Cleithrophobia is Fear of Being Trapped

Authored by Matthew Idle

Reviewed by Dr Ruth Arenas Matta

What is Cleithrophobia?

Claustrophobia is a common fear amongst people and it occurs when you have an irrational fear of confined spaces. Imagine riding an elevator and having a panic attack because you are claustrophobic. Cleithrophobia is another type of fear that people experience, yet it is slightly different and not as widely diagnosed as claustrophobia1Herringa, Ryan J., et al. “Childhood Maltreatment Is Associated With Altered Fear Circuitry and Increased Internalizing Symptoms by Late Adolescence – PMC.” PubMed Central (PMC), 4 Nov. 2013,

If you have ever had an irrational fear of being trapped, then you will have experienced Cleithrophobia. It is a phobia many people confuse with claustrophobia due to their similarities. The most notable similarity is that people suffering from both phobias are afraid of confined spaces.

One of the main differences is that cleithrophobia relates to phobias that occur in the winter months. This is due to the possible risk of being trapped in ice or snow. A number of events can trigger cleithrophobia such as being locked in a small room.

Symptoms of cleithrophobia

Your cleithrophobia may be triggered due to a lack of being able to escape from a room. However, it isn’t just confined spaces like rooms that trigger cleithrophobia. Your cleithrophobia could be triggered by riding in a car and wearing a tight-fitting safety belt. Rides at an amusement park, locked rooms, or an MRI machine can also trigger cleithrophobia in sufferers.

Cleithrophobia symptoms are a lot like those from other phobias. Therefore, it can make cleithrophobia seem like something else, such as claustrophobia. The symptoms of cleithrophobia are triggered from the experience of feeling trapped and you may suffer a panic attack, scream, become physically violent, freeze and be unable to move, try to run away, or begin crying.

In some circumstances, you are unable to leave the situation. If this occurs, you may begin profusely sweating, experience an increased heart rate, and/or become physically ill. You may only be able to think about leaving or escaping the situation.

What is the difference between cleithrophobia and claustrophobia?

You may experience claustrophobia at any time. If you are claustrophobic, you may intend to enter a small space, but before entering it, you suffer a panic attack. The phobia’s focus is a fear of small spaces.

In contrast, cleithrophobia may be triggered by actually being confined in a small area. A person with cleithrophobia is often comfortable entering small spaces in which they are free to leave. The specific focus of cleithrophobia is being locked in, trapped, or unable to leave the space.

You may have experienced a traumatic event that causes cleithrophobia. Trauma that may lead to cleithrophobia include being trapped in a small tunnel, deep hole, or locked in a small area like a closet, old refrigerator, or car trunk.

Knowing more about cleithrophobia and claustrophobia

Cleithrophobia and claustrophobia’s differences are subtle; yet, dspite being subtle, those differences are important. It may be almost impossible for people to separate the two fears. A person with cleithrophobia or claustrophobia can suffer from anticipatory anxiety, which occurs before an event takes place.

For example, if you are going into hospital for an MRI, you may suffer a panic attack in anticipation of the procedure as you know your will enter a confined space and cannot leave.

Cleithrophobia may seem a lot like claustrophobia if you expect there to be even a chance of becoming trapped in a room or small space. Likewise, people who suffer from claustrophobia may feel trapped in a room or small space despite being free to leave.

What are the treatments for cleithrophobia?

Cleithrophobia and claustrophobia may exist in a person at the same time. A trained mental healthcare professional is able to make a diagnosis. Your symptoms may be severe enough to be life-limiting. If this is the case, you should consult with a mental healthcare professional.

Treatment for cleithrophobia may involve systematic desensitization. You may also be prescribed other cognitive behavioral techniques, which work well with fears and phobias. You should not try CBT techniques without the assistance of a mental healthcare professional.

If you suffer from milder cleithrophobia symptoms, you may find relief from a number of self-help techniques. You may discover that having an escape route from a room or situation provides you some ease.

Other ways to ease your cleithrophobia symptoms could be to remove the locks on the rooms in your house or to leave the door to a room slightly open, so you don’t feel trapped. These techniques may help you feel calmer.

In some cases, your cleithrophobia may be strong enough for medication. Many mental healthcare professionals want patients to attend psychotherapy first, however. This gives them the chance to work on a more natural treatment for the phobia.

The Stop! Technique

Anxiety sufferers may use the Stop! Technique to curb their symptoms and issues. It doesn’t work for everyone, but if you suffer from panic attacks and anxiety, it is worth trying. The Stop! Technique is a CBT tool that aims to stop your thoughts from racing or to prevent you from obsessively worrying.

The technique works by yelling the word ‘stop’ when you experience fear rising inside. You may yell ‘stop’ out loud at first, but as you progress using the technique, you can say ‘stop’ quietly or silently. It should be noted that the technique doesn’t work for everyone as no person’s panic disorder is the same.

CBT with exposure

CBT is often the go-to form of therapy to help people suffering from anxiety. When combined with exposure, people with this phobia have the most supported therapeutic approach at their fingertips.

Exposure is an essential part of the therapy process. By experiencing exposure, you face your fears. The technique is based on a long history of behavioral and patient research. It suggests that continual confrontation of a feared situation, while managing anxiety, will eliminate a person’s response to fear.

If your life is being limited by cleithrophobia, you should seek help from a mental healthcare professional. By seeking out and completing treatment, you could regain your life.


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  • 1
    Herringa, Ryan J., et al. “Childhood Maltreatment Is Associated With Altered Fear Circuitry and Increased Internalizing Symptoms by Late Adolescence – PMC.” PubMed Central (PMC), 4 Nov. 2013,
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