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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]


Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder that involves the fear of enclosed or confined spaces. Claustrophobes may suffer from panic attacks, or fear of having a panic attack, in situations such as being in elevators, trains, boxes or aircraft.

Conversely, people who are prone to having panic attacks will often develop claustrophobia. If a panic attack occurs while they are in a confined space, then the claustrophobe fears not being able to escape the situation. Those suffering from claustrophobia might find it difficult to breathe in closed auditoriums, theatres, and elevators. Like many other disorders, claustrophobia can sometimes develop due to a traumatic incident in childhood.

Claustrophobia can be treated in similar ways to other anxiety disorders, with a range of treatments including cognitive behavior therapy and the use of anti-anxiety medication. Hypnosis is an alternative treatment for claustrophobia.

The name claustrophobia comes from the Latin word claustrum which means "a bolt, a place shut in" and the Greek word phobos meaning "fear".


It was found that 5-10.6% of people screened before an MRI scan had claustrophobia. Furthermore, it was found that 7% of patients had unidentified claustrophobia, and had to terminate the scanning procedure prematurely. 30% reported milder distress due to the necessity to lie in a confined space for a long time. For specific phobias in general, there is a lifetime prevalence rate of 7.2%-11.3%.

Colloquial usage

The term "claustrophobic" usually describes claustrophobic people or feelings of claustrophobia. However, in informal conversation, the term has also been used to describe enclosed spaces or situations that may induce feelings of claustrophobia. For example, one could say, "Crowded elevators are claustrophobic."[1]

See also

  • Buried alive
  • Caving, a sport in which practitioners frequently enter enclosed spaces voluntarily


  1. claustrophobic. (n.d.). The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Retrieved September 21, 2007, from website:

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