In The Harley Files, Harley suffers from claustrophobia. She embraces her quirks but struggles constantly as she tries to not only go about her daily life, but seek the truth behind unsolved mysteries. She ends up getting herself stuck in some funny and odd situations.
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Claustrophobia is defined as the fear of being closed in without an escape, or the fear of dying in a closed space without an escape. It is typically related to, and is a symptom of, anxiety disorder.
Someone with claustrophobia is not afraid of the space itself, but afraid of what could happen should one be confined to the space.
The anxiety associated with claustrophobia can be triggered by many situations and stimuli such as small offices, elevators, crowded areas, windowless rooms and even tight clothing. Some individuals’ anxiety will be triggered even in large areas when there isn’t an obvious way to escape. Examples are large, crowded rooms, boats or cruise ships, etc.
It has been studied that around 6% of the world population is affected by severe claustrophobia but only a small percentage of these people actually seek help. The percentage of mild claustrophobia may be even higher.
Claustrophobia has two key symptoms: fear of restriction and fear of suffocation or death. The fear can lead to panic attacks. Panic attacks are defined as a sudden surge of overwhelming, acute and disabling anxiety. Some symptoms of a panic attack are: palpitations, pounding heart, sweating, trembling and shaking, shortness of breath, feelings of choking, chest pain, nausea, dizziness, fear of going crazy, and/or fear of dying.
The exact cause of claustrophobia is unknown, but there are some theories:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, and Social Phobia can all be causes of Claustrophobia.
Some believe anxiety and claustrophobia are centered around, and/or located in, the brain. The amygdala is one of the smallest structures in the brain but also one of the most powerful. The amygdala is needed for the conditioning of fear and the “fight-or-flight” response. Some believe that the phobia’s roots are in this area of the brain and are over-reactive.
There has also been a link between one’s own phobias and the phobias of their parents. This could be due to genetics and/or learned behavior.
(Resources: The Mayo Clinic, Center for Disease Control, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Claustrophobia-Google, about.com, Wikipedia, the Calm Clinic, Anxiety and Depression Association of America, WebMD, National Institute of Mental Health.)
Check out Book 1- A Spy in Me from The Harley Files