Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a problem: I am claustrophobic. I lose my breath every time I take public transportation during rush hour or when I ride in a crowded elevator. I usually wait until there's no one around to take the elevator and ride public transportation.

I need to overcome my fear of close spaces because it has affected me in my personal life. When I kiss my boyfriend, I need to kiss him in the middle of the room. I cannot have my back against a wall because I begin to have a panic attack.

Can you offer some tips to help me overcome my fear of small spaces? -- Walls Are Closing In, New York

DEAR WALLS ARE CLOSING IN: I am terribly sorry that you are having this frightening experience.

Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder that is best managed with professional medical and/or mental health attention. The best advice I can give you is to seek out a doctor or counselor who will be able to help you sort through your challenges and provide you with medication if necessary. I highly recommend that you make an appointment immediately so you can get the support you need and deserve.

To learn more about claustrophobia, see

DEAR HARRIETTE: This is regarding your response to the mom who wrote in about her 10-year-old wanting a cellphone. You told her she does not have to grant her daughter's wish. However, I was disappointed when you advised her to discuss it and check her options with her phone carrier.

Did you pick up in the mother's letter when she said "Enough!"? She wanted your help in explaining to her daughter why the child didn't need a phone at age 10.

You said parents opt to get phones for their children for safety. Well, a 10-year-old should not be out and about without adult supervision anyway. Even if your child is in ballet, ball, drama, afterschool events, etc., an adult who has a phone would be present. If you're a good parent, you will be there or you will know what time your child's practice ends. I understand getting children a phone when they start going to the movies and to school functions with friends (when they are old enough). -- Fed Up, Washington, D.C.

DEAR FED UP: Thank you for your note.

To clarify, when a child wants a phone and the parent says no, it is important to explain why. Being firm with your child and outlining your own family values regarding electronics is a start.

If you do not approve of children having phones, say so and explain that different families have different beliefs. While you have no reason to judge another family, you must make it clear what your family believes and how you act on that. Being consistent with your child will teach him or her how to walk the path of life based on what you have instilled, regardless of what others do.