I have been slightly claustrophobic most of my life and like many things as we age it has become a little more pronounced. When I was a child a sleeping bag was my nemesis-I could still sleep in one for camping and slumber parties I just made sure the zipper was open-even slightly. In my 50’s my feelings of claustrophobia has definitely increased. It’s not debilitating for me, I am just more aware of my comfort zone and how to address it.

Definition: “Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder characterized by an irrational fear of enclosed or confined spaces. Individuals with claustrophobia often experience intense anxiety or panic attacks when in situations where they perceive a lack of escape or control. This fear can be triggered by various environments such as elevators, crowded rooms, airplanes, or even small closets.”

This past Sunday it was triggered on my girls weekend when we decided to take a tour of the historical Black Chasm Cavern. You are probably wondering why someone with claustrophobia would enter a cavern but as previously mentioned my symptoms are not debilitating- they are not going to limit me in what I want to do in my life. But standing on a platform 50+ feet under with approximately 25 strangers I did have a moment of oh crap what the heck was I thinking. And then it passed: I looked around me for who I would have to trample to get out (kidding of course), I took a few deep breaths (many) and I glanced around and let the beauty of the cave distract me from my phobia.

Additional coping strategies: deep breathing, accessing your surroundings, meditation can help focus the mind and reduce anxious thoughts, consider seeking therapy, share your feelings with the people you are with. Sometimes talking about it can move you past your initial feelings.

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