Claustrophobia is a specific phobia characterized by fear of enclosed spaces (such as elevators, subway tunnels, etc.). While some individuals with claustrophobia might experience only mild anxiety and discomfort in enclosed spaces, others might suffer from panic attacks usually triggered by a fear of losing control or being unable to escape when needed. One of the most recent and successful treatment methods applied in specific phobias are virtual reality (VR)-based exposure therapy techniques. This feasibility study aimed to design and validate a set of immersive virtual environments (VEs) for exposure therapy in claustrophobia, with interactive scenarios enabling systematic, gradual, and controlled induction of claustrophobic fear. In total, eighteen individuals participated in the feasibility study. Participants were recruited from a general population and divided into two groups (phobic vs. control group). Each participant was asked to evaluate a set of various virtual environments. The study results indicate that the designed virtual environments have the potential to induce claustrophobic fear and are thus considered suitable for use in the exposure therapy of claustrophobia. These virtual environments also evoked a sense of presence, particularly the spatial presence component, while the reported cybersickness symptoms were none or minimal.

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