Ask Cavers: How Do You Deal With Claustrophobia?

June 26, 2013

Squeezy. Photo by

Claustrophobia, the fear of having no escape and being closed in small spaces or rooms, is likely not very prominent in cavers, but at least a few we’ve talked to have mentioned a tendency towards it.

For this week’s Ask Cavers question, we want to hear if you, beyond not fitting, have difficulty with tight spaces and if so, how do you deal with it?

Let us know in the comments below.

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Comments (12)

  1. Shane
    June 26, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    I don’t claustrophobic. Not even in tight, squeezy spaces. I’m just one of those people that doesn’t get bothered by enclosed spaces.

  2. Zena
    June 26, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Thinking about how lucky I am that I can’t fall. Also breathing calmly.

  3. Aaron
    June 27, 2013 at 3:00 am

    On the rare occasion it happens its usually due to my nose being three inches away from the soles of the person in front of me. So I do what I should have done in the first place, back up and give them (and me) some space!

  4. eric vaughn
    June 27, 2013 at 7:34 am

    I don’t deal with claustrophobia well at all, but gratefully have been affected only a few times. The worst was in New Trout Cave in WV a few months ago. The rising dust from the crawlway (“Dust Crawl”) reflected in my headlamp beam, and made it look like I was swimming thru rock. Wretched experience. I bolted back to a larger room and clear air to calm down

  5. John mac
    June 27, 2013 at 7:44 am

    I have had problems with enclosed spaces for decades. However, with good people close by I have had no problems with caves.

  6. Laura
    June 27, 2013 at 9:14 am

    I like to be either the first or last one in (not in between 2 people). If I can look forward at space, (no matter how small), and not feet, I can breathe easier.
    Also the option of being able to back out first helps.

  7. Anne Elmore
    June 27, 2013 at 10:13 am

    OMG, even the word scares me. I made up my mind 12 years ago on my first cave trip that I would either go or quit! My decision to push forward in the caving world is one of my best decisions. I contribute my “success” to good friends, my son Clinton Elmore, Bill Walter and Marion O. Smith. They have been patient, helped me, carried my pack, talked to me, and have gotten me through so many passages that give me nightmares to even think back on. I’m so blessed to be able to see how beautiful the underground world is and can’t imagine being restricted from being a part of the caving world because of claustrophobia. There are so many instances when the thought of quitting was in my face, but there’s more to see and do. I struggle every trip with this but if the going gets bad, I close my eyes and push forward, hoping someone will guide me through. Even elevators are off my charts, so this is a constant battle that I seem to win, one passage at a time.

  8. June 27, 2013 at 10:52 am


    When it gets a bit tight and squeezy I just start swearing, cursing and generally make a lot of noise, my caving buddies know that *if* I go quiet, its because I’m concentrating on getting through a tough bit.

  9. July 1, 2013 at 2:39 am

    Thanks for asking this question. One of my friends suffers from the occasional bout of claustrophobia and I don’t really know what to do or say that will help him get over it. Some of the answers have been helpful to my understanding of it. He has gone into some caves and made it through the tight entrance squeezes, and then instead of carrying on, he suddenly clams up and says he has to get back out again. I just find it strange that he doesn’t carry on when he has already conquered the ‘worst’ part??? Any advice?

  10. July 2, 2013 at 10:18 am

    If it starts bothering you, at that moment take a break, relax, realize that inch-by-inch you move toward the open space. Think about relaxing and that you can get through a constriction MUCH better relaxed than tense. It’s all mind over matter. You’re really not in danger it’s just purely in your mind.

  11. July 18, 2013 at 5:37 pm

    When I was very young – a little child (a million years ago…), my favorit game was to hide myself in small boxes – and to shut the lid above me.
    I think i was born for speleologist…

    Thank you
    Giannis Zavitsanakis

  12. Rodney Tennyson
    August 30, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    As a long time caver and pusher, I have had more than my share of situations where the fear of being stuck was nearly overwhelming. I just have to stop, reset my thoughts and struggle onward, a lot easier said than done sometimes!


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