Cleithrophobia Definition and guide

Do you ever feel the need to escape?

To get out of somewhere, no matter what it takes?

If so, then you may have a case of cleithrophobia. Cleithrophobia is the fear of being locked in. It can be triggered by many things but most often occurs when people are trapped in a place where they cannot move freely or exit quickly.

This article will explore how this phobia affects people and their lives and offer some tips for overcoming this fear. Let’s find out how therapy can help.

Cleithrophobia and Claustrophobia: Are They the Same?


Cleithrophobia occurs when a person is stuck in an enclosed space and cannot escape quickly or at all. They may be able to breathe but cannot move, leading to panic attacks and feelings of extreme anxiety that make it difficult for them to focus on anything else.

If you have a fear of being trapped, you may be fully aware when you’re about to get into small spaces like an MRI machine yet have anxiety or panic attacks when you get into the small space. The fear is triggered solely by confinement in small spaces.

Individuals with this fear are not necessarily afraid of the small spaces. They’re scared of being trapped and not finding their way out. However, they’re comfortable entering small spaces when they know there’s a way out.


On the other hand, claustrophobia is a more generalized fear of being in small spaces. A person may not necessarily be able to exit or move around the enclosed space, but their anxiety will come from an irrational feeling that they cannot escape and are trapped.

Claustrophobia mirrors cleithrophobia in many ways. However, people with claustrophobia tend to feel trapped in small spaces even when there’s a way to escape. In most cases, they’re afraid of entering small spaces in general.

This phobia is mostly characterized by one symptom – fear of suffocation.

Nonetheless, due to the vast similarities between these phobias, it’s easy to confuse them. Therefore, if you suspect you may have a phobia of small spaces, it’s best to seek professional help to get the right diagnosis.

Difference Between Merinthophobia and Cleithrophobia

Most people also confuse Merinthophobia and Cleithrophobia, but they’re not the same. Merinthophobia is the fear of being restrained or tied up, while cleithrophobia is the fear of closed spaces like closets or boxes where you can’t escape.

Both are intense, irrational fears that people experience from time to time. They both trigger anxiety and cause panic attacks in those who suffer from them.

However, they manifest in different ways. Someone with merinthophobia may feel a sense of dread when they think about being tied up or bound. Their heart rate increases, and they experience feelings of panic.

For those who are cleithrophobic, it’s their escape that triggers anxiety and fear. Cleithrophobes might start to sweat profusely, and their breathing may also be restricted.

How Does Cleithrophobia Affect People?

The effects of this phobia can vary depending on how often someone is faced with their fear. Some may only experience intense panic attacks when faced with closed-in spaces, while others experience overwhelming anxiety and discomfort every day.

What Causes the Fear of Being Trapped?

Most people believe that the fear of small spaces is due to a traumatic or negative childhood experience but can also be caused by genetics and your  environment when growing up. However, the exact cause of this fear is still unknown.

The field of evolutionary psychology provides an accepted theory of the reason why people have fears of certain things but not other things(Source spreadcaster). Through the time span of millions or thousands of years animal species (and individuals) who were scared of danger had a higher chance to live for long enough for reproduction. It’s the reason why people fear rodents, snakes, or germs. They also fear being trapped or in enclosed areas. People aren’t likely to be afraid of certain situations or objects that are unlikely to cause harm (e.g. meadows, leaves, clothing, and books). You can also get more updates about Cleithrophobia on 24/7. Further, some triggers of Cleithrophobia are discussed below

Cleithrophobia has several triggers such as:

  •       Amusement park rides that have shoulder harnesses
  •       Long escalators and elevators that go deep underground
  •       MRI machines
  •       Locked rooms
  •       Small spaces

Symptoms of Cleithrophobia

The symptoms of cleithrophobia are similar to many specific symptoms. Some of the common symptoms people with this phobia experience include:

  •       Anxiety
  •       Panic attacks
  •       Nausea
  •       Dizziness
  •       Fainting spells
  •       Dry mouth
  •       Rapid heart rate
  •       Crying
  •       Screaming
  •       Freezing up
  •       Lashing out
  •       Attempting to run away

Symptoms may worsen when exposed to small spaces or tight places such as elevators and tunnels. The symptoms usually occur because a person is feeling scared of small spaces.

Coping and Treatment

Treatment of fear of small places is similar to treatment for other phobias. Therapists use a mixture of treatments to help people cope and overcome their fears.

These include:

Exposure Therapy

This is a treatment done by desensitizing the person to small spaces. The exposure can be gradual; for example, a therapist will take their client into an elevator and make them feel comfortable before progressing onto other things such as MRI machines or MRI tunnels.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Therapists may also use cognitive behavioral therapy, which includes relaxation techniques that help people overcome their fear. Through cognitive and behavioral modification, a therapist helps the person see that their fear is not rational.

CBT is often considered more effective than other approaches because instead of focusing on what triggers the fear, CBT focuses on changing thoughts that may produce or worsen feelings of anxiety.


Mindfulness has also proven effective for managing fear of tight spaces. Mindfulness is a technique that teaches people to live in the present moment and let go of thoughts about worries or things they have done.

This technique is highly effective for when the fear kicks in because it reminds you to focus on the present and be observant of your environment as it is without overthinking.


In some cases, people with cleithrophobia are prescribed certain medications to help them cope with their fear.

Some of the common medications include:

  •       Antidepressants: these drugs are often prescribed for people who have a fear of tunnels and tight spaces. They work by improving the mood, helping you to be more open to trying out different coping mechanisms.
  •       Anti-anxiety medication: These drugs help control anxiety, but they don’t cure the fear. They are often prescribed to individuals who have regular anxiety and panic attacks. The drugs make it easier to cope with triggering situations.

Wrapping Up

If you’re afraid of tight spaces, take the time to try out new things and find out what triggers your fear. Sometimes, you may be scared of being in an enclosed space because it’s dark or you’re alone, but this doesn’t constitute an actual fear.

However, if your fear is accompanied by anxiety or panic attacks, it may be time to seek professional help.

If you find that your fear of tight spaces affects many aspects of your life, it may be a good idea to speak with your doctor about medication or seek therapy.

However, make sure you find a therapist that you feel comfortable with and who understands your needs. This way, you’re in a better position to overcome your fear and cope with the everyday challenges you face. You can try to find your professional on Calmerry.

Also, be patient. It takes time to overcome fears, and you may have to be in therapy for a while to overcome your fears.

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