of about 2.2% of people in the United States. The phobia relates to an irrational fear of being trapped and unable to escape. Phobias can be debilitating, affecting individual’s lives in several ways.
Someone with cleithrophobia may struggle with severe anxiety and the physical and psychological responses that accompany anxiety. The experiences can also be embarrassing and can leave one feeling helpless.
The good news is that, with proper support and treatment, managing cleithrophobia is possible. This article offers information on the condition, including the symptoms, causes, therapy options and why to read online counseling reviews.
Defining the Concept: What Is Cleithrophobia
Living with a phobia can be one of the most challenging things for anyone, even if the situation or object does not appear regularly in one’s life. You may still find yourself spending valuable time worrying that the feared object may appear, trying to create ways to avoid any encounter.
Let us start by giving a summarized cleithrophobia definition. Cleithrophobia refers to the irrational fear of being locked in or trapped. It shares several similarities with claustrophobia, which has led many people to confuse the two.
However, unlike claustrophobia, which is the fear of small enclosed spaces, cleithrophobia is the fear of being in a space that makes one feel trapped or locked. It is also relatively similar to merinthophobia, which is the fear of being tied up or bound. It is the irrational fear of being restrained.
Differentiating Between Cleithrophobia and Claustrophobia
The effects of phobia can range from annoying to seriously debilitating. Even when the individuals understand that the fear is irrational, they are often unable to change the reactions. Phobias can interfere with the quality of life. Many phobias exist, and evidence shows that more than 19 million people in the United States struggle with phobias.
Cleithrophobia is often mistaken for claustrophobia since the two share common characteristics. Claustrophobia implies the irrational fear of being in confined spaces. The irrational fear of small spaces can trigger episodes of anxiety or panic attacks. You may also feel that you are losing control.
On the other hand, cleithrophobia implies the irrational fear of being locked or trapped. While it may appear similar to claustrophobia, the two are very different. Claustrophobes have a fear of closed spaces, while cleithrophobes fear feeling trapped.
The size or nature of the space does not matter when it comes to cleithrophobia. The phobia stems from an irrational fear of being stuck or the inability to leave whenever one desires. So, a person with cleithrophobia may be fine with being in a small space such as a lift, as long as there is a way out.
While there are significant differences, both phobias can result in anticipatory anxiety. This means that the affected individual starts to panic before the event happens. Understand that cleithrophobia and claustrophobia may exist simultaneously. Therefore, getting help from a competent mental health professional is important, especially regarding diagnosis.
What Are the Symptoms and Causes of Cleithrophobia?
The symptoms of cleithrophobia are quite similar to those associated with alternative specific phobias. People with this phobia often experience panic whenever they feel trapped. Besides a panic-like response, one may also experience physical signs, including increased heart rate and nausea.
Other physical symptoms include sweating, shortness of breath, and dizziness. Thoughts related to the fear of being trapped can cause some to avoid situations at home or work where being trapped may happen.
Although phobias can happen without a cause, most can be linked to a traumatic event that happened during childhood. Also, research shows that a combination of underlying factors can increase the likelihood of cleithrophobia and the fear of small places, including genetic predisposition and biological, environmental, and psychological factors.
Here are some common causes:
- Negative or traumatic experiences during childhood such as being trapped or losing a parent;
- Fear of the unknown when in tight spaces;
- Genetic factors, such as having a sibling or parent with cleithrophobia;
- Reading about disastrous or dangerous things that happen in enclosed spaces.
Management and Treatment of Cleithrophobia
Cleithrophobia presents numerous challenges, but it can be effectively managed. If your symptoms limit your quality of life or seem severe, it is always a good idea to seek support from a competent mental health professional.
Research shows that systematic desensitization and other forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy can be effective with the fear of enclosed spaces and cleithrophobia. However, they ought not to be attempted without support from a certified professional.
Also, while there is no definitive treatment for cleithrophobia, evidence shows that a combination of therapies can have positive effects.
Here are some treatment options:
Psychotherapy is a way of helping people struggling with a variety of mental health and emotional problems, including the fear of tunnels. The therapy helps by eliminating or controlling the troubling symptoms, allowing the individual to function much better, and improving the quality of life.
Psychotherapy is ideal when one has trouble coping with daily life or recovering from the effect of trauma. It is also suitable when dealing with mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety. Understand that various types of psychotherapy exist, and the one that works will depend on the specific problems or issues.
The idea behind talk therapy for fear of tight spaces is that sharing problems or issues can help cope with emotional distress. Some therapists follow specific schools of thought like behaviorism or CBT. Others prefer a more eclectic approach, picking principles and techniques from different schools according to the client’s needs.
Here are some common ones:
- Exposure therapy — The therapist may start by asking the client to imagine situations where they can be trapped to desensitize the fear;
- Relaxation therapy — The therapist helps the client to calm down thoughts and teaches breathing techniques;
- Mindfulness — Teaches people to accept themselves and be present at the moment to see things as they are;
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy — CBT focuses on and challenges automated negative thought processes and is effective for most phobias.
If talk therapy is ineffective in easing phobia symptoms and you are still scared of small spaces or being stuck, then your therapist may suggest combining psychotherapy with other treatments. For some situations, sedatives can help with reducing the seriousness of anxiety symptoms.
Beta-blockers can also be effective as they counteract the effects of adrenaline. Understand that both types of medications have side effects and risks. They should only be used when prescribed by a competent health professional.
Other medications that can be prescribed for someone afraid of tight spaces include antidepressants and anti-anxiety medicines.
When to See a Professional
If you or someone you know is struggling with cleithrophobia or the phobia of small spaces, then seeking professional therapy is the ideal way to get help. Experienced therapists understand how to use evidence-based strategies to help clients with managing the symptoms of phobias.
The good news is that thanks to teletherapy platforms, people do not have to book in-office appointments or spend huge sums to get help. Online therapy platforms allow those who need help to engage professionals in convenient and affordable ways.