People who experience claustrophobia, the fear of small spaces, often seek out treatments that utilize exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is exposing someone to that which causes them intense and irrational fear or anxiety, and then slowly building them up to a point where their fear is no longer a problem. Currently, a new form of entertainment known as "escape rooms" have only been utilized as entertainment, but they definitely could be used for the treatment of claustrophobia. Here is how.
The Need to "Escape"
Most people with claustrophobia feel compelled to escape their seemingly tight surroundings. Escape rooms actually focus on the concept of escape. While you might think it counterproductive to ask a person with claustrophobia to escape an escape room, it actually helps them a lot. It feeds into that sensation that he or she needs to escape, which becomes adrenaline. Adrenaline helps him/her focus on the tasks necessary to escape.
Tasks Required to Escape
In everyday situations, the person with claustrophobia would just leave the room or the space and go outside or go to a larger room. In an escape room, he or she is locked in. To get out, he/she has to focus on solving the clues that lead to the key to unlock the door. In so doing, a person with claustrophobia would learn to refocus the adrenaline, fear and energy into doing something useful and productive, a skill which can then be applied in real life situations.
Time Limit in Escape Rooms Is the Perfect Amount for Exposure Therapy
Most exposure therapy sessions conducted by a trained behavioral therapist begin with ten- to fifteen-minute intervals. Most escape room play sessions start at twenty minutes and go up to an hour, depending on complication levels of the room. This is the perfect, "in-field" exposure therapy session. It puts a person with claustrophobia in a twenty- or thirty-minute session, which is the perfect amount of time for the exposure therapy to work as it should. Additionally, the training needed to refocus one's fear and turn it into useful energy is exactly the component needed to make this a successful means of exposure therapy.
Talk to Your Therapist
If you have claustrophobia and your therapist has suggested exposure therapy, discuss the possibility of using escape rooms to meet this therapy need. He or she would be able to tell you if you are ready for that kind of therapy or that length of exposure time. Because you are with other players in the escape room, it may also help to deal with any social anxiety you have that is connected to your claustrophobia.