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Claustrophobia-like anxiety, help with identification?

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Old 11-20-2007, 02:26 AM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2007
Location: Sac,CA,USA
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Wun HB User
Claustrophobia-like anxiety, help with identification?

Earlier this year, I've had a revelation during one of those perpetually-tangential-train-of-thought sessions while taking a shower (where you're constantly thinking about random stuff from one topic to the next), realizing that I've had some type of anxiety problem that makes me think "claustrophobia," but the symptoms on informational sites that I read don't exactly line up perfectly with my condition. I've always wondered if there was an "official" disorder encompassing these types of symptoms. I'm sure there is, and I'm not necessarily trying to play that game where I automatically think I have some type of disease, but I would guess that some people have this set of symptoms to a higher degree as an actually recognized condition. Anyway, I have decided now to post about it and see if I can get any answers.

Some background info first:
I'm a male 20-year-old (asian-)American college student that is always stressed about nothing that lives comfortably at home with his mom.
I severely suffer from sleep paralysis with accompanying hypnagogic/hypnopompic hallucinations, and have realized that a personal characteristic that I have always thought was unrelated did not always exist and probably surfaced due to the development of my sleep paralysis. (So, of course, I developed this characteristic after the sleep paralysis.)
When you undergo an episode of sleep paralysis, you are woken up and are able to see the real world with your eyes, but your mind, like when in REM sleep, is still secreting the chemicals that paralyze your body so you don't act out your dreams (don't remember if the body is technically still in REM, but that's not the point of this topic, so moving on). The hallucinations (not every sufferer of sleep paralysis experiences the hallucinations as well) are dream elements integrating into your vision of the real world, so you are essentially seeing a dream in your actual environment. The contents of those hallucinations share common ground among all who suffer from them, and are, in many (but not all) cases, negative experiences and are very disturbing. Though I can be many times more specific and have left out many details, I'll end the explanation there since it is now informative enough for others to pick up on why the anxiety condition of my topic has developed in the first place.

I have an irrational fear of being physically restricted. If I am in a position where I feel like I can't move or leave the immediate situation I am in, I start tensing up, feeling uneasy, start sweating, etc. An immediate situation in which I am unable to move can be of a physical nature (handcuffs, being grappled by someone, being inside a dogpile). The list grows much bigger if I am excessively warm, as I am a heat-sensitive person (hate the summer, love the winter). An example of a physical condition which only applies when I am warm would be sitting in the backseat of a car with all seats occupied during daytime in summer.

In addition, anxiety can be caused by certain social situations in which I shouldn't be moving around. To my knowledge, these only apply when I am excessively warm. An example is when I'm sitting in my desk during a class lecture. The mental awareness that I am not supposed to be moving around freely is the cause of the anxiety. I can easily sit in my seat while on the computer at home for hours on end even when warm since I don't feel OBLIGATED to stay still.

I have noticed that I can sometimes get this claustrophobic-like anxiety when I'm in a fastfood drive-thru with other cars both in front of and behind me, or when in extremely heavy traffic. The anxiety is mild in this case, though.

Anyway, it seems like I will exhibit the same signs when agitated as a claustrophobic, but I think that situations causing anxiety in claustrophobics are of a different scope, one of which my latter agitation conditions (drive-thru & traffic) seem to fit in. Assuming that it is of the caliber of a full-blown disorder, is this still considered claustrophobia? Or is it something else? Any ideas?

Edit: So I think I can reclassify the groups of conditions that bother me. It will make more sense if you have already read through the original post.

-Physically restricted, INCAPABLE of moving, heat sensitivity does not apply (e.g. handcuffs, being held physically captive, unreasonably extreme-cramped physical situation)
-Physically cramped situations, more prone to anxiety when excessively warm (e.g. riding in a full car, crowded rooms, any place where I am still technically able to move but is relatively crowded)
-Restriction due to social situation, only when excessively warm (e.g. sitting in class during lecture)

Last edited by Wun; 11-20-2007 at 02:58 PM. Reason: clarity

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Old 11-20-2007, 03:46 AM   #2
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Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Uk
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Worrybucket HB UserWorrybucket HB UserWorrybucket HB UserWorrybucket HB User
Re: Claustrophobia-like anxiety, help with identification?

I dont suffer from classic claustrophobia, i hate being shut in anywhere, but id get panicky in a huge aircraft hanger if i knew it want in my control to get out.
With me its pure control, i cannot bear any situation where i feel im not in control of where i go and how i get out.

Weird really.
I think you need to talk to a councelor or a Doctor about your thoughts

Good luck

Old 11-20-2007, 04:11 PM   #3
Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: United Kingdom
Posts: 5
jamie1985 HB User
Re: Claustrophobia-like anxiety, help with identification?

The fear of being shut in small places is not only considered a cause of anxiety, but an actual symptom of anxiety also. During the peak time of my anxiety and depression I had several vivid dreams about being locked in a very small place with no exit. For sufferers of acute anxiety, these types of fears are prevalent.

In the UK doctors tend to prescribe CBT instead of medication for these types of mild psychiatric problems. I think CBT would very much help you deal with these irrational fears and assist you in identifying what has caused your anxiety.

Take care and don't worry, it will all be OK.

Old 11-23-2007, 12:06 AM   #4
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 535
crabbyroad HB User
Re: Claustrophobia-like anxiety, help with identification?

I feel the same, but I don't classify mine as claustrophobia. As I can be in a small half bath at home, in a economy size car, etc, and be comfortable, however if it is somewhere else, restaurant, drive thru's, down to being in a left hand turn lane at a stoplight. I feel "trapped", where my "escape" plan is being hindered by shopping carts in front of me, or behind me, same with cars at drive thru's, its the fear of having a panic attack, and you won't be able to escape quick enough.

I will say as a precaution- I'm agoraphobic now to a degree, and did not realize, that my behavior of avoidance such as mentioned above could make it worse. Example, I felt better walking in the bank, or fast food ,and avoided the drive thru altogether. Or the grocery store, seeking an aisle, holding back till at least someone wasn't in front of me. I would avoid driving where I would be caught at a red light in the left hand lane. It is a slow (may take years) gradual reinforcement of avoidance, that I wish I knew the repercussions I have from things I changed.

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