Claustrophobia and Addiction Treatment
Small, enclosed, or crowded spaces can make many us feel anxious as our imaginations run wild. For about 6% of people, these feelings go beyond benign and temporary unease, and become a full-blown phobia, causing deep emotional distress and often limiting function in significant ways. In some cases, claustrophobia can even lead to the development of drug addiction.
Trapped by Fear
Claustrophobia is an intense and irrational fear of confined spaces that causes overwhelming anxiety or even panic. Once claustrophobia takes hold, you may avoid small or enclosed spaces such as elevators, tunnels, trains, changing rooms, airplanes, and public bathrooms. While for some, such avoidance is relatively non-disruptive, for others it involves great inconvenience, restricting your ability to participate in everyday activities and making your world smaller. At times, your fear may even guide your choices regarding where you socialize, shop, and work. Claustrophobia can also have a serious impact on your ability to undergo vital medical tests and procedures due to a fear of medical equipment such as MRI machines, compromising your health.
In some cases, claustrophobia results from a traumatic experience such as being trapped in an elevator, stuck on a train, or crushed in a crowd, particularly in early childhood. Having a parent with claustrophobia can also increase your chances of developing the disorder. In other cases, claustrophobia emerges seemingly spontaneously, without any specific cause.
Claustrophobia and Addiction
Claustrophobia is one of the most common types of anxiety disorders, and treatment is widely available to help people cope with their fear. Often, however, that treatment includes the use of highly addictive prescription medications such as benzodiazepines. While some people develop addiction due to abuse of these drugs, even following your doctor’s instructions can at times cause addiction to take hold.
But not everyone seeks medical treatment, nor does everyone receive effective medical care for their claustrophobia. In these cases, you may attempt to self-medicate using alcohol, recreational drugs, or prescription drugs that were not prescribed for you in order to cope with your anxiety and prevent or minimize symptoms. In other cases, drugs may give you reprieve from the difficult emotions you experience as the result of your claustrophobia, such as loss of self-esteem and depression. Ultimately, however, drug use is not a long-term solution, and can in fact aggravate your symptoms while simultaneously adding another dimension to your suffering. Over time, your substance use disorder can cause you to partake in increasingly self-destructive behaviors, creating greater psychological and behavioral disturbances than your claustrophobia alone.
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Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Claustrophobia can be an intensely troubling condition, but there is a wide variety of treatment options available to help you safely cope with your disorder. When your illness has led to a drug addiction, however, claustrophobia treatment alone is unlikely to provide you with long-term relief, and will not help you recover from your addiction.
Dual diagnosis treatment is considered the gold standard for treating people with mental health disorders and co-occurring substance use disorders. Using an array of evidence-based therapies, you are able to deeply investigate the nature of your claustrophobia while simultaneously gaining vital skills to break free from your addiction, helping your restore emotional and behavioral harmony. The most effective therapeutic modalities for claustrophobia and addiction include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
- Psychodynamic Therapy
- Experiential Therapy
- Holistic Therapies
- 12-step support groups
Pharmacological treatment may also be a core component of your treatment plan. If you are experiencing prescription drug addiction, however, your treatment provider must know to only use medications appropriate for someone with your history of addiction, such as SSRIs rather than benzodiazepines.
Intensive dual diagnosis treatment allows you to engage in a process of deep self-exploration to more fully understand the roots of both your claustrophobia and your drug addiction, to identify the barriers standing in the way of healing. With the guidance of highly trained clinicians and supportive peers, you can then develop strategies for removing those barriers within warm, nonjudgmental environment. All therapies can be modified for your unique needs, ensuring that you remain safe and comfortable as you work through difficult issues to set the stage for long-term recovery.