Recently Acquired Severe Claustrophobia In My Mid 40s. Help!

Briefly, I went for an MRI of my neck recently. I had a very bad reaction. It was in part due to the fact that they braced my head down in a vice like device then slid me under the MRI machine and there was only a tiny little clearance between my face and the machine. I thought I would be fine but then suddenly all reason left me and I totally panicked. I had to call out for the tech to come get me out and he ran over from the control room and released me only seconds after he started the scan.

He was very understanding. I was very apologetic and surprised. I walked around for a bit drank plenty of cold water, splashed my face, unbuttoned my shirt a bit and waited until I stopped sweating. He encouraged me to try again and he loosened everything up. I determinedly decided I would do it but I wouldn't open my eyes not even for a second and just kept picturing outerspace and the ocean and that there was an infinite space before me and in this way I made it through it. I left very puzzled and very shaken.

I could deal with it if it only happened in this one particular highly unusual constrained MRI situation. However, the claustrophobia has quickly spread to every aspect of my life like a virus! My car can suddenly feel claustrophobic to me and I feel the same panic welling up and I open the window immediatley, my bedroom, even some tight clothes around my neck or anything constraining of any kind, sometimes I even kick the bedsheets off of me at night. I have to bring up some resolve now to step into an elevator and I can feel that same claustrophobic panic start to build up in many places. This has been going on now for a long time.

In studying myself it seems to be small spaces but also things of a constraining nature. For example, even if I was in an open field but something was holding my neck down or hands I would have the same type of panic even if logic would tell me I could still breathe and their was plently of air. Similarly, if I am in building even if it is large but I can't see the outside through a window I start to get that panic and I fight it by reminding myself I should logically be OK. I also recently read that when St. George was being tortured they placed a heavy stone on his chest so he couldn't breathe and with the power of God it amazingly did nothing to him. The thought of a stone on your chest constraining your breathing can trigger that same panic in me, and as I am a George, now when I have that feeling of panic I pray to St. George for some strength and it helps me as my weapon against the panic.

A few times recently when the claustrophobic panic was occuring a few childhood memories came flooding back to me. For example, I recall having a similar panic when I was trapped in a broken seat belt in our old car as a kid and my dad had to cut me loose. Also, I remembered playing hide and seek and was put in the closet and piles of clothes were dumped on me and the closet closed. It was fine at first then suddenly I thought I couldn't breathe and I had to fight my way out in a panic. Also a few times briefly when I was younger I had some breathing problems and was prescribed an inhaler. The same feeling of panic could happen then when it became hard to breathe. However, I became a runner and have not often struggled with any breathing problems. The fear now seems irrational and stronger and very troubling. Nevertheless, maybe the claustrophobia was always there and it just got reawakened in me.

So, thanks for reading. It feels good to just even write this. Has anyone else had this and more importantly how have you been able to overcome this particular type of problem? It is horrific for me. This claustrophobic panic I experience is one of the worst feelings and states of torture I could ever imagine. I am not one for psych therapy of any kind or medicines but for the first time this has me contemplating that. Any advice? Thank you in advance.

George1618 George1618
41-45, M
3 Responses Sep 18, 2012

George, I am 37 and always have had small fits of claustrophobia. To be fair I am glad I found this because I felt like I was going mad. I have been able to control it most my life to where I could even go caving.
I just got back from a trip with my friends where I had to ride in the hatchback of a car. It had plenty of room and light. But bc I could not sit up right I started freaking out. I faked car sick but I wasn't. I just had to get out. Even the thought of riding back up front was terrifying for me.
I wish I had a answer for you. I to have had to do the close your eyes for the MRI.
I wish not being alone feeling this way gave me more comfort.
I hope your Saint has lifted some of your burden George.
God Bless

I am Innovation Design Engineering student. Currently I am working on my final project, which is related to people who suffer from claustrophobia. Therefore I am looking for people who suffer from this phobia in order to ask couple of questions (survey)
Would you be willing to fill my short survey?
Thank you,

Omg sounds like I am leading your life!! Although I have always been claustrophobic , but in my 40's it has got so bad!! I can't even stand to wear a hoodie sometimes or have my bra hooked!! It's crazy, it is greatly affected my quality of life!! I'm looking for answers too!!!