What is Cleithrophobia?

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This blog post will explore what Cleithrophobia is and cover topics like what are the symptoms of Cleithrophobia and what makes it different from claustrophobia. 

We will also explore the various risk factors that can cause the development of this particular phobia, and the interventions and treatment available for this phobia. 

What is Cleithrophobia?

Cleithrophobia/Cleisiophobia is fear of being trapped in a closed space or being locked shut in an indoor area such as a room, the elevator, toilet etc. 

The word Cleithrophobia is a combination of two Greek words namely kleisto meaning closed and phobos meaning deep fear or aversion. 

Cleithrophobia is quite specific in the sense that it is referred to as fear of being trapped and locked in. This particular phobia might be similar to claustrophobia but they are a little different. 

Claustrophobia in general is the fear of a place- small confiled places such as a small room, the elevator, the MRI machine. The fear of the place. However, for Cliethrophobia, it is the fear of a situation- particularly the situation where one is trapped and locked in regardless of the place. 

To illustrate, take the example of a person who is entering a small tent. 

A person with with claustrophobia might be anxious stepping into a small tent, but someone with cleithrophobia not react with fear because of the ease of exist and also the lower likelihood of being trapped in a easily tearable tent. 

According to an article on the condition, Cleithrophobia is one relatively common phobia that impacts the life of approximately 2.2% of people in the United States and in severe cases it can be debilitating. 

This phobia can impact the life of an individual- it can impact their ability to carry out their responsibilities, their work at their place of employment, and also might impact their relationships because of their avoidance behaviours. 

What are the Symptoms of Cleithrophobia?

People who struggle with phobia tend to live limited lives especially when these phobias are severe and impact their day to day lives. 

The most common symptom or criteria for a person to have a phobia is avoidance behaviour. People that are suffering from phobias, most of the time purposely avoid coming into contact with what it is that triggers them to experience fear or anxiety. 

People that suffer from Cleithrophobia, which is a situation phobia, try to avoid various situations that might lead them to feel trapped like going to family places, using an elevator, store houses, aeroplanes, basements, cars, walk-in freezers etc. 

A person doesn’t necessarily need to be in a situation to experience the symptoms of the phobia because the brain is capable of creating a reaction to fearsome situations even when the subject is not actually in that situation.

Various symptoms of fruit phobia in the presence of a trigger situation include:

  • sweating
  • trembling
  • hot flashes or chills
  • shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • a choking sensation
  • rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
  • pain or tightness in the chest
  • a sensation of butterflies in the stomach
  • Nausea and urge to vomit
  • headaches and dizziness
  • feeling faint
  • numbness or pins and needles
  • dry mouth
  • a need to go to the toilet
  • ringing in your ears
  • confusion or disorientation
  • hyperventilation
  • tightness in the chest/chest pain and difficulty breathing
  • rise in blood pressure

In some very severe cases, a person might experience a panic attack when they come across a situation where they fear being trapped. 

These panic attacks can be extremely frightening and distressing for the person suffering and can happen suddenly and without any prior signs or warnings and exhibit the following symptoms:

  • fear of losing control
  • fear of fainting
  • feelings of dread
  • fear of dying
  • fear of harm or illness
  • guilt, shame, self-blame
  • Feeling disconnected
  • Irritability and anger

What are the causes of Cleithrophobia?

Here are the following probable causes of Cleithrophobia:

When we consider this particular phobia, the most probable cause of it’s development would be a mix between past traumatic experiences related to beijing trapped and a general disposition- genetic- that makes them vulnerable to developing the phobia. 

Most cases of Cleisiophobia do stem from a negative experience of being trapped in a closed space, especially an experience that happened when the individual was younger where a person- friend or family- had locked them in a closet or a basement.

Other traumatic experiences could include natural disasters where the individual was trapped underground and beneath the fallen debris after an earthquake.

There is also a general fear of the unknown especially when the person is confined to a space where they are unfamiliar with- they might also fear unknown things such as ghosts and venomous animals that can add to their fears and cause heightened anxiety about being locked in. 

People with a parent or sibling having a genetic predisposition to anxiety or phobia can have higher risks of developing phobias and anxieties in general.

Phobia is often a learned response so it might have been a result of behaviour learned by watching a caregiver or another person as a child and carrying it on to themselves as they grow older. 

Reading\ about related events that involves being trapped underground  can also instil anxiety and worry when they are also faced with such situations and if they experience it themselves even in a minor scale, it can lead to the development of this phobia in an intense scale. 

Persistent, untreated underlying anxiety disorders such as General Anxiety Disorder or Agoraphobia can also be part of the reason why one might develop this condition. Their general disposition towards anxiety can lead to further worry and anxiety around this particular situation where they fear being trapped and as a result led to development of the phobia. 

What are the treatment options for Cleithrophobia?

If your Cleithrophobia symptoms are debilitating or severe to the point where it is getting in the way of your day to day life, the most advisable thing you can do is to seek treatment from a mental health professional.

The treatment options for this particular phobia follow the same treatment  as most Specific phobia treatments go.

You will have the option of engaging in Behavioural change techniques used in behavioural therapy as well as cognitive behavioural therapy techniques which have enough evidence that set them as good treatment options for anxiety and specific phobia disorders. 

Cognitive behavioural therapy

In terms of Cognitive behavioural therapies your therapist will teach you how to regulate your negative and irrational thoughts when you come across triggers. 

They will guide you in restructuring your thoughts and your beliefs about triggers and also about your fears of being trapped in a place. 

As you engage in therapy you will start learning to alter your thoughts, develop an awareness of how you feel, and as a consequence the way you react in situations where you are faced with a real or imagined trigger. 

Rational Emotive Behavioural therapy

REBT is an action-oriented type of CBT that addresses unhealthy or irrational beliefs and attitudes that influence thoughts,  emotions, and behaviours. 

It follows the ABC model of developing an awareness about the processes that influenced the development of the phobia such as the activating event, the beliefs that were developed as a result and the consequences of those beliefs. 

It uses a method known as “disputing” to assist individuals develop realistic and healthy beliefs and as a consequence develop the ability to rationalise their thoughts and their emotional and behavioural responses as well. 

Relaxation techniques

Therapists can also help you develop and learn relaxation techniques that can go hand in hand with other CBT and exposure techniques. 

They use meditative relaxation or imagery to help you embrace the present and focus on your internal self when you are close to a trigger that can deter you from a panic reaction. 

Exposure therapy

Exposure therapy involves you being placed in a non-dangerous state that allows you to come in contact with your triggers and trigger a phobia response. These situations differ in intensity and the constant explorer has been hypothesised to help you develop familiarity and reduce fear. 

Pharmacological treatment

If your anxiety is extremely severe your doctor may prescribe you antidepressants or an anti-anxiety medication to assist your phobia treatment, your panic, and other physical symptoms.

People with milder phobia symptoms that need not necessarily seek out treatment- in cases where they are able to function  well and the phobia is not part of their daily struggles can find relief from a variety of self-help techniques. 

They can also learn meditation techniques as well as relaxation techniques on their own and can develop a support system from the people around them. They can also learn how to manage their anxiety or fears by planning their lives in such a way that they do not come across triggers and at the same time does not cost them their quality of life. 


This blog post explored what Cleithrophobia is and covered topics like what are the symptoms of Cleithrophobia and what makes it different from claustrophobia. 

We have also explored the various risk factors that can cause the development of this particular phobia, and the interventions and treatment available for this phobia. 

FAQ related to Cleithrophobia

What is the rarest phobia?

  • Some of the rare phobias include:
  • Ablutophobia which is the Fear of bathing. 
  • Arachibutyrophobia which is the Fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth. 
  • Arithmophobia which involves Fear of math. 
  • Chirophobia which is  Fear of hands. 
  • Fructophobia which is the fear of fruits.
  • Globophobia or the Fear of balloons

What’s the difference between claustrophobia and Cleithrophobia?

The major difference between Claustrophobia and Cleithrophobia is that Claustrophobia is a fear of place or space. 

Whereas Cleithrophobia is the fear of a situation where they fear that they will get trapped or locked in- it is irrespective of the size of the space. 

Why do I have Cleithrophobia?

In general, cleithrophobia is developed commonly due to past experiences of being trapped in a space. This particular experience usually happens when people are young and they are trapped or confined in dark spaces for long periods of time. 

When this event of traumatic situation is not resolved in a healthy way by a guide or a parent, it can lead to irrational beliefs that lead to irrational fears and phobia of being trapped. 

What is the fear of being restrained called?

Merinthophobia is the fear of being bound or tied up- the word has its origins in Greek where the word “merintho” means string.


Cleithrophobia Causes, Symptoms And Treatment. Fear Exit.  28th June, 2019. Retrieved on 11th Dec 2021. https://medium.com/@fearexit2019/cleithrophobia-causes-symtoms-and-treatment-dc72ffda9745

Fritscher. L. Cleithrophobia: The Fear of Being Trapped. Verywellmind. 9th June, 2020. Retrieved on 11th Dec 2021. https://www.verywellmind.com/cleithrophobia-2671737

Greene. P. Cleithrophobia: The Fear of Being Trapped. Manhattan Center for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 23rd August 2021. Retrieved on 11th December 2021. https://www.manhattancbt.com/archives/2464/cleithrophobia/

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