It was the middle of winter and I had been asked to go on a hike in temperatures below zero. I made the decision to join in the fun, but I struggled just a little with a fear known as Stenophobia or the fear of narrow places.
We hiked through several canyons in the snow and cold and eventually found the only way out was through a small cleft that would allow us to climb to the rim of the canyon and venture out. In those moment I discovered why I enjoy wide open spaces. I believe whatever fear I have to be minor and I’m not sure I’d be diagnosed as having Stenophobia, but I can certainly relate with those who experience a sense of panic in narrow places.
The same fear applies to a narrow trail such as the one that leads into the Grand Canyon or a narrow bridge that provides the only way to travel across a ravine.
What Causes Stenophobia?
This fear can be linked to other fears. For instance a fear of narrow places can be easily linked to a fear of heights, a fear of small spaces or a fear of control loss.
The fear can be the result of observation, but is more likely the result of an event that involves narrow place or thing. These personal points of trauma can be difficult to manage on your own, but can still be tremendously debilitating.
Symptoms of Stenophobia
I believe my fear of narrow places originated in another hiking experience where I spent several hours in a canyon trying to find a way to the top. The moderate sense of trauma came when I began to slide and almost fell approximately 75 feet to the rock-strewn creek below injuring my back in the process. For me the primary symptom is that I will generally ask a few questions before agreeing to a hike in an unknown area.
Other symptoms may include…
- Panic attacks
- Air hunger
- A sense of vertigo
An individual with this fear will not be inclined to visit places with constricted passageways. They may even struggle with tight hallways.
How to Overcome Stenophobia
Overcoming this fear may be possible with behavior therapy administered by a competent therapist. This approach allows your response to fear stimulus to be challenged allowing an opportunity to alter the underlying behavior. This is turn allows a new response that is less fear based. The end result is a response that relies more on logic and facts than feelings and panic.
In worse-case scenarios an individual could resort to a fetal position when confronted with a fear stimulus they are not equipped to confront.
As we’ve mentioned many other times on this site the confrontation of fear is important because it is common for more than one fear to be present in the life of a phobic personality.
The fear of narrow places is also referred to as:
- Narrow place fear