Reducing “fear-of-being-trapped” / Claustrophobia Panic Attacks
If you panic in situations where you feel physically trapped, you're not alone. I'm very proud of how far I've come in the last several years- I used avoid the heck out of these situations but am now (mostly) thriving! I absolutely still get nervous, but I have a better relationship with my anxiety and can understand that sensations will pass. Most recently, I attended a crowded, indoor Christmas faire. It was very crowded, hot, and stuffy in one area that my group stopped at. I did feel an inch of panic start to creep up but I reminded myself I am not locked in this building - if I really wanted to, I could go out an emergency exit (of course I was not going to but this is a way to prove my anxious thoughts wrong). I then told my group I was hot and was going to move to an area that was less crowded for a moment. Easy as pie! I think half of the anxiety comes from not wanting people to perceive you as weird, but I get to that below.
Here are just some of my tips (that took a lot of practice) that helped me with this issue.
1) Reminding myself that I am not not truly trapped.
In most situations, you are not truly trapped. Some examples:
- Sitting on the train. If I really wanted to, could I hop out at the next station even if it’s not my stop? Yes.
- Standing in a crowded room. Can I excuse myself to get a moment of fresh air? Yes!
- Sitting for a haircut. Can I tell my hair dresser I need to stand up and/or go outside for a second? Yes! You are not stuck in the chair.
(p.s. I'm still working on airplane claustrophobia! My therapist tells me that you can get up and walk down the aisle and even use the bathroom, however, I can't seem to get over the fact that you are in the sky and cannot exit the vessel lol. I'll get there.)
2) Sitting with the uncomfortableness.
Allowing myself to sit with the uncomfortable sensations that arise and not flee the scene is key. Uncomfortable does not need to equal freaking out and panicking! Practice acknowledging any sensations, but not reacting.
3) Letting go of caring what other people think.
No one probably notices anyway, and people care way less than you think. Also, who cares! I guarantee you everyone around you has at least 1 "weird" thing that they do.
4) Learning to speak up without feeling shame.
If you need a second to excuse yourself, go for it! It is not weird, I promise you. Knowing I have this option is a weight lifted and makes me less anxious to begin with.
Again, I hope these tips are helpful or act as a starting point. It doesn't happen overnight, but every teeny milestone adds up. Practice, practice, practice and do not get discouraged when things don't go according to your plan. There is not a linear path to this whole recovery thing.