Claustrophia & kids?
April 26, 2009 2:44 PM Subscribe
Claustrophobia-filter. We've been looking into the adult-onset claustrophobia my wife has started to experience (and found very relevant pointers in this earlier AskMe
). Now, our eight-year-old son has recently had a couple of similar moments. How to nip this in the bud for both?
posted by progosk to Health & Fitness (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
My wife had an earlier aversion to strong winds due to a few adolescent years of monsoons in Manila, and, since pregnancy, infrequently recurring episodes of waking up panicked in the dark (any low light left on is enough to avoid this happening; generally we joke about this deriving from her having been closed for punishment in a dark closet once when she was a child). Years ago, in a visit to some underground tunnels in Turkey, she panicked "claustrophobically" for the first time, and not really much since then - up until recently. Now, other confined/crowded situations (small planes, full elevators, etc.) can fairly easily cause her panic attacks. She's looking for ways to come to terms with it, and hopefully ward it off, as far as that's possible.
With the exception of a recent family plane trip, it's never really been much of a topic with the kids; during the trip we had her sit up front alone, and I don't think the kids caught too much of the anxiety that she had to face down for a couple of hours. So it came as something of a surprise when our oldest recently panicked - on a ski-lift, of all places.
He was with the instructor, his six-year-old brother and two other kids on an open four-seater lift - which stalled in mid-journey. At first the kids all joked about the situation, then, as the instructor later told us, J little by little panicked, until he was screaming to get off. When we talked about it afterwards, he explained that he'd become concerned they'd be stuck up there forever and nobody would be able to come and rescue them. An afternoon off was enough for him to overcome the episode, and continue taking skilifts with no particular concern for the rest of the week.
Then recently, back in the city, during a three-floor ride down in a slow, old elevator, he began shivering, and we managed to escape just before he lost it. And today, after a first crowded bus-ride that had no noticeable effect on him, a second crowded bus-ride was aborted at the first stop, due to his calm but firm observation that he needed to get off. (Talking about it later during the long walk home, he said it felt to him there wasn't enough air to breathe on the bus.)
It's conceivable that we've abetted some anxieties (an explanation for why they can't take elevators alone was often: what would happen if you get stuck?), and there's been a certain amount of anxiety in the air here (we live in Rome) since the recent Abruzzo earthquake (though the skilift incident predates that) - but this sort of fairly focused panicking in a child is not something we would really have expected. J is an imaginative, speculative/scientific sort; I can picture him painting himself scenarios that might go too far, and he's been pinpointing more fears of his recently than he used to, but these incidents have felt a little different than the typical childhood scares we'd witnessed so far.
So, advice for either or both is welcome. I haven't scoured the internets about this yet, and guessed there might be some thoughtful opinions to be had here.