Many think of fear as represented by the acronym “FEAR,” False Evidence Appearing Real. It suggests that fear is somewhat of an illusion. Sometimes people fear things that do not seem like things to be feared, even though the fear appears real. Stenophobia or the fear of narrow things or places, for instance. Whether rational or not, the fear is real to the person experiencing it.
Here are some pertinent details on stenophobia and possible treatments that can help someone struggling with this anxiety disorder.
What Is Stenophobia?
Stenophobia is a disorder that causes someone to have a fear of narrow things or places. So, for example, that could be a narrow hallway, an area in a basement or attic, an area that is surrounded by objects like boxes, and so on. Stenophobia can cause a great deal of distress for the person dealing with it, as well as for that person’s loved ones.
What Causes Stenophobia?
It is not clear what causes stenophobia. However, there could be a genetic component, and a person could be more likely to develop it if they have a family history of anxiety disorders and phobias. Also, if a person has had any history of anxiety challenges, they could be more likely to develop any phobia, including stenophobia.
If a person has had a history of trauma occurring in their life and any emotionally painful experience, it seems they are more likely to develop a phobia such as stenophobia.
Stenophobia could relate to something happening in a person’s brain. There also seem to be ties between stenophobia and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Symptoms of Stenophobia
There are numerous symptoms of stenophobia. One of them is the feeling of being anxious. That can manifest in the form of an overall tense feeling, pounding heart, heart palpitations (irregular heartbeats), elevated blood pressure, rapid breathing, sweaty palms, muscle tension, digestive symptoms, and more. The anxiety can get so bad that the person develops panic attacks. The symptoms can be very intrusive and can interfere with a person’s overall functioning.
A person might have stenophobia so badly that even just the thought of a narrow thing or place can bring about anxiety and other symptoms. So the person does not even have to be in a narrow place to experience the negative effects of stenophobia. Stenophobia can cause a person to avoid going to many places for fear that there will be narrow places or things that could cause severe symptoms. Needless to say, that can profoundly affect a person’s life.
Complications of Stenophobia
Having stenophobia can really interfere with someone’s life. For example, it can limit where someone goes. The person may adamantly avoid going anywhere except those places that have wide-open spaces. One problem, though, is that the person could get to the point where they do not want to go anywhere, as it is impossible to know ahead of time which places have wide spaces and which places might have narrow places or things. All of this can lead to social isolation and discouragement.
Planning one’s life around accommodating stenophobia can even reinforce the phobia, further worsening it because the person is rationalizing in their own mind how it makes sense to fear narrow things or places.
Another complication of stenophobia is how it can lead to difficulty with coping. The disorder can become truly overwhelming and all-consuming.
Even if someone is struggling with stenophobia, there are definitely ways to improve and break free of such a painful challenge. Given how much stenophobia can affect someone’s life, it is important to address it correctly as soon as possible. Here are some possible treatments for stenophobia.
One treatment is exposure therapy. It entails exposing the person to the very thing that is creating the phobia. So a person is gradually exposed to narrow things or places. A typical and much less overwhelming way to start this off would be for the person to first just look at a photo of a narrow thing or place. Then, they could look at a short video of a narrow thing or place. In other words, they do not go to a tight place right away.
And then, as time goes on, and they become comfortable with that, they are exposed to greater levels of the offending thing. So at some point, they would go to a tight place, again though gradually becoming familiar with it. Exposure therapy is usually done under the supervision of a licensed professional, such as a mental health professional. So there is a great deal of support and hand-holding, which can prove quite beneficial.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is another treatment that can be an excellent modality to help with stenophobia. It involves a type of talk therapy, where a person meets either in person, over the phone, or on a video call with a counselor. CBT can be individual therapy, where it is just the person struggling with stenophobia meeting with a counselor. A person doing CBT can learn more about why they think, feel, and behave in certain ways. In addition to individual therapy, there is also group therapy, where more than one person meets together with a counselor or therapist.
Stress management modalities are also essential for helping with stenophobia. That can take the form of deep breathing, mindfulness, or time management, along with many other techniques. It is important for anyone struggling with anxiety to take stock of stress levels and work to reduce or eliminate stressors. Those stressors are different for everyone, but they can be a heavy workload, financial challenges, and toxic relationships.
Mindfulness can involve doing deep breathing and deep relaxation while focusing on one’s breathing and surroundings. For example, a person can pay attention to how their chest moves while breathing and pay attention to the sensory inputs, such as sounds, sights, and tastes in their environment.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is one example of a modality that can be helpful in addressing stenophobia. It is important to seek out a quality program that can help in becoming familiar and comfortable with it to get the most benefits out of it.
Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is yet another possible treatment modality that can help people who are suffering from stenophobia. Sometimes it takes place in a group setting with other people. It involves learning various coping techniques. For example, one coping technique involves slightly smiling while thinking about the fear or worry that is bothering the person who struggles with stenophobia.
Another approach that can help someone who is struggling with stenophobia involves thinking of the fear ahead of time. The person would sit quietly with closed eyes and then gently think about and imagine being in a situation where there is a narrow thing or place. That simple technique can prepare a person’s mind to face fears calmly and be prepared to be in a narrow place.
Stretching exercises such as Pilates and yoga can be beneficial for someone coping with stenophobia. There are certain stretches and poses that are especially helpful for anxiety and stress.
Exercise is another activity that can help with various types of anxiety, including stenophobia. The exercises that can help include aerobic ones, such as watching an aerobics exercise video. Other forms of exercise that can be great are walking, hiking, jogging, bicycling, and swimming. Sports like basketball, tennis, and soccer can be helpful too. Basically, anything that mildly increases heart rate and is enjoyable is a great option. It is important to just move throughout the day. And it is important to be consistent, too, by exercising several times per week.
Diet can play a major role in mood and brain health. Caffeine can make anxiety worse, for one thing, because it elevates a person’s heart rate and causes the person to go into a type of “fight or flight” mode, so limiting or cutting out caffeine can help to stave off phobias like stenophobia. There is caffeine in certain foods and beverages, such as coffee, black tea, some energy drinks, and chocolate. It is better to focus on a whole foods diet that limits additives, sugar, and table salt.
Another treatment option is medication such as antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications.
Many times a combination of treatments can lead to the most effective results for someone with stenophobia. So it is important to consider that type of approach.
The Future Can Look Bright
It can be difficult to deal with stenophobia. Coping with other people’s attitudes and responses can only make it worse and more trying. But there are all sorts of possible treatments that can help someone turn the corner and begin living life more to the fullest, even despite stenophobia. The important thing is to take action and seek help if you are struggling with anxiety.