Hot, Still Air Makes Me Feel Trapped, Like I Can’t Breathe

Claustrophobia: Extreme or irrational fear of confined places.
Cleithrophobia: The fear of being enclosed

I never identified as claustrophobic (or cleithrophic) before. I don’t know what’s happened to me the past year or so, but while traveling, I’ve come upon some instances where I’ve felt panic when I feel like I’m trapped in a situation or trapped in a place.

Just a few days ago, my husband and I, who are traveling around Thailand, took a 4-hour bus ride to a new town. A few days earlier, we’d been on a wonderful, huge, comfortable bus with awesome air conditioning. The trip was fine. So we assumed this trip would be the same.

Surprise! We were wrong. This new trip was in a minivan, packed to capacity, with the air conditioning a tiny trickle of air — just enough that you weren’t melting. I don’t think I need to tell you that Thailand is HOT. It was not comfortable.

After the first 10 minutes on this bus, I looked around me and thought, “Well, this is where I’m going to be for the next four hours.” And I felt a little panic start to rise inside me. There was no way out. (Well, I guess technically I could tell the driver to STOP and let me out, but I wasn’t going to do that.) But realistically, I had decided to take this bus ride and I had to do it. I looked at the door and thought about what would happen if I had a panic attack.

What gets to me the most is heat and the lack of air movement. I really have issues with air movement. I have never met anyone else who feels the same way. When I’m in a stuffy, warm room, with no air movement, I feel like I can’t breathe. Having a fan is essential to me when I’m ill, dizzy, or overheated.


On an overnight train from Prague to Krakow

This trapped feeling happened to me twice on overnight train rides, too. On both occasions, the train windows were closed and there was no air circulation. As I laid on my hard sleeper bed on the train, with the bunk above me just inches from my face, the air felt SO CLOSE that I again felt like I couldn’t breathe. The inklings of panic started to grow. I had to get up and walk around the silent train car while everyone else was asleep.

On one occasion, I ended up doing something my husband and I still laugh about. It was so hot and stuffy and the air was so close that I felt like I couldn’t breathe, and that time was standing still. I simply could not bear it. I had to do SOMETHING. I pulled the sheet off my bed and took it into the (gross) train bathroom, and I used the sink to wet the sheet, all while everyone else on the train was asleep. That way, when I went back to my bunk, at least I could use the wet sheet to cool myself down and move it around. (We joke that the next day, the people who tidied up the train would be pretty grossed out by my questionably soaking wet sheet.)

To a “normal” person, I bet the wet-sheet thing sounds pretty strange. But I had to do something. That’s all I could think about. I have to do something or I’m losing my mind. I think by wetting the sheet, I gave myself the ability to change my environment in a small way. I could move the sheet around and feel the cool parts of it throughout the night. This helped me feel like the walls weren’t closing in on me, and that the air wasn’t so still because there was some coolness. I had something to distract me from the utter stillness.

I guess. I don’t know.

I fear that this claustrophobia or panic or whatever it is might be getting worse. The feeling of being trapped or like you can’t breathe and time is standing still is COMPLETELY TERRIFYING. You feel like you just cannot bear it. So, at least I have gained empathy for people who are claustrophobic, I guess.

Is there anyone else out there who feels the same way?

Like this post? Sign up for our newsletter to receive the latests posts in your inbox!

Listen to my podcast episode about this topic below:



  1. I totally relate to that! And it is getting worse for me too.

    • I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one!! What situations have given you this feeling? I would be interested to hear more examples.

    • My first bad feeling was about 5 years ago when sitting in a study room. I sat at the back and when my mates filled the row i suddenly became aware that if i needed to get out the entire row would have to move. No space around me, couldnt go under the desks, behind or over. They all moved, i left the room and burst into tears thinking What the hell was that? From that point on rooms and elevators that i was always fine in became a problem. Becoming an anxiety disorder based on the fear of that initial experience. Over the years i ALWAYS have a bottle of cold water. I use this to distract myself. I tried CBT but it didnt help. I am a nurse and spending several days in the hospital but mainly the community. On the hospital days i can feel it trigger and recently when doing some training a specific ward wing that wasnt used often was so hot that when i entered i could feel the anxiety creep in. My water didnt help and thankfully there were only a few in the room that didnt mind the air con being on. So what helps me is cooling down. My best mate and others i have met also find cool/cold air helps. Maybe its the shock to the system. My mate in winter will go outside and put her bare feet into the cold grass.
      I have another training day coming up and am freaking out worried about this room i will be in with others. I plan to arrive 30 mins early to suss the room out. I tend to sit by the door also and unfortunately in our hospital no windows open. So I, like most of u have it bad with the warm air thing. I didnt sleep well last night worried about this upcoming room. I do find if i can survive the first 10 minutes then things tend to get under control. On a side note in another training day (and no its the training) i was fine for 3 days in there until the lecuturer locked the door as random people kept coming in. I didnt know she had locked it so they couldnt enter BUT we could go out. I had to move my chair to another door and open it about 1/2 an inch to feel better. It wasnt that it was the cold air on this situation it was more that i knew i could get out. So its kinda 2 problem claustrophobia. aarrgghh :)

  2. OMG, you are a sheet-wetter! :)

    I can totally relate. Stagnant air, especially hot air, does me in. I am sure my lungs will collapse. You and I, Kelly, have so many similarities–that’s got to be comforting, right? :)
    shanna recently posted…Join me on Radio Enso!My Profile

    • Sheet wetter–that’s me! Yes, it is comforting to know that I’m not the only one who feels the way I do. :) As Anne Shirley would say, we are kindred spirits!! Ha ha.

  3. Hi Kelly, it sounds like you are talking about me. I am exactly the same way. I feel like I can’t breathe either. I’m also having a lot of panic attacks. I think it’s because of the government shutdown right now. A lot of chest pain too.

    • Hi Tracy, thanks for the comment. I’m sorry you have been having panic attacks. Those are the worst. I hope you are able to find some solutions to feel better. Air movement is SUCH a huge thing for me that I’ve actually considered getting a tiny travel fan for when I’m traveling…I know it sounds crazy, but if it makes me feel better, who cares, right?! :) Have you found something that works for you? Feel better and take some time to find peace, my friend!!

      • I found this website after researching Isaac Asimov, who was a known claustrophile. That made me look up claustrophobic as I always say “I get a little claustrophobic when I ride a BART train underground when it’s raining outside and it’s full of people.” But, when reading the definition and symptoms of claustrophobia, I discovered the number 1 protagonist of claustrophobics to be an MRI (which I generally can sleep through) and severe “flight/fight” response from more than one stimuli (mine wasn’t listed and was, after all, rather specific). So, it make sense to me that it was a case of hypersensitivity that one time under that combination of circumstances because I have been on many planes, trains, automobiles, buses, and other moving vehicles; with or without lots of other people; with or without inclement weather; above or below ground, and it never happened again. The same can be said about the time I ate potato pancakes for dinner, ate a 50/50 bar for dessert and vomited thereafter when visiting my mother in the maternity ward at the hospital when I was a young child of 3. Glad to know there is a word for it!

  4. I too had that same experience with a single-person elevator in Paris. First I refused to use it and used the stairs instead. Then when I got weary of the stairs, I just stepped inside to get the feel of it and thought its only one floor, I’ll give it a try. It was Okay. By the end of 5 days, three of us were wedged tightly into the corners and squashed like sardines, and laughing at what we were doing and hoping the elevator didn’t jam up. By taking baby steps I conquered that claustrophobic feeling for that one instance. Maybe by making a joke of it helped. Maybe the silly people in the elevator with me made me forget. It became an event that I remember fondly while in Paris.

    • Haha, you know it’s funny, that elevator didn’t bother me at all. I don’t know why some things bother me and others don’t. I think that physically small places don’t bother me, but moreso when I feel like I can’t *leave* a place–like the hospital or the hot minivan. But now I can understand how people would feel panicked in a small elevator. It’s such a terrible feeling, to feel trapped!

  5. I think I kind of understand what you are talking about..I remember feeling like I couldn’t breathe whenever I walked into those steam rooms at gyms or resorts. But the first time that I actually felt claustrophobic was when I was getting an MRI scan. I was panicking the entire time I was in the machine. It was really surprising since I never thought I was claustrophobic. I haven’t experienced such a feeling since then but that MRI experience was just terrifying!!

    • Thanks for your comment! I have never had an MRI but I have heard that it is terrifying! I, too, do not like saunas. I really like having fresh air. Anytime I am sick (like nauseous–I had food poisoning about a month ago) I had to have air movement.

  6. I found this because I have the exact same problem!! Small spaces have never bothered me, but not having fresh air makes me feel like I’m suffocating and internally I start feeling panicked. Not sure what I am panicked about, aside from just wanting to get the heck out of the situation and breathe fresh air, but it’s definitely been an issue for a while and becoming more prominent. I am a teacher and had to cover a class for another teacher… well, their room was a central room, inside of the library in the school, which is in the middle of the school. The room was so stuffy and all I could think about was wanting to swing open a door to get fresh air….except I was far removed from getting fresh air. When the class was over, I hauled down to my own classroom, and for the first 5-10 minutes of my own class, I was standing in the doorway in my room that goes outside. I had the door wide open and was sucking in fresh air like crazy. MY students were upset cuz it was freezing out…but I couldn’t shut the door until I had enough moving, fresh air.

    Does this have a name or is it just considered claustrophobia?

    • Thanks for sharing your experience. I don’t know if this has a name. Claustrophobia is about confined spaces–not sure if that’s the same thing you are experiencing. When I think about being stuck in a warm place with no air movement…wow, I just feel panic.

  7. I’m so glad someone feels the same way! I’ve always thought I was crazy but I feel trapped when I’m in still hot air. Sometimes I feel like that in the bathroom when the shower’s too hot I have to throw open the door cause I feel so enclosed.

  8. How reassuring to read these comments. I am an ‘almost 50′ year old male, I have worked in mental health (I am a Mental Health Nurse) all my adult life and – despite working with and understanding anxiety/panic forever – have suddenly experienced similar symptoms.
    I use public transport multiple times every day, and – until very recently – seen it as nothing more than a chore. However, less than one month ago (and for no obvious reason and/or no trigger) I experienced overwhelming feelings of being unable to breathe when the train/bus doors close. I would never have described myself as claustrophobic and I have never suffered from anxiety, panic or mood issues. Despite this, whenever the train doors close I become instantly aware of my breathing, start making small gasps for air and feel my heart-rate increase. Very quickly, small changes in breathing, temperature, oxygen levels and breathing irregularities start to spiral – seemingly out of control. I feel trapped, anxious about being unable to ‘escape’ and fearful of having a full-blown panic attack (thankfully not happened – yet).
    Having a window open (if possible), some level of distraction (smartphone/ipod is a lifesaver) and knowledge of breathing techniques gives me a transient level of control, but I now always initially feel trapped and breathless.
    I am determined not to – (a) Get off the train (b) Avoid the train (c) Ruminate about next journey – as I know this fear will gain a life of it’s own and impact on all areas of my life.
    I must admit, there are times I laugh out loud at the perceived ‘ridiculousness’ of it all (I am not minimising the impact this has on me/others – it just seems ironic) – it seems my life’s work has come back for revenge!
    Keep strong everyone, don’t let this caveman instinct change your life and confront it at every opportunity. Well, this is my personal plan – I will tell you whether it works.
    Thanks to everyone else for sharing – your honest and frank fears and experiences have helped me confront my scary demons.

  9. I can definitely identify with this. Since childhood I’ve had panic attacks. Hospitals were the worst. I thought it was just a phobia of medical situations…but over the years it’s happened in situations where I’m in hot/crowded/small/bright/stressful places. Public transport, long queues, waiting rooms, crowded restaurants…basically anywhere where I feel like I can’t get away quickly.

    Realising others have this feeling too is a BIG help. Before learning about HSP I seriously thought I was the only person who’d ever felt like this. I’m now working on arming myself with techniques to cope.

    Identifying some sort of exit helps as does opening windows or trying to look out of any window. Especially if there’s a bit of greenery or nature to see. Belly breathing helps, as does accepting the panic and trusting it will pass. Trying to stay in the same place rather than trying to leave is part of this. Distraction like looking at photos on phone helps…especially photos of loved ones or good times. Thinking about something fun or nice happening later in the day/week helps distract me from the present moment. Most importantly though is so make sure there’s balance in life…making sure to get enough sleep, meditation, alone time…

    Would love to hear more about how you all deal with this…

  10. Billie Zahir says:

    Yep. I don’t have to be in a small space to freak out either. If air is not moving and hot feel like I am being buried alive. What makes it worse is my desire not to freak out and look like a fool or make others feel uncomfortable. :(

  11. I have suffered this for nearly 30 years, however, air temperature does not seem to be a factor. It has come to the point that sometimes a breeze is not enough, I absolutely have to strip down to barely legal levels and feel the breeze on my entire body. I live way out in the Midwestern (USA) fields and have no neighbors in any direction for over a mile so this is not much of a problem when at home. When at work, I keep multiple fans running, aimed straight at my face. This helps most of the time (the less busy I am the more likely an anxiety attack will occur). My co-workers are informed of my situation so if they see me getting anxious will get me outside into open air quickly (usually sending me home for the rest of the day). For me there seems to be a cubic foot/person vs. amount of air movement ratio that if I can keep under that I can cope. I have tried therapies and anxiety med’s and so far nothing helps other than avoidance. My biggest problem with this is that when the anxiety starts, causing an adrenalin reaction, I become agitated/aggressive so being on an airplane or bus is really not a good idea and doctor appointments, especially dentist become very interesting. I am curious however if any of you have found a successful therapy.

  12. I swear you’re talking to me! I have tried googling what it could be…I dont have a fear of being in a closed space…I actually dont even think abt the panic attacks…they happen when im in the shower sometimes too. I can open the shower door for cool air and it helps. Sometimes I just hurry out bc I get dizzy and I HAVE to lay down in the cool air under my fan. I cant have my head under a blanket either. Getting in a small space doesnt bother me unless I get too hot/start breathing in just hot air. Id love to know if this is something other than claustrophobia.

    • I feel the same way. Its the lack of oxygen and when the room is stuffy I cant breath and I also have extra fans running. If you do have medical analizes done please let me know because I suffer from the same thing!

      • I feel the same way. I dont feel claustrophobic I just feel like I cant breath when it gets too hot and stuffy in a room. I always sleep with several fans. I cant even sleep with a blanket on because I get too hot and I cant breath. It feels like im not getting enough air when it gets too hot.

  13. I’m so excited to have found this article. I almost quit my job today because the two girls I work with insisted on having the heating turned right up. We have no windows that open and the room was so stuffy that I really started to panic and had to go home. Of course they had no idea what was going on, and neither did I really, now I feel so much relief. I’m still gonna check out your article on jobs for HSPs though, I have such a strong desire to find something more rewarding…

    • Hi Chip, I’m glad the article was helpful to you!! Just hearing about a hot room with no windows makes me feel suffocated! Ugh. Maybe you could get a small fan in your work area?

      • Same here….i really dont understand myself..everytime im into hot and close places..cant breath..its really hard.. Im afraid already.. Dunno what to do.. I think i need to meet a psychiatrist already.. Pls help this anxiety disorder?

        • Hi Elsa, I’m not a professional, but if this is causing you a great deal of stress, then it might be a good idea to ask a medical professional for advice. Hang in there :)

    • Oh my goodness this is me. I much prefer to be cold than hot. You can always add a layer, right? I can’t bear to be on a hot train. Once I cried on a train because it was so hot that I felt I couldn’t breathe. It was awful. I was travelling with my boss and he just said “think about something else” – Pah!!!

      At work it causes issues because people don’t want the windows open – I just have to have a blast of cool air and one girl when I said you could put on a cardigan replied “I don’t want to wear a cardigan”! I said that there was only so much I could take off before it became indecent!

      She’s now moved out of the office and I feel like the Wicked Witch of the West!

      I also find that my body doesn’t seem to regulate temperature very well, for instance I will have to put on, take off, put on, take off a jacket if the temperature is borderline. In winter if I go walking, I often end up with just a t-shirt on carrying various other pieces of clothing because my body feels like it will stop functioning if I’m too hot.

      Anyway, at least I’ve found some other freaky people to make me feel a little less freakish!! (Please don’t take that the wrong way :) )

  14. Finally found a person I can relate to regarding to the stress/discomfort caused by heat and no air movement! :) I used to think that I was crazy when I had to walk a long way to my car in the underground parking lot, and become restless and then frantically panic if the walk lasted for more than a minute. I feel nervous and have to take deep breaths to calm myself down, which my boyfriend hates it sometimes as he claims my ‘extreme reactions’ draws unwanted attentions and is pretty embarrassing… :(

  15. Hello, I agree with all of you. Except the air doesn’t even have to be stagnant (although that’s a major factor), sometimes it’s just when I’m in an enclosed-feeling space that’s hot. Sometimes the feeling just suddenly rushes over me like a slap in the face and I can’t feel it coming, then I have to get out of the situation for a while or go outside/open the window to get fresh air. In those times, COLD is the most refreshing thing, even if it’s freezing cold.

    Sometimes it’s not even in an abnormal situation, just when I’m sitting with my partner.

    Sometimes it just hits me if I’m doing something which gets my adrenalin going (for example recently I was playing a game, I came up to a perceived hard part (turns out it wasn’t) but I had to go to my bed for about half an hour, just to wind down from it and try it again. Feels like a lot is going on.

    I also have used a drenched cloth for releif, sometimes going to bed with it and moving it around my body.

    Thankyou and I’m thinking of posting on here quite a bit more! I enjoy reading these experiences and it’s important to be discussed.

  16. Hi,
    It is so comforting to read all your experiences, until now I thought I was the only one and felt so isolated. I also feel suffocated or trapped in most situation, off late it is getting worst. Even in an open area I feel I have difficulty breathing. Best thing that works for me is to get up and walk a little and then splash cold water on my face. Sometimes I even get a wet towel and press it on my face and head. I thought it was prescription medicines doing it, but hearing to you all may be it is the heat that is bothering. I was at a religious seminar recently. We had sessions in a very tightly packed room. I had to get up in the middle several times and just run out of the room

  17. Priscilla says:

    I remember decades ago when I was about to graduate from high school. I was in a group with a few students and we were taken on a trip to go visit various college campuses and take tours around the state of Florida. It was summertime and it was ridiculously hot. We were traveling in a van like the one you described. After we took our tour of the university of South Florida we got into the car. I was sitting in the hot van and none of the windows were open, just the side door. The counselor who was driving was standing outside the van and holding the keys in her hand. I remember the beads of sweat rolling down my face and the surging panic inside my chest. I remember staring at her hand and the keys and trying to telepathically communicate the urgent need for her to shut the EFF up and start the damn car. After a few tense seconds I realized she was not getting my signals and I blurted out shouting like I was a protestor carrying a sign demanding change: “KEYS! IGNITION! AIR! NOW!!!!!” And all the people in the car burst out laughing. They made fun of me for a long time after that. I’m glad at least we got a chuckle out of it but I was about to go into a full panic attack, it was very scary for me.

    • I can 100% imagine that situation, and I feel like I would do the same thing!! The panic just rising inside you, getting bigger and bigger until you burst–KEYS! Now!! At least everyone laughed about it. :) Thank you for sharing.

  18. Priscilla says:

    I also spent 6 weeks in southern India during the tail end of the pleasant weather season. For the last two weeks we were there it started to get ridiculously hot and there was no air conditioning. I met a lovely woman from Australia who suggested to get in the shower fully clothed and then sit under a fan. She may have saved my life. I would take naps in wet clothing and I would wake up completely dry – that is how hot it was!

  19. I can also relate to this. Three months ago I climbed into the back seat of my son’s small sports car, despite the fact that he said, “I wouldn’t put anybody in the back seat, it’s too small.” I insisted I would be fine. We took off and a few minutes later the feeling began. I felt like I couldn’t breath. It was about 95 degrees and I asked to have the air turned up, my son said that the air didn’t work to well in the car. I needed air so they. rolled down the window. That did no good so I told my son to pull over. We were on a road where that was not possible for at least 5 minutes. These were the longest 5 minutes of my life. I kept telling myself, you are breathing, you can breath. But inside I was so panicked. This was my first panic attack. I had my son and husband drop me off and I waited for them to come back in another car, for a million dollars I was not getting back into that car!

    Last month I had a similar experience on an airplane, They cut the air and the panic immediately started to set in.

    Next time I go to the doctor I will ask for some advice as I can not figure out what is causing these episodes.

    • Oh my goodness, when the air stops on an airplane I feel panicked too–in fact, just reading those words made me feel a bit of anxiety. Thanks for sharing and please follow up if you find a solution!

      • I feel the same way too. When i was traveling travelling manila to doha. It was 8 hours travel. i feel like i cant brethe inside the plane. So i panic. My heart start to beat very fast. And i stand up to get a cool area. when i see the cabin crew i tell them i cant breathe. And the the cavin crew start to panic also And my heart start to beat very fast again because i see the cavin crew that they dont know what to do. Now every time i travel I’m scared to ride in the plane. i feel like i want to go out and tell to the pilot to make a emergency landing. Thanx to the one of the cavin crew their because she talk to me to get my attention to him. is their any solution not to happen it again. Really i’m scared to ride a plane. . Hope you under stand my english. Thank you…!

  20. I have been dealing with this for several years….used to wake up during the night having a panic attack..had to run outside to get air…..when I go to church..I will sit two seats in..but no further…or claustrophobia sets in..and I am ALWAYS opening the windows at church and asking them to turn on the fans..(sometimes even bring my own small hand held battery operated fan)….more people..the hotter it gets…the less I can breathe!..I try to sit near the air conditioning vents when possible….and when I go to other people’s houses…if the air is stagnant…(not moving). I go out to my car and get my fan and take it back into the house with me….I just HAVE to have my air…..not sure if it is an anxiety issue or possibly some kind of asthma….I just can’t get enough air!!!!!! Thankyou everyone for sharing!!!

  21. My girlfriend feels the same way and she is convinced that she needs medication for it. I told her its claustrophobia and linked to something that happened when she was little but she says she has always had these symptoms. I hope your symptoms have home away, and I wish you the best if they have not :)

  22. I was so pleased to find this post. I too have been struggling with similar problems for about 3 years.

    This summer I told my doctor again at my yearly check-up that something is just not right that I was not going to leave this time without some new direction and help. I ended up being referred to a specialist who tested my body’s hormone levels, and I found out that my body is out of balance. The main concern is low cortisol…I’m now on massive doses of B complex vitamins and magnesium, which I take at certain times during the day (and a multi-vitamin and extra vitamin C and E) as well as a bioidentical hormone. I’ve been on the new treatment for about a month and have been told take it may take up to 3 months before I see full results.

    The main reason for insisting on help from my doctor was due to feeling totally trapped in rooms without air movement. My profession involves being in front of large groups, and as I have increasing felt panic and even facial sweating over the past few years, I just new that something was wrong and that I needed help. I have also felt a lot of fatigue in recent months and was told that I have adrenal fatigue. The one thing that always helps is to keep air moving around me. I have fans in my office, the classrooms I teach in, and I too have a couple portable fans that I use when the spaces I’m in are uncomfortable, including church.

    I hope these comments may be of help to someone else reading this post…

  23. Praise the heavens I’m not the only one. I can’t have a blanket over my face for long at all before feeling like someone is sticking a blow dryer in my face. Speaking of blow dryers, I have a hard time with those too sometimes. I still use them, but since I’m so sensitive to temperature, it feels like it’s melting my skin off. This also made me think about how I can’t breathe very well when dust is around. If I am in a car with the windows rolled down and there is a car in front blowing dust in my direction, I honestly feel like I am suffocating. The same goes with hairspray. I feel like I am choking. Whenever my roommates spray it, I have to stand at least 20 feet away. It’s strange how certain things make me feel like I can’t breathe at all. The heat does terrible things to me. There have been times when I wake up in the morning feeling so nauseated and hot that I feel as I’m about to puke. I have to sprint downstairs, turn on the fan, and lie down on the couch.

  24. OKay, I might sound like a weird one to you guys.. I’ve always had an issue with still air.. I feel like I need cold fresh air to breathe… Well, in the last few weeks, Its now happening anytime I have sex. I literally can not have him breathing near me. I turn his head and make him breathe in another direction. i can’t breathe in his breath. I can’t find any reasons for it online. I start freaking out though.. Any advice?

    • Hm, maybe you could turn on a fan near you, so you can feel more air movement? I don’t think it’s that weird to not want someone breathing in your face. I can definitely see how that could bug someone. I would definitely try a fan!!

  25. Yes, this happens to me too. The worst is when I get into a car on a hot day and it feels like there is no air to breathe. My panic level zooms to overload in seconds and I feel like if I don’t get out of the car immediately, I will pass out.

    • Yes! Sometimes my husband and I will get in the hot car–and he’ll have the keys since he’s driving–and he doesn’t turn the car on right away or open the windows and I’m like, HURRY UP!!! I need air :)

      • I am sooooooooo grateful for this website & for all of you sharing your experiences! I just saw my psychiatrist yesterday & a few minutes into the session I had to ask her if I could open the door because I was sweating profusely & felt like I couldn’t breathe.

  26. I can’t believe I’m not the only one! Recently the passenger side power window switch in my husband’s truck has quit working on my side. Just knowing I can’t open my window if I need to sends me into a panic mode. I have the same issues with so many of the others that have commented on this. I’ve thought that my problem was a “power” thing. I feel like I have to be in control of my surroundings or I panic. Just knowing others have the same issues makes me feel SO much better. Thank you for this post!

  27. I’m glad I found your podcast, Kelly. So much of what you’re describing is how I experience life – the good and the bad. Starting with this example: a two-night-long train trip across the country years ago in an overheated compartment with no windows to open. No one I was traveling with had any trouble, but I suffered that entire trip.
    Wendy Bright recently posted…WendyCity Retro Weird Chicago: A Sack O’ SlidersMy Profile

  28. Hey thank god I’ve found people having the same issue as mine.. Really it’s so hard to breath while a door is closed.. I have this issue i cnt sleep if the window is closed even though the room door and many windowns outside are open.. I feel like am gonna suffocate by a gas leakage or fire will happen and i will not be able to breath if i close the window.. Its so important to me to ooen it at least 1cm i feel relieved.. Thanks for sharing your story it hellped me understand..

  29. I suffer severe anxiety when the steam heat in my old apartment building comes on. I feel like I can’t breathe, my legs become restless, and I gasp for air. It’s the most frightening thing and it took me years to figure out what was triggering it -I’m a pretty relaxed person so I couldn’t figure when I was suffering from these huge panic attacks. Last night the heat came on for the first time, and at 5am I woke up gasping. Sometimes opening the window, running a humidifier and propping myself up to sleep helps. Sometimes Rescue Remedy or homeopathic remedies for anxiety work. And sometimes I go into my med stash. So glad to know I’m not the only one!

  30. Thank goodness I am not mad. Recently in hospital, I had this. Stuffy hot room, no air, fan not working.I had to beg the nurses to open window. I was ready to rip all my tubes out and escape. Please can someone come up with a non chemical solution to this panic attack.
    lynette recently posted…HSP Episode 18: The Best Job for HSPsMy Profile

    • Ugh, that sounds awful!! And add the “trapped” feeling of being in a hospital…I can’t imagine!! The “trapped” feeling is one of the things I fear most. It’s like being suffocated with no end in sight. You are not mad :)

  31. Anthony N. says:

    Awesome to read about this.
    I’ve always felt suffocated whenever someone needs to use the car heater.. Well, artificial heat in any matter.

  32. I occasionally experience the “air claustrophobia” as far as breathing, but my biggest issue is my skin can’t seem to breathe if it’s covered, especially by later afternoon or evening. I wear a t-shirt and shorts indoors even in winter time, and by late afternoon, I have to take my shirt off (fortunately I am male) and I instantly feel better. I have searched online and have not found anything related this kind of skin claustrophobia os skin suffocating. Not sure what causes it. I first noticed it in my thirties, and it gets worse with age. Anyone?

  33. Wow I cant believe there is more people like me…. sometimes when I explain to my relatives what I feel they dont understand… and the idea about the travel fan kelly make me laugh as a few weeks ago I though the same thing…. but I was wondering if I was crazy to get a fan and have it in my purse….

    I have always have had the feeling of panic when I dont feel air moving but this year has been worse than ever I hope it doesnt continue worsing… have any of you found a way to control this?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Hi Linda! Thanks for the note. It’s not crazy to have a fan in your purse! Do whatever you need to do to get by! Maybe even just *knowing* you have it will make you feel better! The only way I’ve found to feel better about still, warm air is by somehow getting air movement or fresh air. And also, try to take your mind off it somehow!

  34. Dawn Follin says:

    I am so with you on this topic. I can’t sleep without a fan blowing cooling air around the room. I also can’t sleep if it is the least bit warm in my room.

    Heat is something I cannot tolerate. My ex is from Sweden and I actually wanted to move there because of the cool, crisp air.

    Although I’ve never wet my sheets I can completely empathize with you!

  35. Wow… I’ve been living with this for years and I’ve also never met anyone else who suffers from it. Mine primarily surfaces when I’m in the car, ESPECIALLY in the winter, where you’re outside and it’s cold but then you layer up and get in the car, but of course someone puts the heat on full blast and within minutes I’m trying to crack a window and not get carsick. It happens to a certain extent when I’m in my apartment as well. The worst is when it’s been really rainy and gross outside (I have seasonal affective disorder) and I feel stuck inside without fresh air for hours or days at a time. Even when I get out of a shower and start getting dressed too quickly I start to feel the nauseous, too hot feeling. Never seems to pose a problem when I’m outside and it’s hot though, only in. My mother says I’ve been like this for years. Last winter though we had a long drive from San Antonio back to Houston and I about froze her out of the car even with the heat on because I had to have a window cracked! Same for my fiance when we went to visit Michigan. Ah well, at least we all know we’re not the only ones now hey? :)

  36. Jenny Sennett says:

    HI every1, jst wanted to share my experience & helpful remedies I’ve used for this weird & scary feeling of crawl outta your skin, claustrophobic, enclosed phobia, panic attack situation… I jst starting experiencing these since we have turned the heat up in the house & couldn’t understand why I was having them, but reading all your input has lead me to believe its due to the increased heat environment in our bedroom, I know have a cool air/mist humidifier by bionaire, I love it, it has settings & a fan, it has helped me alot! I still have a few spells here & there but it could be from the low water in the refill container needing more or the air filter needing to be changed. I too find that wetting my nose w/ water like a cat helps me when I wake up outta a dead sleep feeling I cant breathe, so a bottle of water next to the bed is also very soothing, not to mention at times a 0.5 xanax if needed, I hate taking pills of any kind but I truley believe in the natural herb brand Standard process that has worked wonders for helping me sleep & its all natural its called Min-tran I take 2 to 3 tablets before bed & it helps me sleep through out the night pretty good w/ out any grog or side affects! I hope this will help some of you cause It is a very SCARY helpless feeling that I wouldnt wish on any1. So I jst wanted to share from my experience. I plan on talking to my doctor as well for some medical input. I wish you all the best & pray for comfortable days & sleepful nights!

  37. I’m a 54 year old male, and my intolerance of heat seems to be getting worse each year – especially during winter. I recently went to a movie with my family but had to walk out because it was too hot. I avoid riding in someone else’s car, especially in winter, because I know it’ll be too hot. I’ve taken a fan when I travel for years – partly for the air movement and partly for the noise. Right now I’m trying to figure out how to begin controlling this because it’s definitely affecting me socially. It’s really hard to find information but finding this site at least assures me I’m not alone in this!

  38. Hi All,
    Well, I’m feeling a bit more easy now I’ve read this and all the comments. Thank you :-)

    I am 46 in 6 days, diagnosed many years ago with S.A.D (had depression several winters as a result, and panic attacks/anxiety at the thought of returning S.A.D. lows).

    Been pretty good and stable for years, ever since moving to UK south coast (brighter for me). Recently noticed feelings of being hemmed in and overwhelmed. Had one just a short while ago while I was sitting at home and eating dinner. Only felt better after I removed several layers of clothes (been wrapped up as it’s cold outside), opened window, moved around a bit and went to bathroom.

    My partner and I, both have to have bedroom window open during night, heating off. As soon as we wake up we want to be outside in the air (no appetite for breakfast until we get out). We like to sit outside at cafes. Only settle inside later in evenings, after we’ve been out all day.

    I have to take Codeine and Paracetamol daily (Fibromyalgia and restless legs). I also supplement with 5-HTP at bedtime (200mg) and vitamin D3 daily (during winter).

    I find repeating to myself “I focus on this fabulous moment” helps, along with using mobile phone (FB and internet), and other distractions like talking with others.

    I hadn’t realised until writing this, that I have a habit of changing my clothes as soon as I come in. Reducing the layers and taking off boots and socks.

    Today I didn’t do that (thought I was going out later), so kept outdoor clothes on and only felt uncomfortable after I had pottered around to make myself a meal and was sitting down, eating it.

    Don’t know if it means anythibg, but I love looking at the sky and hearing wibd/air moving.

    Thanks again for making me feel in good company. Hopefully we can all understand and resolve this :-)

    • After posting this I thought about times as a kid when I used to put coat on and sit outside on the doorstep. Thought this was S.A.D. related, but now not so sure about this??

    • Hi Dawn, thanks for sharing. I almost always change my clothes after coming in as well, especially if I was wearing work clothes. It’s similar to how I immediately wash off makeup when I get home, too.

      I like you mantra “I focus on this fabulous moment”…I should try that. I also love looking at the sky when it’s quiet….at night or during the day.

      It sounds like you are doing a good job figuring out what you need to feel comfortable. If you need to change clothes or open windows–so be it!! :)

  39. I don’t like the heating on in a car, it makes me feel really hot , and I feel like I can’t breathe sometimes. I can’t have the heating up high in the house 21 degrees centigrade is a comfortable temperature. When I am in people’s homes and the heating is up high, I get hot and feel uncomfortable. Same on public transport and in shops.

  40. Hello everyone! I can’t tell you all how relieved I am to find this site and to read about everyone else’s feelings and experiences because I truly believed that I was starting to go out of my mind. I have always been very heat intolerant–especially dry, artificial heat. It feels smothering, dry, and very uncomfortable to me. I prefer a cooler climate especially while I’m sleeping. Although my husband does not share my preferences, he has come to terms with mine, and has given up the “battle of the thermostat” and the constant opening and closing of the bedroom heat register. For some reason, and it may have something to do with a recent switch in medications, I am not sure, this winter (we are in Michigan) has been especially brutal and I feel like I am literally dying at times. My skin crawls because of the dryness, I feel like I am breathing in nothing my dry air and I feel like I am constantly suffocating when the heat is on. I did purchase a good humidifier and it puts out a good amount of moisture. I also make sure to fill it daily and it runs all day and night. It has helped some, but I still feel a much higher sensitivity to the dry heat than I ever have before. Last night I experienced my first panic attack and I literally DID think I was dying. When I went to bed, I pulled more than one blanket over myself because it was cold in the bedroom and I knew it would be very cold overnight. I also have two cats who insist on sleeping on either side of me—one sleeps pretty close to me. I woke up after being asleep about an hour, feeling totally hot, stuffy, dry, and I had a cat right up against either side of me. I thought I would just go back to sleep but all of the sudden a feeling of panic came over me so fast that I had to shoot out of bed and get up…I thought I was going crazy. I sat on the edge of the bed for a minute or two and feeling would not subside.. It’s so hard to describe. I didn’t know whether to run outside or get myself to the hospital or what! I just felt like everything was closing in on me and I could not take a breath…it was terrifying!! My husband was just coming out of the shower when I came out into the living room (he works a late shift and had just got home) I told him what happened and then sat with him watching TV for awhile until I felt like I could go back in and try to go back to sleep—which I did without any further problem–but boy, did that scare me like nothing else has ever scared me before! This morning it dawned on me what had happened and I looked it up and sure enough, it was a panic attack and I’m pretty sure brought on by the feeling of being trapped as I laid there thinking about how uncomfortable I was..and how suffocated I felt! I just hope that does not happen again and from now on, when I am feeling that uncomfortable, I will do something about it before it gets to that point! Sorry for rambling and thanks again for being here and making me feel a little bit less “abnormal” than I did! :-)

    • Hi Susan, I can totally understand the situation you described. Panic attacks are so scary. I’m glad finding this post helped you a bit. I think it’s such a big step just to realize and acknowledge what happened!

  41. You are not alone. I have that problem usually when in hospitals . If the air is not moving or if the patient is hurting or in pain I hyperventilate. It takes up 30 minutes for me to get myself back together sometimes longer.

  42. I absolutely know how you feel! I often would tell people that I am a bit claustrophobic, but it is really heat/ lack of air movement and not having control over leaving that makes me panic. I have major trouble keeping calm when sitting in booths, or in the middle seat of a long table with my back to the wall, or in the middle seats in a theatre, or being anywhere without an open window, or easy access to a door. I used to carry a water bottle with me all the time because having something cool/cold to touch helped. Often, I can calm down if I get out of my seat and see that it is possible, and that people in my way will let me put, but that doesnt always work because I would need to ask the people to let me in and out several times before I am comfortable and I am usually too afraid of annoying/angering them to do it. Loud noise is also a trigger for me, especially when in a situation where I can’t come and go without asking people to let me out. I suffered through this for over 10 years, and it slowly got worse…to the point that I was so anxious before going somewhere new that I would start worrying about the room temperature and the seating arrangements up to a week before the event, and if I wasnt the driver I couldnt get into the car unless I was in the front passenger seat, the AC was on or the heat off, and the music and talking was at a low volume. It was horrible! I dont know what this type of phobia is called; it some sort of control issue I think, with heat/air flow and noise being the triggers. I noticed it started after I had a horrible head cold that caused my ears to be so congestes/whatever that I could barely hear. I finally told my doctor about all of my symptoms a couple of years ago and I am now taking an anti-anxiety medicine that has taken away all of those problems. I dont like being dependent on medication but I am so much happier and enjoy going to things without being worried and anxious the entire time. I am so happy to find this pafe and relaize that I am not alone in this!!

    • Hi Yvette, thank you for sharing your story. I’m so glad you were able to find medication that helps you. I don’t see anything wrong with taking medicine that can help you; modern medicine is amazing!!!

  43. I too am happy to find this sight. I’ve had this problem for a few years. My problem is my husband he likes to keep the house really warm in the winter 74 degrees and I am going out to the garage to get some air. or when we get in he car in the summer and he hasn’t turned the air on right away, I am ready to get out of the car.

  44. I have had these occurences for several years. I can’t stand to be in a room without moving air. I don’t have any problem with elevators for some reason. But the van story really hit home. I used to be able to ride buses, airplanes…even sit comfortably while someone else was driving. No more. The cool bottle of water trick…I do that. I also keep my purse nearby so I can fidget through it and not scream”stop the car!” when I’m not driving. Once, at Silver Dollar City-a local amusement park–we were on the train at Christmas time. I had a sudden panic attack and actually jumped off of the train as it was leaving the depot. Scared the attendant–and my family–half to death. I just couldn’t do it. I don’t go on rides anymore at all. I have learned to not do ALL the driving–though sometimes it’s tough. Sometimes at night…if I’m too warm, I jump up & start walking the floor. In all panic instances, I feel like I can’t heart pounds..and for some reason, the right side of my head gets instantly congested–which makes the panic even worse.
    While I’m glad to know I’m not alone. ..I wish there was something out there that could help us all–permanently.


  1. […] Hot, Still Air Makes Me Feel Trapped, Like I Can’t … – This trapped feeling happened to me twice on overnight train rides, too. On both occasions, the train windows were closed and there was no air circulation…. […]

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge