Small or enclosed spaces and having no escape. Like bee stings and heights, this is one of those things that unnerve essentially everybody, but, like those two, it also affects some people much more than others. Some people are deathly afraid of enclosed spaces, and anything from being trapped in a stuck elevator to being shut in a closet could cause them to Freak Out and make being Locked in a Room and Locked in a Freezer ever so much more fun for all involved.
Studies show that around 1 in 20 people in the world have severe claustrophobia. For fictional characters, the number is more like 1 in 3. Expect visions of small places getting smaller and smaller until there's no place to breathe, and expect anyone who is revealed to be claustrophobic before the fact to be put into a tight situation eventually.
If this is The Hero's debilitating weakness, then it's also an example of Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?, though it is a phobia that can and will occur in any kind of character, since it's so easy to give situations where it would come into play.
open/close all folders
Anime and Manga
Mendo from Urusei Yatsura suffers from both this and a fear of darkness... unless any women are watching, in which case his desire to look cool and suave trumps it. It's later revealed that he developed these phobias as a child from the actions of himself as a teen, travelling back in time to attempt to prevent the phobias from developing in the first place. After getting fed up with the bratty, borderline abusive (who are we kidding? — actually abusive) behavior of his younger self, Mendou snapped and was about to take himself out of the timeline by chopping the kid into tiny bits with his katana. Kid Mendou hid out in a room full of large clay jars, scared for his life, as he heard Mendou smashing them trying to find him. Lum knocked Mendou out just as he found Kid Mendou, leaving a traumatized toddler.
Ash Ketchum's Pikachu from Pokémon is actually implied to be claustrophobic because of his dislike of being contained within a Pokeball like all of the other Pokemon. The only time we ever see him come out of a Pokeball was at the very beginning of the first episode where Ash chooses him as his starter Pokemon, and the only time we ever see him go inside a Pokeball is about halfway through Pokémon: The First Movie during the scene where Mewtwo captures all of the trainers' Pokemon using several sinister-looking Pokeballs (which for some reason, also capture Pokemon that are already inside their own Pokeballs), so he can create an army of cloned Pokemon to help him rule the world. When the aforementioned "Clone Balls" come back to release all of the captured Pokemon, Pikachu, as a result of this, is apparently now extremely pissed...
In One Piece, it was hinted that Magellan, the Big Bad of the Impel Down arc, had the opposite problem — agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces — making him well-suited to his job as warden of the facility.
Storm of the X-Men is traditionally claustrophobic, dating back to Chris Claremont's work on the comic. A rocket attack that killed her mother also left her buried in rubble for hours with the body. She keeps it under control except in similarly extreme situations. She also has this phobia in certain adaptations, particularly X-Men: The Animated Series and X-Men: Evolution. It's generally bad idea to try to exploit this in battle nowadays, since it just makes her angry. You don't want to make a person who is essentially a Fisher King everywhere she goes angry.
Shows up quite a bit in Tin Man fanfic. Justified there because the Tin Suit was pure hell for Cain, DG was trapped in a coffin during the series and came close to not surviving it, and Raw was about to face a nasty end trapped in a Papay cocoon.
In Neon Exodus Evangelion, DJ Croft is afflicted with this. It proves debilitating when he's trapped in the elevator with Misato, and downright crippling when he's stuck in the Dirac Sea.
In YuGiOh! Soul of Silicon, Ebon Magician Curran has this, leading to her wanting revenge on her owner for keeping her card in a box.
One of the less good things that happens to John after he's transformed into a Winged Humanoid in With Strings Attached is that he's rendered claustrophobic. It's really only an issue early on, just after he's been transformed and is miserably hiding in Lyndess's windowless spare room. Though he wants to stay there forever, he's driven out into the night by his feelings.
In the Horseshoes and Hand Grenades sidestory [SplitxEnd], Yayoi Tokuda reveals to have this due to an experience of bullies trapping her in a dark warehouse when she was younger. However, she's able to ignore her fear with enough focus.
Indie film Chariot takes place on an airplane that can not land anywhere due to the United States being under attack, invoking claustrophobia on the passengers.
Woody Allen in Manhattan Murder Mystery gets trapped with his wife in an elevator, and cries out in panic: "I'm a world-renowned claustrophobic!" Then trying to escape they discover a murdered corpse on top of the elevator's roof: "Claustrophobia and a dead body - this is a neurotic's jackpot!"
In the first live action Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, Casey Jones is revealed to be claustrophobic when taken to the turtles' lair in the sewers.
The tunnel-digger in The Great Escape was claustrophobic. At first it seems sort of weird or funny, but then we see this big tough guy curled up in the fetal position in a business suit, waiting for some Nazis to pass by... so that he can hop a boat to Sweden.
In Poseidon, the survivors have to scramble through a flooding air vent, and one of them has severe claustrophobia, to the point where she has to be physically dragged inside, and has a panic attack when one of the others gets stuck.
The music score for the sequence is, fittingly enough, titled, "Claustrophobia."
Ridley Scott, the director of Alien, states that the sets on that film were supposed to create claustrophobia in the audience.
The sixth Artemis Fowl book gives Holly Short claustrophobia tied to some newly revealed backstory, although she never seemed to have a problem with small spaces in previous books. This is explained away as that she had overcome this claustrophobia long before the events of the books, but her body had become that of an adolescent due to unforeseen side effects of the time traveling, so she had gotten back her claustrophobia.
In Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda, weak and cowardly Rowan is fated to accompany six big, strong, brave villagers up the forbidden mountain to find out what has stopped up the village's stream. The big, strong, brave villagers get picked off one at a time due to phobias and fears. One of the last to go is Marlie, the stout little weaver, who tries valiantly to fight past her claustrophobia, but can't do it. She's forced to turn back. Lucky, too, because the last leg of the journey is a three-day stretch inside a winding tunnel so tiny that even little Rowan is crawling on his stomach the whole way, and Strong Jonn can barely fit. And they can't take any supplies.
Yago from Remnants. He fell into a construction hole in his backyard during a rainstorm, and wasn't rescued until the next morning.
Silk develops a pronounced case of claustrophobia after Relg rescues him from a pit by carrying him through- as in, right through- the rock it's carved out of. Up to that point he had only minor difficulties with it when he was in the cave system of the Ulgos. This remains an issue for Silk in the follow-up series, The Mallorean.
Relg himself suffers from the opposite fear — agoraphobia, the fear of open spaces — at first. He had lived his entire life in the caves of Ulgoland, and had not only had never seen the sky, he had no real concept of "sky", "sun", "clouds", or "stars". Garion spends several days just trying to keep him vaguely functional.
Phase, of the Whateley Universe has some degree of claustrophobia. This is pretty reasonable, since he's: been experimented on (i.e. tortured) by a Mad Scientist while trapped in a box the size of a coffin; nearly suffocated underground; been trapped in a pitch-dark sewer with no flashlight while being attacked by a zombie army; and his own powers mean he can pass through solid objects but he can't see or breathe while he's doing it. Ouch.
Inverted in Isaac Asimov's Robot Trilogy. In The Caves of Steel Protagonist Elijah Baley and all of the Earthlings raised in the crowded, claustrophobic Cities, have agoraphobia — a fear of open spaces, in this case the outdoors in general. Baley starts confronting this fear in the second novel, and is largely successful, although being caught in a thunderstorm doesn't help.
Played straight in Nightfall. The people there are so afraid of dark that 15 minutes without light are enough for a 10% chance of becoming extremely claustrophobic.
Asimov himself was a claustraphile - he worked best in small, enclosed spaces.
In Animorphs, the entire Andalite race is claustrophobic. Justified in that Andalites are descended from herd animals that lived in grasslands.
In The Ellimist Chronicles (a distant prequel to the main Animorphs series), the Ketrans have a similar species-wide claustrophobia. This is seen when they are forced to enter and fly an alien ship of opaque metal. Ketrans are a winged species which live on massive transparent crystals that float in the sky.
Rand Al'Thor develops claustrophobia after being abducted, stuffed in a trunk, cut off from channeling, and shipped off on a trip of hundreds of miles, only being allowed out for minutes at a time for weeks.
In Margaret Mahy's Maddigan's Fantasia and Maddigan's Quest, the TV series written by the same author, Eden the boy magician has this fear, which is useful to the plot because he is the only magical character and his absence in some scenes forces the other characters to think for themselves and get out of sticky situations without magic.
In Mercedes Lackey's Summoned to Tourney, one of the characters is claustrophobic due to a childhood trauma; the bad guys find this out and put her in a decompression chamber to break her. She's rescued, but spends the remainder of the book struggling with PTSD.
The UFO episode "Sub-Smash" has a female Shado crewmember who's morbidly claustrophobic. She's none too happy when she has to try escaping from the crashed submarine of the title through a narrow missile tube. She's even less happy when it fails to open, leaving her trapped inside. Her commanding officer also suffered from claustrophobia, and originally thought her crying for help was his own mind starting to crack up.
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Garak suffers from claustrophobia to a debilitating degree. It's hinted at earlier in the show, and sometimes even crops up as a Sarcastic Confession before the show eventually reveals that he genuinely does have the condition and it hasn't been one of his many tall tales. As a result, it's been used as a plot point several times in the show (both before and after the reveal). This is a case of Written-In Infirmity due to Real Life Writes the Plot. Garak's actor is so claustrophobic that even wearing the Cardassian make-up could be a problem for him.
Star Trek: Voyager: Tom Paris apparently suffers from this subconsciously, causing him to frequently crawl out of a Human Popsicle tube in one episode, much to the annoyance of Seven of Nine who had to keep putting him back in.
Lister in Red Dwarf had a bout of this when performing an Air-Vent Passageway escape. Lampshaded the fact that it was the first time this had ever come up. He explains that he's fine so long as he knows he can get out. He developed the phobia when the husband of a co-worker with whom he was having an affair locked him in a box and threatened to throw him into a river, then let him out on stage in the middle of a production of The Importance of Being Earnest (he was naked at the time).
One of the many phobias of Monk. Subverted in the episode where he was Buried Alive, as the memory of Trudy kept him calm.
Barbara Bain's real life claustrophobia was written into an episode of Mission: Impossible in which her character (also claustrophobic) is tortured by being drugged and held in a small, enclosed space.
In one episode of Night Court, Dan Fielding reveals his claustrophobia while trapped in a stuck elevator with two sumo wrestlers and bailiff Roz. She helps calm him by having his close his eyes and imagine he is standing in the middle of a football stadium, with lots of room all around him, and it's filled with happy, cheering people who are all looking at him... and he's naked. That last detail elicits a grin from him.
In season 10 of ER, it's revealed that Neela suffers from claustrophobia when she has to spend a few hours in a hyperbaric chamber with a baby with carbon monoxide poisoning.
The M*A*S*H episode "C*A*V*E" has Hawkeye having to deal with this when enemy shelling forces the 4077th to relocate to a nearby cave. The same episode has normally tough-as-nails Margaret Houlihan admitting to a deathly fear of loud noises.
Anya from Buffy the Vampire Slayer was revealed as claustrophobic in the Season Six episode when the cast were trapped in Buffy's house.
In Stargate Universe, the normally tough-as-nails Greer turns out to be claustrophobic, just before going into an underground tunnel network which he ends up trapped in.
Doctor Reid Oliver from As the World Turns showed signs of severe claustrophobia when the elevator he and Luke were in got stuck, going so far as to risk damaging his hands in an attempt to escape and manhandling Luke in fear that Luke's jumping could genuinely get them killed. Seeing as all he had to do to escape death by train was wiggle out of his seatbelt, open his door (possibly break the window and exit that way if the door also refused to open), and sprint, this could have been an Author's Saving Throw. However, the actor played the scene as calmly frantic rather than as if claustrophobia was severely impairing his judgment.
Sonny Corinthos from General Hospital has severe claustrophobia; its origin is because his abusive stepfather Zeke used to lock him in a closet, and it has been used to excuse Sonny getting away with his litany of crimes because prison would be too much for him to take.
Mike Cannon in Las Vegas has claustrophobia(he even says that it's part of the reason he's a valet; he can spend most of his time outside). When a power outage seals Mike, Ed and Mitch in the security room, he begins to lose it, leading to Ed being confused because Mike has by this point begun to spend a lot of time in the security room; Mike explains that as long as he knows he can leave, he can control it, then this happens:
Mike: Mr. D...you slapped me.
Ed: Well, Mike, I had to do something, you were freaking out.
Mike: Well, I'm still freaking out, and now my face hurts.
Vila Restal of Blake's 7, though IIRC this was never mentioned again. As a thief he must have seen plenty of small hidey-holes, so let's just assume that Vila is scared of everything.
Vila: I'd be glad to [crawl through the service shaft], it's just I've got this problem with enclosed spaces. There's a medical name for it.
In Wizards of Waverly Place, Justin has it. Although he's never shown any signs of it, especially when he was in the caves of the Stone of Dreams.
In The Thick of It, Nicola Murray (like actress Rebecca Front) is claustrophobic. Judging by his reaction to being locked in Peter Mannion's bathroom as the result of a prank in the Opposition special, Stewart Pearson may also be.
In Peanuts, Snoopy experiences severe claustrophobia whenever he goes through tall weeds.
Dino Attack RPG has Andrea Jackson Orange, who has developed a form of this after being forced to spend an unspecified period of time trapped in a makeshift bunker. As a result (in a homage to Team Fortress 2), when wearing a gas mask she has some... unusual hallucinations.
In Dungeons & Dragons, Avariels (winged elves) are often depicted as suffering from claustrophobia as a racial trait.
One of the many horror tropes invoked in Innistrad: 
Gums of the Werebears toy line is claustrophobic and transforms when he's in a small, dark space.
Carla Valenti in Fahrenheit. Notable because in two levels, you actually have to guide her through claustrophobic environments, simultaneously controlling her movement and her breath. If you fail the latter, she freaks out and the game's over.
In Ace Attorney, Edgeworth definitely has a fear of being stuck in elevators (justified in that his father was killed in one); Fanon is split on whether this is elevator-specific or if he doesn't like any small spaces. He seems to be okay with small spaces in general (in Ace Attorney Investigations, he rides an elevator without any problems), but he has a strong fear of earthquakes that's exponentially exacerbated by being in an elevator at the time.
In Grim Fandango, French waiter Raoul is claustrophobic, and Manny has to lock him up inside a closet. Raoul starts to panic, and ends up accidentally knocking himself out.
Later in the game, Manny locks himself up inside a vault, and discovers that he doesn't feel very comfortable in such places, either.
Manny: "Oh, Raoul... I'm so, so sorry!"
It's never explicitly stated, but in Final Fantasy VII, Cloud freaks out whenever he's forced to go into a tight space, like when he goes into the hut to open the bridge on Mt. Corel or has to enter the submarine interior. Considering his history, it would make sense for him to be a claustrophobe.
Two unavoidable instances of this in Escape from Horrorland. One is where you are crawling through incredibly cramped wooden tunnels while being chased by a mummy at high speed directly behind you, and it is very easy to get lost in the tunnels. The other time is when you have to shut yourself inside a coffin and use it as a boat down a sewer, while spiders enter the coffin and try to bite you.
Charlie Cutter, in Uncharted 3, is dangerously claustrophobic. When he's affected by the mind-altering substance of the Big Bad, his fear is much worse, and he responds with homicidal rage towards his friends, who he believes have betrayed him.
If you bring Anders to the Deep Roads in Dragon Age: Origins – Awakening, he gets distracted by the miles and miles of rock over your heads. If he's telling the truth about spending a year in solitary confinement back at the Circle, that would explain it.
Isabela from Dragon Age II isn't fond of the Deep Roads either, nervously saying that she "really doesn't like tight spaces" if you take her with you on the expedition.
The Prince Of Persia stated at the end of the first game that he's claustrophobic.
In Baldur's Gate 2, Aerie gets extremely uncomfortable in dungeon environment, and nearly freaks out when the party finds themselves in the Underdark. And for good reason; Aerie is a member of the Avariel, a race of winged elves, all of whom are claustrophobic to a degree.
Aerie: "Oh, the Avariel do have explorers and adventurers, but they never go underground. There is only one known case of a team of Avariel attempting to explore underground."
Imoen: "And they didn't come back?"
Aerie: "Oh no, that wouldn't have been scary. The scary part was that they did come back, within the hour. But every single one of them had gone completely insane."
There is an Oculus Rift game named Squish where you simply watch the walls close in on you.note Unsurprisingly, it's not very long. Actually, lots of horror games utilize closed-up spaces... usually dark closed-up spaces.
In Sluggy Freelance Zoe is able to give herself a panic attack in a dark tunnel through trying not to think about it.
"At least I'm not claustrophobic. Not that I should think about claustrophobia right now... oops."
In Entry #60 of Marble Hornets, Jay ventures into a tunnel under an abandoned hospital. Guess who apparently fits into small confined spaces?
Garrett on Extreme Ghostbusters is claustrophobic, and has to confront his fear when facing a ghost that makes people's phobias come to life.
Sparks on Sealab 2021 goes into panic attacks when he and most of the cast are trapped inside the janitor's closet.
Jessie Bannon from Jonny Quest: The Real Adventures is claustrophobic, conveniently presented in an episode where her and Jonny end up stranded in an underwater laboratory with only a bunch of deadly mutant fish for company.
James Rhodes from Iron Man developed claustrophobia as a result of drowning while wearing his War Machine armor.
A pony the main characters are entertaining in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Games Ponies Play" is very skittish about being indoors and completely freaks out when a vase gets stuck on her head. Turns out to be a case of Shown Their Work as the pony refers to herself as a mustang, a breed known for being claustrophobic.