Medication to Treat Claustrophobia While Traveling

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Claustrophobia can be particularly difficult to manage while traveling, but medication and other coping techniques can help. While for most people taking a vacation is one of life’s simple pleasures, if you suffer from phobias, an upcoming trip might be fraught with anxiety rather than anticipation. After all, traveling goes hand in hand with being confined to cars, buses, trains, and airplanes. Use these tips to manage your fears.

Overcoming Triggers While Traveling

Flying: Air travel can be difficult if you have claustrophobia. To make yourself feel more comfortable, accommodate your fear by making smart choices. For example, if you have a fear of heights (acrophobia), choose an aisle seat. If you have a fear of being stuck on the plane, choose a seat towards the front so you can disembark quickly. Anti-anxiety medications may help.

Driving: If you have claustrophobia, long road trips can be uncomfortable. Nonetheless, driving gives you the opportunity to stop and get out of the car when needed. Taking frequent stretch breaks, dividing long drives into shorter segments and carefully choosing your traveling companions can help you relax while on the road.

Train travel: Although the Golden Age of the railroad is long gone in the United States, it is still a primary mode of transport, especially for those with aviophobia, a fear of flying.

Train travel affords many luxuries to accommodate your fear that flights do not, including more legroom, larger seats, and the ability to walk around at will.

On a cruise ship: If you have claustrophobia, you might worry about being confined in the small cabins on a ship. However, modern ships are virtual floating cities, filled with an endless array of both active and sedentary pursuits and a great deal of open space. Choosing a comfortable cabin and learning your way around the ship are the keys to avoiding claustrophobia at sea.

Bus travel: Many people rely on long-distance bus companies for a low-cost alternative to flights or trains. However, buses can be quite challenging for those who suffer from phobias.

Small seats, minimal leg room and the prospect of spending hours in close contact with strangers are among the challenges of bus travel. Traveling on less popular routes and at odd times can help you cope with a long-distance bus ride.


Before embarking on a long trip, see your doctor or therapist for guidance. Even if you do not normally take medications for your claustrophobia, your doctor may prescribe a low dose of anti-anxiety medication for you to take during the trip.

Pay close attention to your doctor's instructions, as you may need to start taking pills several days before you travel, avoid alcohol, or follow other procedures.

Other Coping Methods

A health professional can offer much more than medication to help alleviate your irrational reaction. She can teach you guided visualization and other relaxation techniques to use while in your seat and can help you prevent a possible panic attack. Be sure to practice your new skills before your trip, as some exercises take several days to master.

If possible, travel with a supportive friend or relative. He can talk you down, help you work through a relaxation exercise, or simply keep you distracted during the trip. Your companion can also manage details such as checking luggage, which you may be too nervous to feel comfortable handling.

Claustrophobia can impact travel in a variety of ways. With a bit of advance planning, however, there is no reason that your claustrophobia should prevent you from seeing the world.

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  • American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.