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Weighted Blankets and Claustrophobia
Claustrophobia, or the fear of enclosed spaces, is a type of anxiety disorder that can cause immense distress.
People with claustrophobia may avoid situations such as using an elevator, flying on an airplane, or going to a crowded event.
While a weighted blanket therapy is usually beneficial for anxiety, it can be tricky for people with claustrophobia.
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What is claustrophobia?
Claustrophobia is an intense, irrational fear of enclosed or crowded places. It is triggered by the feeling of not being able to escape, which may be caused by being trapped in an elevator, or when the zipper of a jacket gets stuck. Symptoms of claustrophobia include sweating, trembling, fear or panic, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, and feeling faint or confused.
Weighted blankets can be a potential trigger for those with claustrophobia, as the added weight could cause feelings of discomfort or stress. It is recommended to consult a doctor or therapist before using a weighted blanket if you have a history of claustrophobia.
What are the causes of claustrophobia?
Claustrophobia is a situational phobia that is triggered by an irrational and intense fear of enclosed or crowded places. The cause of this fear is not fully understood, but it is believed to be due to a combination of factors, such as a fear of being trapped and a feeling of being out of control. It can be caused by a traumatic experience or by an innate fear of small spaces. It is also possible for it to be caused by anxiety or panic disorder.
There are many ways to manage claustrophobia, including breathing exercises, cognitive behavioral therapy, and medication. Weighted blankets may trigger feelings of claustrophobia in some people, so it is important to consider how the weight of the blanket feels before using it.
Weighted blankets and claustrophobia
Therapy can be a useful tool for helping people with claustrophobia to manage their anxiety when using weighted blankets. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be used to help people with claustrophobia to address and overcome their fear of enclosed or crowded spaces. During CBT, therapists will help the patient to identify, challenge and reframe their negative thoughts and beliefs around their phobia.
How do weighted blankets work?
Weighted blankets are designed to provide gentle pressure on your body when you are sleeping. This pressure is thought to be similar to a hug and can help to improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety. Most weighted blankets are made with plastic pellets, glass beads, or ceramic beads to create the weight within the blanket.
When using a weighted blanket, the individual is exposed to deep touch pressure from the even distribution of weight. This is thought to help switch the body from the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which is responsible for the rest-and-digest response. This helps to reduce stress, improve sleep quality, and calm the nervous system.
Although there is research to suggest a benefit from using a weighted blanket, more studies are needed to draw scientific conclusions. Therefore, it is important to be aware that using a weighted blanket may not work for everyone.
What is weighted blanket therapy?
Weighted blanket therapy is a type of therapeutic technique that uses a blanket filled with materials. The added weight of these materials helps to mimic a therapeutic technique called deep-pressure touch stimulation, which applies gentle but firm, controlled pressure equally across the body.
Weighted blanket therapy may also increase levels of serotonin in the brain which is known to promote calmness and relaxation, and may be a useful therapeutic tool for alleviating anxiety.
How does weighted blanket therapy work for people with claustrophobia?
Weighted blankets provide deep touch pressure therapy which is believed to help relieve symptoms of anxiety and insomnia. While this type of therapy is usually beneficial, it can be especially tricky for people with claustrophobia.
First, it’s important to note that weighted blankets are not a cure for claustrophobia. The feeling of being constricted in a small space can still be present, even with the added weight. Thus, it’s important to consult a doctor or therapist before using a weighted blanket.
If the doctor or therapist gives the go-ahead, it’s recommended to start small. Start by using the weighted blanket for shorter periods of time and choose a blanket that’s slightly less than 10% of the user’s body weight. This will give the user an idea of how their body responds to the weight.
For those who are claustrophobic, it’s important to keep their head free and exposed. This way, the user will still be able to maintain the feeling of control that is typically lost with claustrophobic conditions.
Weighted blanket therapy can be a great way to relax and destress, however it should be used with caution for those with claustrophobia. By following the tips above, users can get the most out of their weighted blanket therapy sessions.
Should Someone With Claustrophobia Use Weighted Blankets?
The answer to the question of whether someone with claustrophobia should use a weighted blanket is complicated. On one hand, weighted blankets are beneficial for many issues such as anxiety, insomnia, and RLS, but on the other hand, it can make the claustrophobic anxiety even worse. The sensation of being completely covered by the blanket is often too overwhelming for those with claustrophobia.
Do not cover your head
However, there are some cases where weighted blankets may work for those with claustrophobia, as the “claustrophobic” feeling may be limited to the part of the body underneath the blanket, while the head remains open and free (even for healthy individuals it is not recommendedn to cover their head with a weighted blanket). This may help them to maintain a feeling of control that is normally lost with claustrophobic conditions.
Managing claustrophobia when using a weighted blanket
A therapist can also help to develop strategies for managing claustrophobia when using a weighted blanket. These strategies could include
- starting with a lighter weight blanket
- using clothing to provide additional space between the body and the blanket
- increasig the duration of use gradually
It is important to consider how the weight of the blanket feels before using it. If you have claustrophobia, try using the weighted blankets for short periods at first to see how you feel. If you don’t own one, you can ask someone you know who has one and try it out, or you can purchase one from a manufacturer that offers a good return policy (like the IKEA weighted blanket).
It can also be helpful to think about how you react in situations with pressure on your body and how you feel when putting on a too heavy blanket or receiving a strong hug.
You can also try to hug yourself. Self-hugging allows us to increase self-love, and it can also help to reduce stress and anxiety.
Current experience about claustrophobia and weighted blankets
By building a sense of trust with a therapist, people with claustrophobia can develop the mindfulness and coping skills needed to feel more comfortable using weighted blankets.
However, feedback from those who have attempted to use weighted blankets with some level of claustrophobia has been generally negative. (weighted blankets may be beneficial for only 10-15% of those with claustrophobia)
What are the symptoms of claustrophobia?
To help manage symptoms, it is important to understand what a weighted blanket is, how it works, and to consider other stress management tips such as talking to a healthcare provider and seeking appropriate care.
1. Fear of enclosed spaces
Symptoms of claustrophobia include sweating, trembling, fear or panic, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, feeling faint or confused, feeling trapped, and feeling overwhelmed. These symptoms can be triggered by an irrational and intense fear of enclosed or crowded places, being stuck in an elevator, or even when the zipper of a jacket is stuck. People with claustrophobia may also experience difficulty concentrating, difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, and difficulty sleeping.
The opposite is called claustrophilia when you feel safe in tiny spaces.
2. Fear of being trapped
The symptoms of claustrophobia include fear, panic, sweating, trembling, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, confusion, feeling faint, and an irrational and intense fear of enclosed or crowded spaces. In severe cases, a person may also experience difficulty concentrating, obsessing over escape routes, and an inability to relax.
3. Anxiety and panic attacks
Anxiety and panic attacks are common symptoms associated with claustrophobia, a situational phobia that is triggered by an irrational and intense fear of enclosed or crowded places. In the United States, anxiety affects around 40 million individuals and can be triggered by the feeling of being trapped or unable to escape an enclosed space.
4. Physical reactions such as sweating, nausea, and dizziness
The physical reactions of claustrophobia can include sweating, trembling, fear or panic, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, feeling faint or confused, restriction of blood circulation and movement, anxiety, hyperactivity, and difficulty breathing.
Do weighted blankets make you feel claustrophobic?
Weighted blankets, also known as heavy blankets, are designed to provide feelings of safety and comfort by providing an additional weight to the body. However, for those who suffer from some level of claustrophobia, these blankets can cause the exact opposite of the desired effect. The extra weight of the blanket can trigger feelings of discomfort and even an increase of stress.
It is not advised for those with severe levels of claustrophobia to use a weighted blanket. However, some individuals may be able to reap the benefits of using a calming blanket.
For example, some people may find that the feeling of claustrophobia is confined to the part of their body which is underneath the blanket, and their head remains free, allowing them to maintain a sense of control.
Can a weighted blanket make anxiety worse?
Although a sleeping with a weighted blanket may provide therapeutic benefits for people with anxiety, it is important to understand that it may not be suitable for everyone. There is a risk that the pressure of the blanket could make the symptoms of anxiety worse, so it is important to proceed with caution.
If you are considering using a weighted blanket, it is best to consult a doctor or mental health specialist. They will be able to provide guidance regarding the best type of weighted blanket for your needs and any safety considerations to be aware of.