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Question
Posted by: Thuli | 2013/10/23

What is this 'people claustrophobia'?

I have given it that name because I don’t know what to call it. If I am in a packed place on my own, I don’t feel too bad. If I am with a bunch of people who want my attention, I soon feel I cannot breathe. This means there is hesitation before going to a family function, a dinner with friends, a hangout with colleagues. At work, my boss makes me ill because she walks into my office a minimum of 15 times a day. To chat, to gossip, to say hi, to ask about a project. I feel suffocated to the point of deep anger. This same sense of people claustrophobia made me refuse to look after a friend who wanted to come and stay for two weeks. I am a single mum – I have a child but because she is mine, a part of me, I do not feel her presence at all. Anyone else seems like a giant in my place, someone literally preventing me from breathing properly. That’s why my fiend could not come over. As my child gets older (she is now 10) she notices my aversion to company and doesn’t know what to make of it. I remember some time back she sadly asked why no one loved me, as she put it. I don’t know how to explain to her that I feel ill around people. At school functions she wants me to sit with other people. I don’t want to, but I quietly indulge her. To give some context, I am a woman who has been very badly abused by men. I avoid them except for quick sex when the child is away for the weekend. These are typically once-off affairs as I do not want to give men leverage to inflict pain by staying around me for any length of time. Hence two hours will do. I want to be alone, People fall into three categories. Those that want to openly hurt or attack me, those that try to do it sneakily, and those that just irritate me with their very presence - inoffensive though it might seem. I go to coffee shops alone. I go shopping alone. I go to night clubs alone. I am in life alone and I don’t know how else to function. Alone is what I know – anything else is terrifying and suffocating. There were dreams I had of husband, large family etc. – until I realised the universe did not have those same dreams for me, due to the repeat horrible experiences with men. Since then I have learnt to get by alone. I fought it for a while, believing I had every right to have love and loving company around me. Then after years and years I simply gave in and taught myself how to be alone. It was that or cry daily. I am struggling to get through each day because of this people claustrophobia. Pls help.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink
- 2013/10/24

What you're describing sounds more like a form of social anxiety disorder, and something which should respond well to proper treatment, which would increase your freedom to feel free to enjoy life and company, far more than you do.
Ideally, you\d need to see a psychiatrist or psychologist for a full assessment and diagnosis, and then a discussion of treatment options. These should include CBT style counselling, which can help you gain personal control of these feelings of anxiety when other people are close, and related issues, and maybe some medication which is also used to treat depression but can be useful here, too. It sounds as though part of the problem may be that you have over-generalized from some significant horrible experiences where other people hurt you, to excessive assumptions that everyone else is either bound to hurt you or pointless to know.  get the expert help you deserve

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Adam Kade | 2015/02/22

I am like this also. I like to talk to people over the internet. That's comfortable. But I really don't like places with lots of people, supermarkets and busy shops etc are a no go. I can do it, go in them, but I don't like to. If I was to work in a call centre, that would be a nightmare for me. I like to be solitary. I do like people and socializing but I am more comfortable if it is a controlled environment. A small pub with not many people. Nightclubs no longer appeal whatsoever. Imagining myself walking through London produces a shudder. A friend over the internet has decided to come over and see me. I live in a small place. I am getting apprehensive, he wants to stay over for a few weeks. He has bought some tickets to come over. I will have to work something out with him. You see, I feel apprehensive about so many environments which have lots of people in them. I have always been like this but it does depend on my mood and well being, in regards to how well I cope. I think also, I have fibromyalgia, and that has a bearing on such matters. But I do understand. As for my doctor, he is a nice chap, but what can be done? I have got any work, and when I do have work, working with others is extremely difficult for me. So anyway, back to life, just carry on regardless.

Reply to Adam Kade
Posted by: Ely | 2014/09/09

Have you ever researched fear of intimacy

Reply to Ely
Posted by: Jane | 2014/08/25

Thuli, WOW! I can absolutely relate and understand what you're going through. It seems we've entered a time where everyone wants to be in the spotlight and those of us who wish to stay removed from it are left feeling like outcasts. I have the same issues at work as you do with every single one of my co-workers. They are all A-Type personalities and enjoy sharing every single aspect of their lives. I would love to be able to just shut my office door and work, but that would be frowned upon. In open areas, such as shopping malls, I can't stand the noise. I can manage when it's nondescript. But, the moment someone is close enough for me to overhear their conversations, I am instantly annoyed. I get extremely agitated in parking lots when I purposely park away from people and then one person comes up and parks immediately next to me. I also get upset with people for not being able to make decisions fast enough to keep me from having to be near them for extended periods of time. I think this has something to do with ego; I'm not sure. But, if I'm in line at a McDonald's and it takes the person in front of me to long order... the anger starts to creep up on me. I begin to think how silly it is that someone can't make up their mind regarding a menu that has been around quite possibly longer than they have. And, if you can't decide, get out of line and wait. Why must we all be subjected to your indecisiveness?!? I'm told I just need a vacation, but I've always felt this way and it gets worse as I get older. :(

Reply to Jane
Posted by: Kathryn | 2013/10/29

I come from a family where my mother's side were all very introverted. I am a highly self-motivated geek who always has lots of projects on the go and have no problem working on my own stuff and making headway, it's when you have to work with others and wait around for them to get going, when they are either not as organized or just want you to listen to their talking about crap for hours on end, rather than getting on with the job in hand. I am like a sergeant-major when it comes to leading projects and those of a similar work mindset are fine with it, but this does not appeal to everyone. I know I don't have the people skills and can't do the social chitchat at all, but I cannot make myself into something I am not, I am more interested in ideas than people. I have also had issues with men and find another person's dumping their problems on me overwhelming, I used to act like their guru but now I want to run whenever I see meone who will make me even mildly neurotic. Openplan offices, particularly when you are working with people you find draining or don't like very much, (or who are so unpleasant they make you feel sick) are a nightmare for me, I am at a crossroads in my career because of this and prefer to work alone because of this (also the job gets done more quickly and efficiently) . Regarding personal space, I recently came out of a relationship where the person invaded my physical space and headspace too much and now I find I can't tolerate people getting too close. I also live in a crowded city and share a house so that may be part of the problem. I was sitting in a very large armchair at a pub last night and someone who I did not know and thought was creepy came and sat on the arm of the armchair, almost on top of me, I had to tell him not to sit so close as I am claustrophobic...he disappeared!!!...but that was what I felt!! I suppose they encroach on your aura and make a dent in it and it freaks me out!

Reply to Kathryn
Posted by: Anonymous | 2013/10/25

In some ways I can relate to you Thuli. My situation is little different. I am married with 2 children. I don't like going out at all, to the beach, restaurant, work functions, family functions etc. I just want to stay in the sanctuary of my home where I don't have to see people. i don't like to be around people at all and my family don't understand it. They get upset with me when i refuse to go anywhere. Don't know if i have any phobia for people or not but i just don't feel comfortable being around any. I feel claustrophobic when there are people around me and i just want to crawl into a corner and disappear. I don't even like to have people at my house just so I don't have to see anybody or talk to people thus I don't entertain or encourage people to visit. I know if i have visitors sleeping over than they would expect me to sit and make conversation or accompany them shopping or where-ever. My family think I am unsociable and maybe I am but is it so wrong of me not wanting to be around people or to have any friends?

Reply to Anonymous

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