The Get-a-Grip Guide to Conquering Your Worst Fears
What's behind it: Some claustrophobics have been traumatized by a past experience, such as being locked in a closet or elevator; but for many, there is no trigger event, says Dr. Doyle. "Often, the person once had a panic attack in an enclosed space and felt she couldn't escape, then grew more afraid of having another attack than of the small space itself."
Using desensitization techniques is also one of the best ways to overcome claustrophobia, says Dr. Doyle. "Start with imagining the least scary scenario. Visualize sitting in a small room with the door closed, for example, then work up to the most frightening situation, like riding in a crowded elevator." Claustrophobics can benefit from anxiety-reducing techniques like meditation as well. "This helps you go into 'relax mode' once symptoms begin," says Dr. Doyle.
Pro tip: Kenneth Kamler, MD, author of Surviving the Extremes, and a hand surgeon and medical expert on mountain climbing and scuba expeditions
As a medical expert on dangerous expeditions, Dr. Kamler has hunkered down in tiny tents while scaling Mount Everest and gone scuba diving in narrow lava tubes. "If I feel anxious in a tight space, I imagine leaving my body," he says. This trick provides objectivity and focus; you can then ask yourself, "Do I really have a reason to panic?" and "If I need to get out of this situation, what's my best approach?"
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