Claustrophobia, a deep-seated fear of the dark or confined spaces is nothing to be ashamed of. Classified as an anxiety disorder, claustrophobia is more common than you might think. According to the health Research Fund, up to 5% of the US population suffers from some form of claustrophobia.
Reactions can include anything from mild anxiety to all out panic attacks and hyperventilating. More to the point, researchers in one study found that as many as 13% of all patients who received an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), reported feelings of panic and or anxiety during their MRI. When coupled with other issues such as Posttraumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, having an MRI can be a very stressful life event. But it doesn’t have to be that way anymore. Newer technologies are helping more patients reap the diagnostic benefits of an MRI study, without all the stress and anxiety.
Symptoms of a claustrophobic attack may include:
- Elevated pulse and or blood pressure.
- Panic or anxiety when confined
- Hot flashes
- Increased tension
Practical Steps You Can Take for MRI Related Claustrophobia
First, if you know that you have some degree of claustrophobia, be sure to talk to your doctor. See if they are willing to provide you with a medication to help you get through the procedure. Next, be sure to tell the person conducting the MRI that you have anxiety or claustrophobia. Knowing that you can ask them to stop or alert them if you have an issue can help to reduce any anxiety you may feel.
You can also ask about an open, high field MRI. An open MRI is often ideal for patients who have PTSD or claustrophobia. It is also useful for small children who may become frightened in a traditional MRI or for patients who are struggling with the challenges of severe obesity.
Open MRI’s have more room and feel less confining that more traditional MRI machines. Open, high field MRI’s are also extremely effective with high speed scanning and extremely details imaging capabilities.
If you do find yourself tensing up or experiencing anxiety, try these steps:
- Talk to yourself. Self talk using a calming tone helps to relax the body
- Tell yourself that nothing bad is going to happen
- Understand that your body is likely pumping adrenaline, and it can take up to 3 min for the symptoms to subside
- Try to breathe evenly and calmly
- Pretend you are somewhere else or try to remember a pleasant memory
Everybody gets nervous about something, and that is completely okay. Open, high field MRI’s, and anti-anxiety medications can help most patients get the necessary diagnostic imaging they need. If you, or a loved one has questions, claustrophobia, or anxiety about an MRI, please call Independent Imaging at (561) 795-5558 to talk about your options. You can also request an appointment online with one of our board-certified radiologists in Wellington, Belle Glade, Lake Worth or Royal Palm Beach today.