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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This is slightly off topic so move me if appropriate -

One of my stubborn symptoms is claustrophobia. Planes, tubes and elevators freak me out. I have avoided tubes and lifts for a few years. Can't avoid planes as I refuse to give up holidays! But the claustro stays the same each time so exposure isn't helping. Does anyone know of any type of therapy or a book, or ANYTHING at all that can help me work through this?

I understand that phobias are symbols of our fears etc, are there any direct approaches to sorting it out? I know it wont go over night but I refuse to be limited like this. And have decided now is the time. Anyone else with phobias here?

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I probably have severe claustrophobia. I too feel/felt that it has symbolic attachment to it, for there are many areas in my life where I have an uneasy feeling of being trapped, such as relationships, jobs and even some committments. Anyway I went to a therpist one time who said forget the symbolism and go expose. Well, the phobia was too great for me so I backed off. It has gotten worse. It started about 14 years ago, I think the trigger was a major dr episode in a hospital hallway. Soon I could not ride elevators, then planes, or get stuck in traffic etc. It soon became attached to any place, no matter what, where I do not have an escape. This includes sitting in the middle row of a theatre e.g. My life is limited becasue of it, I am always on guard. It is not a fear of death, it is a fear of being trapped and the resultant panic attack that occurs.

All I read says exposure is the key. Exposure never has worked for my dr, and that is why i question whether the dr makes this phobia a little tougher to bring down. Whatever you do, I would do it now before it expands on you. please let me know how you do. It is funny becasue I used to be a companion/helper for agoraphobics when they were doing exposure. I would fly with them and ride elevators with them all day. No problem. Grab a friend if do exposure. Makes it nicer.

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I can barely get into an elevator after getting stuck in one a few years ago. I was literally screaming for help that's how freaked I was. To get on a plane, I need large quantities of Xanax. Actually, going too far from home freaks me out. I'm afraid fo what "may" be out there. The elevator phobia is starting to go away, but it is still there. I have this horrible fear of getting crushed to death, but being confined to a small space for days before dying. Crazy brain of mine always torturing me :\

Classic neurotic Ken

I took the train across the U.S. - ALL the way (4,000+ miles/4 days) rather than fly to New York for the family vacation a couple of years back. I did somehow manage to steel myself enough to fly back home, but it was touch and go the entire time as to whether or not I was going to step out the emergency door.
I refuse to get on an elevator. When I finally made it to New York, we of course had to go to the Empire State Building. I made up like 80 flights on the stairs before giving up (and nearly seizing up I might add - smoker you know).
Claustraphobia is one of the constellation of symptoms that came with the DP for me.

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i get claustraphobic. i even have a repeating claus. dream which has been going on as long as i can remember. i feel claustraphobic when trapped in dp as well. i don't have any solutions though :(

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jft said:
All I read says exposure is the key. Exposure never has worked for my dr, and that is why i question whether the dr makes this phobia a little tougher to bring down. Whatever you do, I would do it now before it expands on you. please let me know how you do. It is funny becasue I used to be a companion/helper for agoraphobics when they were doing exposure. I would fly with them and ride elevators with them all day. No problem. Grab a friend if do exposure. Makes it nicer.
I couldn't agree more with this -- re: keep facing the phobia or it will feed on itself, grow, and become more debilitating. I know with myself, like anxiety and even DP/DR, these become conditioned and generalized to more and more situations. Then one avoids, and life becomes smaller and smaller.

I don't have any phobias, but my DP/DR/anxiety has limited me more and more, as I avoid situations where it has escalated in the past. In my current group therapy I'm getting another stern dose of what I already know, but am putting into action -- get out, do stuff, regardless. And that is NOT easy. Believe me I know this.

The only thing that bugs me is getting in a plane, but I think it's because of some strange superstition I have that because I traveled so much as a young girl and have been on planes a lot since then that "my number is up", LOL. I'll get on a plane, but I just have to take it on faith that the plane has been serviced and the pilot knows what he/she is doing.

My cousin has a fear of heights and of freeways. For 40 years she has driven to work the LONG way to avoid a freeway. She will NOT drive on a freeway.

Again, exposure, and as early as possible once the phobia appears, seems to be the most effective treatment. It is like with some folks with OCD ... through behavioral therapy we do have the means to conquer some limitations.

My biggest limitation is my fear of my DP/DR/anxiety spiking. And that is my conditioned response. I must force myself to do things. And also, again I learn today -- NO CAFFEINE. ERRRRRR.

sc, I'm astonished that you made it to the 80th floor of the Empire State Building! Wowzer. :shock: Damned impressive!

I guess just for clarification, and to make sure I understand what this thread is about - I couldn't care less if an elevator cable snaps, or if the plane I'm in crashes. Seems as good a way to go as any (plus think of the stories my kids could tell).
No, my fear is of being enclosed in something I cannot get out of. Oddly though, subways don't bother be that way. Even when the lights go out. That may be do to the more imminent fear of some of the my co-passengers there though.......
Oh, and I exaggerated a bit I think. If I remember correctly, I made it up to floor #67 before it ocurred to me that I might die of a heart attack if I continued on.

"Phobia" is a tricky word. It's fine to call these fears phobias informally...but when talking to a psychiatrist or really whenever needing to communicate the details of one's own symptom-set, be careful.

A phobia is usually the following: Person A has no real nervous or depressive symptoms...functions very well, seems really normal. EXCEPT - put Person A in a plane (or in high places, or near a spider, etc.) and Person A flips out. THAT is a phobia. The meaning is usually reserved to imply that the overall psychic functioning is strong and sound - but that the person does have some anxiety-based "area" that is expressed in a single way (or one or two ways)...i.e., the phobia.

For me (and I sure think this is true for many of you here) while I was petrified to do ALOT of stuff, they were not "separate" phobias. Here is a small list of my larger list:
couldn't drive, except rarely;
terrified of elevators;
for about 7 years, I couldn't cross a LARGE street - if it had a median (or "neutral ground"). I was afraid I'd get stuck there, if the light changed, and I'd be in between traffic behind me and in front of me and that if my dp got worse, I might panic so badly, I'd leap into the traffic.

That was an underlying theme in most of my fears - had to keep myself Safe so that if the unreality feelings suddenly peaked, I couldn't kill myself in a blind desperate fit. (it sounds comical, but I was deadly serious. I would NOT go places, or if I did, I needed to have a way "out" instantly - the fear was the same Old Favorites:
1) either I'd go bezerk in the moment when Reality finally TOTALLY faded once and for all and kill myself;
2) I'd start screaming and not be able to stop (i.e., literally lose my mind because I was trapped if NOT getting in an elevator could keep me from having a psychotic break..but that is 100 per cent what I believed) point. Were those phobias? SORT of - but mostly they were linked to the Larger Picture of my entire repertoire of symptoms - anxiety, dp, obsessions, magical thinking, dr, etc.... The specific "places" or things I avoided were not "ordinary" phobias because the rest of the time I wasn't FINE...far from it. The special places were just places I was ESPECIALLY terrified of (as opposed to only marginally terrified which is how I felt about nearly everything else)

It's not going to work to go to a doctor and say "hi, doc...see, I've got this little phobia" and then expect him to cure it with tips or technques they'd use on "simple phobias" (without acknowledging that it's really a piece of a gigantic puzzle that you KNOW is the constellation of all your sympom-set). If you've got ALOT in the mental arena, while it can be soothing to name each and every piece of it - and to think "okay, I've got this and that and that" - you can't then try to TREAT those individual components as separate entities - you're misleading the doctor and fooling yourself if you try. It's a COMMON "game" we play with our problems - we try to cart out ONE symptom as a test balloon, lol...and say "okay, let's see how the doc does with THIS one...and maybe if he's good, I'll mention the fact that I think I'm insane")

It's all ONE large picture. Keep that in mind and recovery/solution is going to be much much easier, guys. Reality.

let the record show than JB stole the word "constellation" from me.
In fact, most of the stuff she puts here she gets from me.
Just wanted to make that clear.
Carry on.

Yes, sc did use the word "constellation" in his post above. And it was touch and go the entire time I was writing to predict if he'd catch me. I guess it felt imminent, and almost wanted clarification that he noticed. Oddly though, I am proud to copy sc. Sometimes I feel myself seizing with envy, and can't resist borrowing his words because they add impact and pizazz to my own posts.

GOtta love that sc.
and I do. I love him - and his entire constellation of quirks.

:lol: :p :twisted:

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Sc. That is my reflection as well. When in an elevator or plane, the thought is never crashing or dying, it is only the entrapment and no escape that starts the panic going. It is the fear of fear I guess. My agoraphobic friend jsut thinks I am like her. But yet I can travel around the world if I wanted to, cross bridges and go shopping all day, things she has huge problems with. Can't be in a train, plane or bus though, becasue I need that exit in my "control".

Makes one wonder, Janine, why CBT people laugh at us when we go in and want to weed out the general causes or look at the bigger picture or explore the constellations. They say "exposure and habituation or get out of here, do not waste my time". And it works for many, even folks who are not specific phobic only.
But I have always asked if this type of therapy is only an end that justifies the means. Squashing avoidance in behaviour does not touch the other areas, if they indeed exist. You say they might, CBT people say if they did it does not matter. I have tried often with various therapists to explore those areas but for the most part have been refused, they do not want to talk about it. You call a clinic for an appt., the nurse asks your symptoms, and you are automatically referred to a specialist in anxiety and he/she is almsot always a cbt least in the region I live. I know this is all nothing but the differing schools of thought arguement, but I wish it was more evident as what is best for treatment.

I find it real interesting that so often the answer to our dilemnas is just to face them, don't avoid. Sheldon Kopp spoke of this when he said that eventually we all realize that our neurosis don't really work so we might as well face them now. I think of the movie "Pawnbroker" where Steiger stuffed his images of his concentration camp experience so far away that he could not feel but eventually it nailed him. I think of my avoidance of closed spaces and how it has gotten so much worse over the years. And I think of psychological defenses in general where we jsut delay and trick reality.(dp/dr?) Yeah, I guess that is the word, reality, you are right. Courage and acceptance of it. Endurance to get you through it. But understanding of it all comes just as hard. It is the understanding I need to make everything else happen.
Sorry, got long.

I consider myself to be phobic.I don't know what a pyschiatrist would determine my problems to be but all I know is put me into certain situations and I get very very fearful and anxious.
I've been like this a long time,way before chronic dp.
I used to be agoraphobic.

All of my phobias relate to situations where I feel trapped.
Flying is a biggie.
Unlike some people I'm not so afraid due to thought of having panic attacks.I really am terrified of dying in a crash.
I'm phobic of having a general anthestic,the dentist and to some extent heights.I could never go hang gliding or sky diving!
I'm not good on escalators(never look down).
I over came my fear of lifts with exposure therapy but I'd be might anxious attempting the Empire State Building.

I've read a a few books on phobias and it appears they are still not well understood.
Some people have a mono phobia which is much easier to cure or avoid.

I agree the first course of action is exposure therapy and desensitisation.
I think it makes a difference if you are afraid of panic attacks or death or some other charming fate.
If the problem is panic attacks,obviously it would be best to work on panics.
I have a friend who was severely phobic of flying.Finally a doctor gave her paxil and like magic she is flying all over the world without a single ounce of anxiety.
She told me she was actually afraid of panics not heights or crashing.

Most people seem to improve with therapy.Due to therapy and medication I'm not particularly agoraphobic any more.
Although these days dp can bring it back on for short periods.
I have resorted to the fact that I may never lose my fear of flying but I do it anyway because I refuse to allow this fear to influence my life in such a dramatic way.

I wish I had more advice to offer.Phobias are complex.
Good luck.
All the best cheers Shelly

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[quote name="Janine Baker said]A phobia is usually the following: Person A has no real nervous or depressive symptoms...functions very well, seems really normal. EXCEPT - put Person A in a plane (or in high places, or near a spider, etc.) and Person A flips out. THAT is a phobia. The meaning is usually reserved to imply that the overall psychic functioning is strong and sound - but that the person does have some anxiety-based "area" that is expressed in a single way (or one or two ways)...i.e., the phobia.

I agree that the word phobia is dicey and can be misused and miscontstrued, but wanted to respond to the above, taking the example of my cousin again.

Firstly I looked up phobia in the dictionary, LOL. "an irrational persistent fear or dread."

When we get down to semantics, defining this, it is confusing. When I think of a phobia, I think very specifically of say a person who can't go within ten feet of a spider, but then I could also say that sc's walking up 67 flights of stairs to avoid an elevator is a phobia, but is also part of... yes, a constellation of stuff. He has a number of problems, and some phobias are included in that mish mash? I'm not sure.

OK, my cousin though. She is grossly obsese, has always been depressed, but is not anxious. She was in an extremely abusive marriage. She hasn't missed a day of work in I don't know how many years, and has only recently had to take paid sick leave due to her obesity.

However she literally has this ONE funky phobia that seems to have no "source" -- and I can only say it is a phobia, ON TOP of, or ADDED onto her depression and eating disorder. She can't explain it, and says she always had it, since she can recall.

When she visited me in L.A. I drove her over a number of "interchanges", one called "The Four Level" downtown. It is a mighty daunting thing... four levels of freeways stacked one on top of the other. They give me pause when a minor "temblor" strikes.

Anytime we got on any freeway (flat or leveled), she was hyperventilating and anxious and clinging to the car door as though she might fall out and plummet to her death -- I think that's the fear as far as she can express it. When we got off the freeway onto the (more dangerous!) side streets she calmed down. The Porches and Lambourghinis sp? crash every 10 minutes at all the intersections in Beverly Hills... seriously.

When we got to that "Four Level" she let out a scream -- nearly caused me to run into somebody. There are also a number of HUGE overpasses that curve ... cloverleaf things ... near the airport. They go WAAAAAY up into the sky... say as tall as a building -- 30 stories or more? She'd start screaming.

Well, after a few of those episodes, I found myself avoiding every freeway in L.A., which isn't easy to do. It's a helluva thing. But it was too upsetting to my cousin, and two nerve-wracking for me to deal with the screaming... more of a yelling on a roller coaster type thing.

So in that case, I can say that my cousin has this ONE phobia, very specific, of dying? by falling from a height and/or dying on a freeway -- in no particular fashion. She doesn't even talk about dying in a crash.

Then I with 8 million problems, I have no phobias. Really none.

The biggest word that gets confused here I think is agoraphobia. Our DP/DR is horrifying and it keeps us indoors. We avoid shopping malls, or just going outside because the symptoms of the DP/DR are so miserable. We would go outdoors, etc. if we weren't DP/DR.

The agoraphobic doesn't have DP/DR necessarily. (I suppose they could) But let's say he/she doesn't. They literally fear a crowd. Agoraphobia is very specific. It means "Fear of the marketplace."

I don't know what I'm carrying on about, but I seem to find that again, we are all amazingly unique. I have DP/DR, GAD, some Borderline Traits, and have NO PHOBIAS. Go figure.

It's true, we have to separate out the wheat from the chaff ... what our key problems are and work on those -- with therapy, meds, CBT, whatever works.

The point, I've lost it. I have come to believe from my current work in DBT, that many illnesses .... the severity can be LESSENED... suffering can be lessened ... by using every coping skill at your command.

This doesn't eliminate therapy, meds, dealing with issues, etc.

Simple phobias.... I think one either lives with them, or faces them head on. Or makes due. My cousin has NEVER driven the freeway in 40 years, and only got on it the few times I took her on it in L.A. And that's the end of it.

Go figure.
We're all unique.
Forgive the ramble. :shock:

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Or what Shelly said, LOL. So simply...

Phobias are complex.
... the thing about them is they are indeed completely irrational. sc you say you aren't afraid of the elevator snapping, or the plane crashing, my cousin isn't afaid of a car crash, she is afraid of ... she can't pinpoint it ... driving on the freeway, LOL. Completely irrational. And it has cost her, no doubt about $500,000.00 in fuel over all these years.

I can see with myself, that any AVOIDANCE of things has always been associated with my fear of feeling awful in the situation. Literally traveling in Paris with my mother and not wanting to go to the museum one day as my DP/DR was SO bad. I don't have a museum phobia, I have DP/DR.

OK, I'd better stop there. Keyed up tonight.
Sigh. 8)

I use the word phobia,perhaps not completely accurately to decribe my fear of particular situations because it does not suffice to say "I'm afraid of flying".
A lot of people would jump in and say"yeah I don't like it either" but to say I'm truly phobic of flying in my opinion describes the severity of fear closer to my reality.

Dreamer,your cousin's fear is not all that uncommon.In her situation it's luckily a mono phobia.
I've heard many people with agoraphobia mention fear of freeways.
In fact I'm pretty sure those freeways you described would induce some nasty anxiety in me.I'd be afraid if the height and falling.
When one of my sisters was experiencing a nervous breakdown she had a fear of bridges,another common fear.

Years ago when agoraphobia was first talked about it was described as being afraid of open spaces.Most agoraphobics are not afraid of open spaces and the Greek meaning is more accurate.
Just about every agoraphobic is afraid of supermarkets and shopping malls.
When I had agoraphobia I aso had dp/dr.It was not chronic and I assumed it was a symptom of agoraphobia which was caused by a fear of panic attacks which included dp/dr.
In Claire Weeke's book about agoraphobia she talks about dp/dr,this is where I first learnt of these terms.

When I first had chronic dp/dr I became agoraphobic again.This time I was afraid of how frightening it felt to be out and about with dp/dr.
I'd never had it 24/7 before and felt overwhelmed with terror, in a state of shock.
I hid inside so I didn't have to encounter many people and the big scary world.
I reread my Claire Weekes books and decided even though this time the cause of my agoraphobia was different the treatment would have to be the same.
Have to admit taking klonopin made it much easier than going out without any medication.

As for claustrophobia I can relate as I've often thought that I would feel a lot more relaxed if I saw the dentist outside,like in an open field LOL I'd feel more ready for the big's all about being able to escape,for me anyway.
I prefer to sit on the end of the aisle at the movies and I always request a lower floor in a hotel.
Yep and I always check where the exists are.
God I'm a mess :oops:

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
When I checked in on on my thread last night there were no replies and I thought God I'm popular :evil:

But this morning...thanks guys for all your replies!

My 'phobias' are defintely related to the bigger picture. I am not afraid of dying in a plane crash or the elevator crashing down. I know that would be irrational. But the bit I get stuck on is, I am afraid of my own fear, and that to me is not irrational and very real, (which sounds crazy I know). I have avoided other places before when suffering from panic attacks or severe dr, but this claustrophobic thing is really stubborn.

So it has become a kind of phobia because I can go anywhere and do practically anything, but unless I am put into a situation where I THINK I am not in total CONTROL of the situation, and cannot ESCAPE (which seems to be a common theme with us lot) then I just cannot do it. Getting in an elevator, when those doors close, is just unbearable. I have been stuck in one before, for nearly an hour, and had to be rescued by firemen. Even gorgeous men in uniform didn't cure me.

Fear of your own fear is irrational isn't it? I am afraid of what I will do. The Embarrassment.

I think all phobias come down to the same thing, fear of your own reaction, which has a deeper meaning for most of us.

So, exposure or further delving into my fears? I think maybe exposure because a lot of the time it becomes habit, and it only symbolises your fear, and is just a cover up so there is no point in feeding it.

Apologies for the rambling, thinking out loud. Thanks again for your thoughts guys x

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Oh my, RESEARCH ATTACK, but I wanted to understand this better. In a way we're all correct, but there are various types of phobias which are more or less severe, and all fall under the category of anxiety disorders.

"The Merck Manual of Diagnosis and Therapy
Section 15. Psychiatric Disorders
Chapter 187. Anxiety Disorders
Panic Attacks And Panic Disorder
Phobic Disorders
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Acute Stress Disorder
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Anxiety Due To A Physical Disorder Or A Substance

Phobic Disorders -- General Description

Disorders involving persistent, unrealistic, yet intense anxiety
that, unlike the free-floating anxiety of panic disorder, is
attached to external situations or stimuli.
Persons who have a phobia avoid such situations or stimuli or
endure them only with great distress. But they retain insight and
recognize the excessiveness of their anxiety."


1. Agoraphobia
2. Specific Phobias
3. Social Phobia

And you need to read the whole section of the Merck Manual to understand the specific, sometimes subtle differences. CBT/exposure seem to be the most effective treatment in some. Meds are recommended in other cases, etc. I only put in portions of the text.

Anxiety about or avoidance of being trapped in situations or places
with no way to escape easily if panic develops.
Agoraphobia is more common than panic disorder. It affects 3.8% of
women and 1.8% of men during any 6-mo period. Peak age of onset is
the early 20s; first appearance after age 40 is unusual..........

Clinically significant anxiety induced by exposure to a specific
situation or object, often resulting in avoidance.
Specific phobias are the most common anxiety disorders but are
often less troubling than other anxiety disorders. They affect 7%
of women and 4.3% of men during any 6-mo period.

Symptoms and Signs
Some specific phobias cause little inconvenience--eg, fear of
snakes in a city dweller, unless he is asked to hike in an area
where snakes live. However, some phobias interfere severely with
functioning--eg, fear of closed places, such as elevators, in a
person who must work on an upper floor of a skyscraper.
Some specific phobias (eg, of animals, the dark, or strangers)
begin early in life, and many disappear later without treatment.

Others (eg, of storms, water, heights, flying, or enclosed places)
typically develop later in life.
Phobia of blood, injections, or
injury occurs to some degree in at least 5% of the population.
Persons with this phobia, unlike those with other phobias or
anxiety disorders, can actually faint, because an excessive
vasovagal reflex produces bradycardia and orthostatic hypotension.
Many persons with anxiety disorders hyperventilate and feel faint
because of changes in their blood gas levels, but those who
hyperventilate virtually never faint............

Clinically significant anxiety induced by exposure to certain
social or performance situations, often resulting in avoidance.

Humans are social animals, and their ability to relate comfortably
in social situations affects many important aspects of their lives,
including family, education, work, leisure, dating, and mating.

Social phobias affect 1.7% of women and 1.3% of men during any 6-mo
period. However, more recent epidemiologic studies suggest a
substantially higher lifetime prevalence of about 13%. Men are more
likely than women to have the most severe form of social anxiety,
avoidant personality disorder (see Ch. 191)........."

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I think I used to have agoraphobia and social phobia which have disappeared but replaced by dp. In my teens I couldn't go to a store alone or walk in the street by myself without feeling awful and different, which probably was some kind of dissociation. I think that not to be intimitated by other people (if they're not serial killers), you have to have enough self esteem and the ability to improvise instead of needing to control everything, even if others were more funny or intelligent. Flying and elevators I've always loved, my dream would be a mile high ski lift.
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