Individuals with claustrophobia may avoid turn to drugs and alcohol to mitigate feelings of helplessness and despair.

Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder that involves an irrational fear of small spaces with no mechanism of escape. The symptoms of claustrophobia can be highly intense, triggering various emotional and physical responses. Individuals with claustrophobia may avoid small spaces at all costs to evade emotional and psychological distress. This isolation can lead to further depression and anxiety, thus deteriorating a person’s quality of life. At this point, an individual may turn to drugs and alcohol to mitigate feelings of helplessness and despair.     

Drug Abuse as a Hindrance to Claustrophobia Treatment

Drug abuse acts as a hindrance to claustrophobia treatment, as the anxiety disorder is no longer the sole problem. Substance use enables individuals to self-medicate, thus masking underlying fears. Once substance abuse comes into play, people need to treat both substance abuse and anxiety simultaneously. Dual treatment takes sole focus off of the mental health component because an individual need to treat both disorders.  

Effects of Substance Abuse on Claustrophobia Symptoms

Drugs and alcohol are often utilized to reduce symptoms of panic, such as tension in the chest, difficulty breathing, shuddering and emotional disturbance. Substances may be abused to combat feelings of depression, hopelessness and loneliness. Substance abuse serves to modify brain chemistry further.

Co-occurring substance abuse may intensify symptoms of claustrophobia. Several side effects that associate with alcohol and drug use that can magnify physiological symptoms. Rebound anxiety is when anxiety symptoms intensify and are worse than they were in the first place during drug withdrawal. Also, alcohol and drug use modify brain chemistry by lowering mood-controlling neurotransmitters. This modification can make people prone to anxiety and mood disorders.  

Statistics on Claustrophobia and Drug Abuse

In order to find an effective treatment for claustrophobia, research has been conducted and some studies have found that:

  • People with a specific phobia are three to four times as likely to be afflicted by drug addiction and dependence.
  • Up to five percent of the population in the United States suffers from some form of claustrophobia.  
  • About one-third of individuals that possess an anxiety disorder struggle with alcohol addiction.

Drug Abuse as a Cause of Claustrophobia

Common side effects of drug abuse include anxiety and panic. When an individual becomes dependent on drug use, they run the added risk of anxiety as a side effect. Chemicals in substances, such as cocaine, marijuana and alcohol can cause alterations to how the brain functions, resulting in anxiety. These symptoms are present while an individual is misusing drugs but can also remain for a period of time after the person stops using the drug. A difficult cycle to break begins, as the elevated symptoms of anxiety and panic prompt individuals to abuse drugs again as a type of self-medicating treatment.  

Claustrophobia and co-occurring substance abuse have a cyclical relationship in that the distress of claustrophobia can prompt someone to start misusing drugs and alcohol. In turn, the side effects and withdrawal symptoms of drug use can also intensify anxiety and panic, developing into claustrophobia. Regardless of how the co-occurring diagnosis develops, treatment options should address both disorders simultaneously.

If you or someone you know is currently struggling with a substance use and co-occurring disorder like claustrophobia, there are different treatment options that can suit your specific needs. The Recovery Village has a staff of trained professionals that offers a continuum of care for substance use and co-occurring disorders. Call and speak with a representative to learn more about which program could work for you.

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Editor – Jennifer Kopf
Jennifer Kopf is a Florida-based writer who likes to balance creative writing with helpful and informative pieces. Her passion for helping people has translated into writing about the importance of treatment for substance use and mental health disorders. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS
Tracy Smith is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Nationally Certified Counselor, an Approved Clinical Supervisor, and a mental health freelance and ghostwriter. Read more
Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.