1 Comment

Who’s Afraid of Confined Spaces? (Fearless February Day 9)

confined signClaustrophobia. The fear of being in a confined space.

Most statistics claim that upwards of 10% of people are claustrophobic. If you’re not one of them, you might think this is a fear of small spaces. But it’s more complicated. It’s an irrational fear of being somewhere you can’t escape from.

These dudes were not claustrophobic.

These dudes were not claustrophobic.

Often the places that trigger claustrophobia are tiny ones: tunnels and caves, elevators and graves (nobody feels good in a grave). But the place could be as large as a plane or a subway tunnel. For some, the feeling is sparked by a turtleneck sweater. (If that’s you, just stop wearing turtlenecks – they’re not attractive, anyway.) For others, it’s an automatic car wash. (My dog has that one.)

It’s not being squished that’s scary. It’s the terror of what could happen to you if you couldn’t get out. (“Oh my god, I can’t get out! I’ll be wearing this ugly turtleneck sweater till I die!”)

There's even a board game about this fear.

There’s even a board game about this fear.

Some people feel claustrophobic in crowds. Some feel claustrophobic in rooms without windows. Some people feel claustrophobic in relationships – but usually that’s just a metaphor.

I saw a very cool exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada, Martin Creed’s Work No. 202, that was a room full of black balloons, from floor to ceiling, from wall to wall. Patrons went inside and pushed their way through the balloon-filled space. You couldn’t see anything, you quickly lost all sense of direction, and the idea, “What if I never get out of here?” did come calling. It was totally cool. Claustrophobics wouldn’t like that exhibit.

These ladies weren't claustrophobic before they got stuck in a cave.

These ladies weren’t claustrophobic before they got stuck in this cave.

For claustrophobics, the fear  is the same, no matter what the trigger. Some common symptoms are: accelerated heart rate, sweating, dizziness, dry mouth, increased blood pressure, trouble breathing, and general panic. These people do not want to be trapped in a confined space. And since another common symptom is the urge to go to the toilet, you don’t want to be trapped in that confined space with them. 

Claustrophobics may end up organizing their lives around their fear – checking for escape routes in every room they enter, hanging out by the door at every party, avoiding public toilets and elevators and traffic jams, not going to that MRI appointment. 

Another movie to avoid if you're claustrophobic.

Another movie to avoid if you’re claustrophobic.

Exposure therapy for claustrophobia can begin the same way as exposure therapy for animal phobias: by looking at pictures. (But not pictures of animals – that won’t help.) Movies where people take an elevator or climb through a tunnel and nothing scary happens are a good start. DO NOT watch any of the kazillion scary movies about people trapped in scary places. “Don’t go in there” is not a message you want reinforced.

If you can’t find “The Happy Elevator Ride” on Netflix, it’s easy to find the live version. Watch people go in and  out of elevators – see how they are smiling and still in one piece?

Get yourself one of these therapy tools.

Get yourself one of these therapy tools.

Eventually it’s time to participate. With positive affirmations, rational reminders and a trustworthy friend at your side, expose yourself to the thing you fear. Start with brief exposures and work up to longer periods of time. (That might work with relationships, too.)

If you’re claustrophobic, or you’ve conquered this fear, leave a message on this blog during Fearless February and you could win a copy of 28 Tricks for a Fearless Grade 6, a middle-grade comedy in which no one is buried alive, trapped in a cave with mutants, or stuck in an ugly turtleneck sweater.


One comment on “Who’s Afraid of Confined Spaces? (Fearless February Day 9)

  1. […] Who’s Afraid of Confined Spaces? (Fearless February Day 9) […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Little Fears

Tales of whimsy, humor and courgettes

wuthering bites

Writing practice


The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer


A blog about illustration, illustrators, techniques, style and news.

I am Buddy

It's a dogs life

Roxie Munro

Children's books, kid's apps...

The Wilden Marsh Blog

A blog about Wilden Marsh. Nature Reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest


Original Musical Stories by "Golnaran", "The musical cube maker"

Jan L. Coates - "What if...?"

life as a kids' writer


Children's Book Reviews

Gotta Find a Home

Conversations with Street People


This blog is about encouraging reading throughout the school years. By watching book trailers it is hoped that you will be inspired to read the book.

(Lost in) Believing in Books

A Young Adult & New Adult Book Blog

The Sweet Sixteens

2016 Young Adult and Middle Grade Debut Authors

Young Adult Book Madness

YA & NA Book Reviews

YA Book Reviews

Reviews for Young Adults or just Adults.

2015 YA & MG Debut Authors

Leaping to your bookshelves in 2015!

Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

YA Crush

Pass a note to your favorite YA book


A group of published UK-based authors and illustrators of picture books, children's and YA.

The Whole Megillah

The Writer's Resource for Jewish-themed Story: Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry

Cheryl Willis Hudson's Blog

Children's Book Author/Editor/Publisher


the networking e-zine for children's writers & illustrators

Julia Lee Author

A blog about reading and writing children's books

Tracey Baptiste


Random Acts of Reading

reviews, raves and a random assortment of book buzz

Children's Literature Crossroads

children's literature meets teaching, reading, talking, writing, and thinking

Books Around The Table

A potluck of ideas from five children's book authors and illustrators

Chapter Book Chat

A Writer Reviews Chapter Books, by Marty Mokler Banks

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.


Booksellers New Zealand's blog

Flowering Minds

Children's Book Review Site

Lauri Fortino's Frog On A (B)log

Sharing and Celebrating Picture Books Since 2009

Bobs Books Blog

Childrens and Young Adult Book Reviews by Bob Docherty

Pretty Books

One girl's adventures in books, food and travel

%d bloggers like this: