I was once claustrophobic to the point of experiencing panic attacks at the mere thought of undergoing a MRI. As I write, I’ve just finished my 21st MRI (I have, um, a little problem that requires frequent check-ups).
How did I get to this point?
The short answer is 1. I asked for help, and 2. I did the not-particularly-hard work required to overcome my fear.
Claustrophobia is not particularly well-studied, but literature exists showing that up to 37% of people have problems with MRIs – so we claustrophobes are hardly alone in this.
Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder, a class of pathologies characterized by abnormal triggering of perfectly normal human psychological responses, in this case fear.
For most claustrophobes, restriction or confinement triggers a fear of suffocation which leads to a panic attack, characterized by palpitating heart and rapid, shallow breathng. The key to overcoming claustrophobia is to slowly – and that’s important – face the trigger stimulus, in easy steps, building up to a point where the sufferer is in control, and realizes that the trigger stimulus poses no threat.