5 Steps to Stop Claustrophobia

By Dr. Nicole Cain ND, MA

Do you get stressed out when you’re in small spaces? Do you feel like you’re suffocating when wearing a mask on your face? Or maybe you dread getting into elevators.

If any of these resonate with you, you may be struggling with Claustrophobia.

Today you’re going to learn:

(1)   What is claustrophobia?

(2)   What causes claustrophobia?

(3)   5 Steps to stop claustrophobia.

Hi! I’m Dr. Nicole Cain and I’m a former anxiety sufferer turned anxiety freedom rebel. Stick around to the end because I’m going to share with you my FAVORITE strategy for combating claustrophobia.

Let’s get started!

If you have claustrophobia you may find yourself getting anxious in airplanes, wearing a face-covering like a mask, being in crowded spaces, small windowless rooms, or even wearing tight clothing.

The feeling of claustrophobia may make you feel trapped, anxious, and even panicky.

My claustrophobia started many years ago after I got stuck in a bathroom while on vacation. Mind you, I was only in there for a minute at most, until I jiggled the handle enough to get the lock mechanism open, but after that, my nervous system decided that: Small spaces = death.

So why did this happen? Obviously, nothing terrible came of my extra minute in the bathroom, so why did my body decide to panic behind closed doors?

This is because your body is naturally designed to go into alert if anything potentially risky comes up. Some people’s nervous systems are more sensitive to danger signals than others. At the time of the bathroom lock snafu, I had been under mountains of stress, my cortisol stress hormone was at an all-time-high urging me to keep working, keep working, and my relaxing GABA neurotransmitter was nowhere to be seen.

I was PRIMED for a panic attack, and when I found myself in a situation where I felt powerless, my already frazzled nervous system took the danger signals and ramped them up resulting in a fairly normal incident turning into a full-blown trauma trigger.

So what is claustrophobia and why is my nervous system going crazy?

Claustrophobia is considered a phobia. A phobia is a persistent, or excessive or unrealistic fear of a situation, object, person, activity or even animal. The thing with a phobia, is that the thing you are afraid of, is actually not dangerous.

Your nervous system is DESIGNED to protect you from danger. But if you pair an attunement to danger with an extremely agitated system, it’s sort of like poking a sunburn with a toothpick. The signal is way amplified and your body tells your brain to do everything and anything it can to make it stop. Does this sound familiar?

So, in claustrophobe, or a fear of being stuck or trapped, the emotion tells you that it’s dangerous, and sends a cascade of hormones and neurotransmitters that evoke a fight-flight-freeze response. Are you with me?

In response to that cocktail of chemicals, your brain believes you are actually in danger, and you feel like you have to get out or ELSE.

Here are the top 8 signs you struggle with claustrophobia:

Getting your life back from claustrophobia means that you have to retrain your nervous system into realizing that it’s actually not in danger.

Here is an example. My cavapoo, Sheva is terrified of vents in the floor. For some reason, her brain decided that vents are dangerous. When we’re playing fetch with her toy bone, if it lands on the vent in the floor she’ll whine and bark and ask me to get it for her. Her body was releasing danger-danger signals and her impulse was to AVOID or RUN AWAY. But that wasn’t helping. It was interfering with a super fun game and I knew we had to create a solution.

The good news is that what worked for Sheva, can work for you. She will probably never LOVE vents but they are no longer stopping her from a romping good time chasing her toys. If they go over the vent, she musters up her courage, confidence and walks right over and picks that toy up. And then the fun continues!

What can you do to stop your claustrophobia?

Let me share with you top 5 action steps to stop claustrophobia:


(1)   Embrace logic: Research and prepare ahead of time so that you have the FACTS instead of just the anxious thoughts. Write down the logic and keep it in your phone or panic pack. Train your logical voice to speak louder than your fearful one. My biggest fear was that I would get trapped in a bathroom. Sheva’s fear was that the vent in the floor would eat her. I have been in literally thousands of bathrooms throughout my life, I got stuck once, and I got out. I also know that if I do get stuck again, that they can always remove the door or take off the doorknob. There are many possible outcomes besides what. My anxious brain worries will happen. And Sheva learned that she can walk over a vent and that doing that will lead to more FUN and not death.

(2)   Do not engage in the drama: Your anxious parts want to try to control an uncontrollable situation with their own flavor of behavior. For example, my anxious parts get hyperanalytic, hypervigalent and distraction is my best WEAPON against anxiety. Remember, by engaging in the drama, by CARING about the anxious brain’s worries, you’ll be BIOLOGICALLY reinforcing those messages that are simply not useful for you. Even though in the beginning it will be challenging, forcing yourself to IGNORE and DISTRACT will be game changers. An example of how I do this is that I do everything I can to not pay attention to the sounds and feelings of the elevator. I have a topic prepared ahead of time that I talk about with my companions or I pull up something interesting on my phone.

(3)   Face your fears, do not avoid. Be in the emotion. The more you practice the more you will have opportunities to realize YOU ARE SAFE. After Sheva went over the vent (with the allure of a tasty cookie) lots of times and had a pleasant experience, her brain became less interested in being afraid, and more interested in the benefit that came after dealing with the vent. Try to project your mind beyond the plane ride, standing in a crowded line to a super fun event, or wearing your mask in the waiting area of your favorite restaurant. Try to face your fears and don’t let them stop you from living. The more you practice, the easier it will get.

(4)  Make a Claustrophobia Kit or a PANIC PACK! Here’s a link to a video I did on this topic.

(5)  Take an anxiety-stopping supplement. My favorite is Calm-On-Command

Remember: Fear does not mean danger. Your brain is trying to protect you but it’s taken center stage, but YOU can reclaim your rightful place as the star of the show. Practice the 4 tips we went over today to learn how to OVERCOME CLAUSTROPHOBIA.

As promised, I wanted to share with you MY FAVORITE resource for getting CALM-ON-COMMAND and it’s a bundle I created that’s actually called CALM-ON-COMMAND. Calm-on-command is jam-packed with nutrients that help calm down an over-anxious nervous system so that you can quickly get anxiety relief and have the space to use the tools we learned about today. Here’s the link to read more about my favorite bundle and even try it out yourself.

Thanks for reading!

This article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Whenever considering changing your protocol whether it includes a change of medications, supplements, diet or lifestyle, always speak with your primary care physician first. Dr. Nicole Cain consults with clients locally and internationally. Dr. Nicole Cain ND MA has helped countless people take back control of their lives, and she can help you. To set up a complimentary consultation, call our office or visit https://drnicolecain.com/getting-started to schedule online.
Dr. Nicole Cain is an advocate for empowering people around the world to help themselves via her educational video e-courses, books, and exclusive free Facebook group. You can receive the tools you need to find the root cause of your symptoms and feel healthy again.