If you begin to sweat and find your heart pounding when you enter an elevator full of people, you may have claustrophobia. Those who are even mildly claustrophobic find it uncomfortable to fly or even go through a tunnel when traveling.
Medical imaging scans will be especially frightening for anyone who suffers from claustrophobia, but even someone who has never experienced a panic attack in an enclosed space can find themselves quite anxious in a tube inches from their face.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage the fear.
Tell Your Doctor About Your Fears
This is an important first step to overcoming, or at the very least, managing the anxiety. Your physician may be able to arrange for you to see the machine prior to the test.
It can be very beneficial to ask lots of questions, as this can ease the anticipation of something frightening. Sometimes the anticipation is worse than the actual event.
Ask About Alternate Imaging Tests
Some physicians may have access to an open MRI which is open on four sides, provides more light, and is much less cramped. Another option may be an upright MRI where you sit upright for the scan. Ask Southwest Diagnostic Imaging Center about the risks and benefits of different types of tests and which will the best for you.
Bring A Friend
A buddy will give you support and help to ease the anxiety. Plan ahead to go somewhere after the test is over like lunch, dinner, or shopping. You can visualize your excursion during the test to help pass the time.
Bring Some Favorite Music
Most imaging facilities will provide headphones available for patients to listen to soothing sounds or other music. If there is a specific radio station you prefer, let the technician know, or bring your own playlist along to help take the edge off your fears as well as drown out the sound of the machine.
Relax and Breathe
Sometimes the best way to relax is simply to close your eyes, take deep breaths, and picture yourself somewhere else: the beach, the mountains, sailing on a beautiful day, or just being with family. Staying calm inside a hollow tube, unable to move for about an hour is not the most relaxing situation. Take control of the fear, close your eyes, and think happy thoughts. It may sound a bit naive, but it can work.
If claustrophobia is preventing you from having a needed test, it is best to seek the help of a therapist. Your doctor has prescribed the test for a specific reason, so skipping it is an option that can be detrimental to your health.