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  • Writer's pictureJanet Nahirniak

Treating Claustrophobia with Hypnosis: Facing Fear

Updated: Sep 8, 2022

Overcoming Claustrophobia (the Fear of Small Spaces) with Hypnosis - a Case Study

In all case studies, specific details may be slightly altered or omitted to protect client privacy.

What causes a phobia?

Psychological studies tell us that human beings have only two innate fears: falling and loud noises. Those are the only fears with which a baby is born. You can read about it in an online article, entitled, The Science of Fear if you’re interested. Every other fear is acquired. Think about that. EVERY. OTHER. FEAR... is acquired. Isn’t that fascinating?

Claustrophobia: causes

Claustrophobia, the fear of confined spaces, has ‘been acquired’ in a variety of ways for different clients of mine: one was trapped under grain in a silo, another was punished by being locked up in a closet under the stairs, and one, I’ll call him Ben, acquired his in the back of a van.

Ben, a professional mature adult had managed his fear very well for a number of years, by avoiding situations which would trigger attacks. He worked in a good job, for a local utility company, and although it could be boring, it was safe. Unfortunately, economics can turn unexpectedly and he was laid off during a large corporate restructure. He was not quite old enough or rich enough to retire and, after much effort, finally found work in big equipment sales. It was an interesting job, allowing him to use his previous technical knowledge to trouble shoot in unique on-site situations. He traveled from site to site, helping with installs and was called in if there were any problems. Everything was going extremely well, including the successful attainment of a new multi-million dollar account!

So… why did he come to see me?

Phobias in the workplace

The new account was with a national mining company, which had installed one of Ben’s parts in a shaft thousands of meters underground. The site was only accessible via elevator, and although Ben had managed to get through the initial installation, he now had to revisit… and this time, at a slightly different location where the elevator would be even smaller and completely dark. He was absolutely panic-stricken.

The thought of crowding into a tiny, metal can, shoulder to shoulder with as many other people as can fit and plunging down, down, down underground makes ME slightly anxious and I’m not claustrophobic. I could definitely relate to his discomfort, although not to his panic. Even as he explained the scenario, his breath quickened, sweat dripped from his face and I could see his pulse beating erratically at his temples.

He was terrified!

But… he needed the job. He needed to DO the job. The job was underground. And he was desperate.

Understanding phobias

Claustrophobia, or any deep fear, is really the result of a hyper-vigilant mind. Your subconscious is always trying to keep you safe; even from perceived threats. Something happens, is thought to happen, or is imagined could possibly happen—something that the subconscious mind sees as mortally dangerous or out of its control—and BOOM!

In Ben’s case, the phobia had arisen in the blink of an eye. He had been in a tropical location, in the back of a hot, crowded vehicle and couldn’t breathe. In that moment, he felt threatened, he felt out of control and he panicked… Phobia ignited!

After that first day, the fear grew and grew:

  • Affecting airplane travel, and therefore his ability to travel for work or to relax with his family.

  • Affecting the type of work he could take on, and sometimes the amount of money he could make.

  • Affecting his self-confidence because of the limiting nature of his phobia.

It was definitely time to get rid of it!

Use hypnosis to update your unconscious mind to overcome old anxieties

In order to counteract the phobia, I took a tri-fold attack.

  1. Together, we re-wrote the scene in the van so that he felt safe and in control.

  2. I gave him access to a control panel for his body so he could adjust every switch, dial and lever-- turning off the phobia and turning up relaxation and serenity.

  3. I gave him a healing place where the phobia oozed out of him, like oil, from his pores. Once all the oil collected around him, I had it all transform into something wonderful.

He left our session feeling a bit odd, but much better. The hypnotic experience can be very intense and his response was common. As he was leaving, I suggested he go for a walk in a park nearby and breathe in the healing pine air until he felt ready to take on the day.

A month went by. I knew he was out of town and incommunicado.

Overcoming claustrophobia: a Hypnosis Success Story

Wondering how he was doing, I recently did a follow up to see how his mind had reacted to our session. His response? Brilliant!

Each and every aspect of phobia was gone-- including a fear of birds I wasn't even aware of! His business trip to the underground mine was successful and stress-free, and he’d even taken a holiday, via plane, with his wife. Not even a twitch.

And today, he is a happy, serene, phobia-free man!


Janet Nahirniak, B.Ed, M.Sc., has been helping clients as a Master Hypnotist and certified clinical Hypnotherapist since 2006. Her focus on neuroscience and psychology during her Master's degree gives her keen insight into how things like trauma, mental health issues, & chronic pain can physically change the brain. She brings that scientific background, along with her natural compassion, to her hypnosis and hypnotherapy practice to ensure her clients get the safest, most informed, and most effective care possible.


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