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Claustrophobia - can hypnotherapy help?

Combatting claustrophobia with hypnotherapy

Claustrophobia is one of the most common situational phobias with as many as 5% of people suffering from this fear of small and enclosed spaces like lifts, closets, caves and aircrafts. It’s more common in people with a tendency towards anxiety disorders, panic disorders, and often seems to be a result of an earlier traumatic experience that featured an enclosed space. It has also been suggested that it could be an evolutionary mechanism that may have had benefits for early hominids.

The physical symptoms of claustrophobia may include some of, or all of the following:

  • Respiratory symptoms (throat closing up, tight chest)
  • Hyperventilation
  • Tachycardia (accelerated heartbeat)
  • Sweating
  • Fainting, light headedness
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Uncontrollable shaking

 The psychological symptoms of claustrophobia often include:

  • Thoughts or images of being buried alive or trapped
  • Thoughts of death
  • Urge to flee
  • Exaggerated perceptions of reality.

 Claustrophobia can be a debilitating phobia because it can be difficult to avoid trigger situations in normal everyday life, and doing so may severely limit an individual's choices and freedoms. There are, however, some well-established management and treatment strategies that can help with claustrophobia, these include: exposure therapy and self-help techniques.  

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy, where a patient is gradually introduced to their fears through staged exposure to trigger situations, can help build a cognitive understanding that the fear is irrational and no harm will come to them.

Self-help techniques

There are generalised anxiety self-help techniques that patients can use to manage and control their feelings of anxiety, learning to recognise them as they start to manifest. Deep breathing, visualisations, mindfulness, meditation and yoga are all known to help control rising panic and anxiety, typical symptoms of claustrophobia.

 Hypnotherapy with a trained practitioner is an ideal, safe, and non-invasive form of therapy with no side-effects. Hypnotherapy works by pinpointing the root causes of the patients fear in their unconscious to rapidly cure a phobia. Using a combination of techniques, the hypnotherapist will help the patient to see their phobia in a different context, and gradually build up exposure from a minimal to a comfortable level. With hypnosis, the results can come very rapidly as the therapy is directly addressing the unconscious without the intervention of the patients critical mind, this is known as desensitisation. Sometimes one session is enough, but there are no guarantees as every patient and every phobia is unique, and a trained hypnotherapy practitioner will be able to give you a realistic expectation of how long treatment may last, after the first session.

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