Dual Diagnosis Claustrophobia And Addiction

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on April 19, 2021

Claustrophobia is a specific phobia in which a person finds themselves triggered by enclosed or small spaces. People with claustrophobia often turn to drugs or alcohol and may find dual diagnosis treatment to be effective in treating both their phobia and addiction.

Co-Occurring Claustrophobia And Addiction

Claustrophobia, fear of enclosed spaces, is one of the most common types of phobias.

Between 5 and 10% of the general population of the United States has been afflicted with it at some point or another.

For many, claustrophobia can be quite debilitating. Those who have been diagnosed with a phobia may also face struggles with alcohol abuse or drug addiction as they attempt to cope with their condition and its symptoms.

What Is Claustrophobia?

Claustrophobia is a phobia that centers around an irrational and uncontrollable fear of tight or closed-in spaces.

Some will only find their claustrophobia triggered under extreme circumstances and will likely find their condition easy to manage and their fears relatively simple to avoid.

Others may find it difficult to leave their homes or enter unknown situations at all for the fear that they might be faced with a scenario that they cannot escape from.

This fear is usually also related to one’s ability to escape a situation which they deem uncomfortable.

While a space may not be tight or small, it can still trigger a person’s claustrophobia if the exit is closed, locked, or unable to be located quickly.

Common fears associated with claustrophobia include:

  • elevators
  • public restrooms
  • tunnels
  • public transportation
  • closets
  • rooms without windows
  • crowds
  • tight or constrictive clothing

Signs Of Claustrophobia

Claustrophobia will present itself in different ways depending on the person. In general, someone who has this disorder will require a high level of control over their environment in order to feel safe and comfortable.

Signs of claustrophobia include:

  • taking immediate note of exit locations when entering a new place
  • a desire to always be close to exits
  • avoidance of traveling, especially during high traffic times
  • avoidance of crowds or social gatherings
  • using stairs instead of elevators
  • panic attacks when faced with triggers

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A common theme amongst phobias in general is experiencing panic attacks when a person unexpectedly faces their trigger.

Someone who has claustrophobia, or any phobia, will try to avoid having a panic attack at all costs.

The Relationship Between Addiction And Claustrophobia

Research has found that people with a specific phobia are up to four times more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.

Claustrophobia can be quite traumatic and even put someone in an almost constant state of anxiety. Because of this, someone with this disorder may try substances as a form of self-medication.

However, while a person might find relief in the moment, substance abuse will likely make their claustrophobia worse.

Addiction creates a constant cycle of use and withdrawal, which puts a person at a heightened state of stress in which they are much more likely to have panic attacks.

Diagnosing Addiction And Claustrophobia

An official diagnosis for claustrophobia usually involves having persistent symptoms for at least six months.

Claustrophobia shares characteristics with other disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). A physician will always want to rule out these other disorders.

A person seeking treatment for addiction and claustrophobia will likely interview multiple times with a psychiatrist or psychologist, to determine to what extent the conditions are affecting the person’s life.

How Are Addiction And Claustrophobia Treated?

When addiction and claustrophobia are affecting a person at the same time, it is very important to address them together.

Dual diagnosis treatment seeks to do just that, and has been very successful in preventing relapse.

During dual diagnosis treatment for addiction and claustrophobia, it is likely that the patient will experience what is called exposure therapy.

This type of therapy is common with phobia sufferers, as it helps to expose them to their triggers in a slow and gradual manner and under constant medical supervision.

Finding Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Addiction And Claustrophobia

If you are seeking information or confidential advice about dual diagnosis treatment for addiction and claustrophobia, consider giving our helpline a call.

Addiction services we can connect you with include:

  • medical detox
  • family, group, and individual therapy
  • day treatment programs
  • residential rehabilitation facilities

Don’t let yourself or a loved one suffer from addiction and claustrophobia for one day longer.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on April 19, 2021
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