If you suffer from claustrophobia, preparing yourself for the many medical procedures that are part of everyday life can be difficult. Some people may not even know they have this phobia until they experience their first panic attack during a procedure. During these types of situations, it’s common to experience an increase in heart rate, sweating, hyperventilation, and feelings of doom, among other symptoms. It becomes very important at this point to control your breathing because if you do not, you could pass out or, worse yet, suffer from cardiac arrest.
Here are a few tips for managing claustrophobia during a medical procedure:
Talk to Your Doctor About What You Can Do During This Process
Many people are unaware that their doctors have the ability to prescribe anti-anxiety medication that will help with minor medical procedures. You should also not be afraid to ask for a mild sedative if you know something like an MRI is coming up. This will make the experience easier on you and the technician who has to work with you behind a glass window.
Deep Breathing Exercises Can Be Extremely Helpful
It’s important to continue breathing deeply even when faced with intense anxiety because if you stop, it becomes difficult for your brain to catch up with your body again. A common technique called “box” involves inhaling through your nose for four seconds, retaining your breath in case of an attack for two seconds, and exhaling through your mouth for six seconds. Repeat this at least three times before asking the doctor to stop what they are doing if you find that you need more time to calm yourself down.
Try Out Some Visualization Techniques That Can Be Used Anytime
Visualization is when you try to control the images in your mind by thinking about something else entirely. For example, when you’re faced with panic-like symptoms during a medical procedure, try picturing yourself somewhere sunny or happy in order to calm yourself down. Many people have great success using this technique; it’s just difficult to get started if you’ve never done it before!
Talk to Your Doctor About Getting a Panic Button
A panic button is usually given to patients who are unable to leave their bed, so it’s important for you to bring up your claustrophobia with your doctor if this is the case. The panic button will send off an alarm outside of the room so that someone else can come in and help you out if needed. Even though using this device might sound like it’ll be embarrassing or difficult, consider how much more embarrassing it would be for you to pass out during one of these tests!
Go for Open MRI Scans
If you are able to make this choice, an open MRI is much more tolerable for patients who suffer from claustrophobia. There is a large, open space to lay down in instead of a tight tube where you cannot move at all. As an additional benefit, the scanning machine is a lot less loud. What’s not to like about that? These days, there are centers with upright and open MRI scanners dedicated to helping patients with anxiety disorders. Check out their website today!
Bring Something That Focuses Your Attention Elsewhere
Whether it’s your cell phone or something as simple as counting backward from one hundred by twos, there has to be something that can distract you from what’s going on around you. Brain scans and other tests are noisy and disruptive, so it might help if there was some form of noise-canceling device nearby. If this isn’t possible, try talking with the technician about changing positions during the test so that they will do their best to minimize the amount of noise that’s being generated during the test. This will help you stay calm and relaxed!
Don’t Be Afraid to Request a Break
If you’ve been struggling with claustrophobia during a test, don’t be afraid to ask for a break. The worst thing that your doctor could do is insult you by saying, “it’s not that bad.” You should be 100% confident in what they are doing and the fact that they understand how difficult this experience might be for you. In some cases, it might make sense for them to stop completely so as not to stress out the patient.
Claustrophobia can be a real and debilitating fear for many people. However, by talking to your doctor and using some techniques we’ve provided, you can make the experience much more manageable.