Dealing with Phobias

 A phobia is an irrational fear of something that will actually not cause. The word itself comes from the Greek word phobos, which means fear or horror.

When someone has a phobia, they experience intense fear of a certain object or situation. Phobias are different than regular fears because they cause significant distress, interfering with daily life routine of the individual.

Ramani 52yr old house wife, (name and other details changed due to confidentiality) visited a psychiatric hospital with complaints of intense fear of closed places like locked windowless rooms, lift in showrooms, malls and also crowded bus, party/marriage halls, driving on congested road so on. She used to look for the exit door in every crowded space, she enters and stand near it. She had severe fear undergoing a MRI or CT scan too. Ramani was diagnosed with claustrophobia.

Claustrophobia is a situational phobia triggered by an irrational and intense fear of confined or crowded spaces.

People with phobias avoid the phobic object or situation, or go through it with intense fear or anxiety.

Phobias are a type of anxiety.

Symptoms of claustrophobia can include sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, rapid heartbeat, chest tightness or pain, nausea, feeling faint or confused or disorientated.

Causes of Claustrophobia can be organic and experience of traumatic event during childhood or in their teenage years like being stuck in crowded public transport for an extended period of time, being punished by being locked in a bathroom so on.

Ramani was on counselling and therapy and used to visit the hospital regularly. In our therapy sessions, we came to know that Ramani, as a child was sexually abused by her driver in a locked car. As a child she couldn’t totally understand what had happened to her. She did not share this to her parents. This was a one time incident. As she grew up she developed lot of guilt and shame over this incident. This tragic incident was deep rooted in her mind.

She got married to a gentleman and had four children. When she came for treatment she had also got her children married and had grandchildren. But this unaddressed tragedy caused her these intense fears.

She healed after regular therapy. The intensity of her fears had drastically decreased after treatment. Ramani is far better now.

In a similar incident Guhan 10 yr (name and other details changed due to confidentiality),old child was developing claustrophobia. In his case the cause was, being locked in a dark room everytime he used to get low marks, by his mother. In the first place we had to be very strict with the mother by explaining the legal implications of her behaviour.


Swathi Priya. P

Counselling Psychologist.


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