Hypnosis and Claustrophobia


Claustrophobia is usually defined as the irrational fear of confined spaces. It can be rational to fear being trapped when circumstances carry genuine threat. However, in claustrophobia, people experience fear even when there is no obvious or realistic danger in a particular situation.

People who experience claustrophobia generally go out of their way to avoid a long list of confined spaces, including lifts, tunnels, tube trains, revolving doors, public toilets, MRI scanners, and even don’t like to wear crash helmets. Unfortunately, avoidance may reinforce the fear.

Claustrophobia may arise from a one-off trauma at any age, developed when the person was a child (for example growing up with one or more claustrophobic parents) or emerge as someone gets older. Around 10% of the population may experience claustrophobia during their lifetime.

Simple Self Diagnosis

If you can answer YES to most of the questions it is likely that you are affected by claustrophobia.

During the past 6 months, did any of the following make you feel anxious:

  • Being in a confined space such as being in a tunnel, on the underground etc.?
  • Being in crowded places?
  • Did you avoid being in any of the above situations?

Physical Symptoms

Panic attacks are common among people with claustrophobia. They can be very frightening and distressing and symptoms often occur without warning.
As well as overwhelming feelings of anxiety, a panic attack can also cause:

  • sweating
  • trembling
  • hot flushes or chills
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • a choking sensation
  • rapid heartbeat
  • chest pain or a feeling of tightness in the chest
  • a sensation of butterflies in the stomach
  • nausea
  • headaches and dizziness
  • feeling faint
  • numbness or pins and needles
  • dry mouth
  • a need to go to the toilet
  • ringing in your ears
  • feeling confused or disorientated

Psychological Symptoms
People with severe claustrophobia may also experience psychological symptoms such as:

  • fear of losing control
  • fear of fainting
  • feelings of dread
  • fear of dying

For many people, the aspect of embarrassment over their phobia is as debilitating as the the phobic condition itself. Some sufferers recognise that their fears are overblown and irrational, but cannot seem to stay in control. The reason for this is because phobias are rooted deep within the unconscious, which no amount of conscious effort can be fully effective in controlling. This makes treating phobias particularly challenging.

Claustrophobia is usually treated with anti-anxiety drugs or counseling. Hypnotherapy is an ideal, safe and non-invasive form of therapy with no harmful side effects. It works by pinpointing the root causes of fear in the unconscious to rapidly cure a phobia. In particular, a program that utilises Ericksonian hypnotherapy techniques and Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) can be used to cure a phobia. This uses numerous hypnotic techniques to help people beat their fears.

The initial step in curing a phobia is helping the sufferer feel relaxed and anxiety-free. Hypnotherapy has long been used as a form of stress-reducing therapy, to help people clear their minds and focus deeply.

Conventional hypnosis techniques have used direct, post-hypnotic suggestions to help cure phobias. The disadvantage of the direct approach is that the mind tends to reject being merely “told” how to behave. Many people put up mental blocks and ignore suggestions. In today’s society, both children and adults are especially likely to ignore direct suggestions since we are mostly independent people who question authority.

Deep relaxation is the essence of the hypnotic state. Once in the relaxed state, instead of using direct post-hypnotic suggestions, a better approach known as systematic desensitisation can help extinguish a phobia through visual imagery.

Ericksonian hypnotherapy uses a more innovative approach than conventional techniques. It utilises indirect suggestions concealed in captivating stories and metaphors to interest the unconscious and convince it to adopt a desirable, phobia-free line of thinking. Due to the fact that indirect suggestions don’t need to be adapted to a single phobia like direct suggestions do, a single good Ericksonian hypnotherapy program will work to beat any phobia or even multiple phobias.

NLP, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, is an innovative form of therapy that many well trained hypnotherapists have begun to use. The best NLP technique for overcoming a phobia is called the Visual – Kinesthetic Disassociation, also referred to as the V/K. The V/K is recognised as the single session phobia cure, and for good reason. Phobic or panic reactions (attacks) occur because traumatic experiences are attached to and aggravated by mental images. With the V/K, the traumatic experiences are disconnected from the mental images – often in one simple session, and the fear is essentially extinguished.

Those fighting with claustrophobia can find relief with hypnotherapy. The combination of Ericksonian hypnosis therapy with NLP techniques will help all people beat their phobias. Hypnosis therapy has helped countless users feel safe and secure in situations where earlier, they would’ve suffered a breakdown. Hypnosis techniques have provided phenomenal benefits for people afflicted with phobias and continue to improve lives each and every day.

Study 1: Hypnosis and Claustrophobia in Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRIs)

Hypnosis for management of claustrophobia in magnetic resonance imaging (Study developed at Hospital e Maternidade São Camilo Pompeia, São Paulo, SP, Brazil)
http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0100-39842010000100007&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en

Results: Out of the sample, 18 (90%) patients were susceptible to the technique. Of the 16 hypnotizable subjects who were submitted to magnetic resonance imaging, 15 (93.8%) could complete the examination under hypnotic trance, with no sign of claustrophobia and without need of sedative drugs.

Conclusion: Hypnosis is an alternative to anesthetic sedation for claustrophobic patients who must undergo magnetic resonance imaging.

Notes: The objective was to evaluate the efficacy of hypnosis for management of claustrophobia in patients submitted to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Twenty claustrophobic patients referred for magnetic resonance imaging under sedation were submitted to hypnosis The patients susceptible to hypnosis were submitted to magnetic resonance imaging under hypnotic trance without using sedative drugs.

After hypnotic induction, the patients underwent ideosensory activities, with induction of vivid, pleasant visual and kinesthetic sensations (walk through a relaxing, safe and welcoming landscape) associated with a sensation of peace, tranquility and safety. After the establishment of the hypnogenic signal, the patients were dehypnotized for assessment of the depth and efficacy of the induced hypnotic trance. Subsequently, hypnosis was induced again, this time by means of the hypnogenic signal. In this second procedure (double induction technique), the patients were introduced to the different phases of the MRI examination which are resignified and associated with the relaxing sensation achieved in the previous ideosensory activity. On the occasion of the procedure, the patient was hypnotized with utilization of the hypnogenic signal in a preparation room, and taken on a wheelchair to the MRI equipment, being dehypnotized once the procedure was completed.

Radiologia Brasileira, Vol. 43, No. 1, São Paulo Jan./Feb. 2010
By: Luiz Guilherme Carneiro Velloso (Maternidade São Camilo Pompeia, São Paulo, SP, Brazil); Maria de Lourdes DupratII (Psychologist, Group of Medical Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy of Hospital e Maternidade São Camilo Pompeia, São Paulo, SP, Brazil); Ricardo Martins (Biomedical Scientist, Unit of Imaging Diagnosis – Hospital e Maternidade São Camilo Pompeia, São Paulo, SP, Brazil); Luiz Scoppetta (MD, Radiologist, Unit of Imaging Diagnosis – Hospital e Maternidade São Camilo Pompeia, São Paulo, SP, Brazil)

Study 2: More Hypnosis for MRI Procedures
Magnetic Resonance Imaging: Improved Patient Tolerance Utilizing Medical Hypnosis
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2270840

Results: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) is a medical procedure where patients are required to lie on their backs in a tight cylinder (with only a few inches of space between their face and the top of the chamber) for up to an hour. Between one and ten percent of patients experience feelings of panic and other claustrophobic reactions. Many are unable to complete the procedure. This study reports on how hypnosis was used to help ten claustrophobic patients successfully undergo this procedure.

Am J Clin Hypn. 1990 Oct;33(2):80-4
By: P. J. Friday, W. S. Kubal , Shadyside Hospital, Pittsburgh, PA, USA

Study 3: More Hypnosis for MRI Procedures
Hypnosis Using a Communication Device to Increase Magnetic Resonance Imaging Tolerance with a Claustrophobic Patient.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9922650

The paper reports on the case of a woman who was unable to have an MRI because she was claustrophobic and panicked in such confined environments. She was then hypnotized twice and given post-hypnotic suggestions to increase her sense of comfort and relaxation and gain control over her body’s responses. She was then hypnotized through headphones when she entered the MRI unit where she was able to complete the procedure. This patient was successfully able to cope with this procedure and reported great satisfaction with treatment.

Mil Med. 1999 Jan;164(1):71-2
By: E. P. Simon, Clinical Psychology Department, Tripler Army Medical Center, Honolulu, HI 96859, USA

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