In Part 1 of Managing Fear, Anxiety and Phobias at Disney World, we discussed various strategies for dealing with anxiety, fear and phobias. Here in Part 2 we’ll discuss some strategies for managing with specific phobias.
Managing With Specific Phobias at Disney World
1 .Managing with a fear of crowds at Disney World
If you have fear of crowds, we strongly suggest that you time your trip to coincide with the least crowded periods at Disney. Check out this article here called How to Pick Your Disney World Travel Dates.
Also time your daily park visits so that you’re going to the least crowded parks on each day. That’s also covered in the article above, and you’ll find crowd calendar sources.
There’s no way to avoid major crowds when it’s a peak season, and even during the slower seasons you’re likely to encounter some crowded situations. That’s especially true of park events such as parades and fireworks. You should be able to avoid these types of crowds with a little planning. In fact, during parades and fireworks the attraction queues are often less long and crowded, so avoiding parades and fireworks shows has its perks.
Some people find that the ride and attraction queues feel crowded and anxiety provoking. if you have anxiety with crowds, even during a low attendance periods, read about the DAS (Disability Access Service), and plan to request one when you’re at Disney. In a nutshell, for any ride or attraction that has a Fastpass, you can get a return time rather than waiting in the regular queue. This allows you to do most of your waiting anywhere you want, giving you the flexibility to minimize your time in crowds. When you return during the appointed time, you’re allowed to go into the Fastpass line, which should have a considerably shorter wait time.
Also make use of the FASTPASS+ system. This can be a good alternative to the regular queue. You may still be required to wait in the FASTPASS queue, but it’s likely to be a much shorter wait, and possibly less crowded.
Tip: Consider staying at a Disney resort. This allows you to participate in Extra Magic Hours, when the parks are far less crowded.
Tip: If you wish to visit Disney Springs, do so during the day, especially in weekdays. It’s far less crowded than during the evening, and sometimes it seems downright deserted. Most people are at the parks during the day, and once the parks close, people start flooding in to Disney Springs.
Tip: Consider hanging out at a Disney resort quiet pool. These are less themed than the main pools, and there are fewer conveniences, but there are usually far less people. You may even have a pool to yourself during a slow attendance season.
2. Managing with a fear of the dark at Disney World
Some attractions have periods of darkness and some are dark all the way through. Of course you can research in advance and skip all of the dark rides if that makes for a more relaxing experience at Disney World. However if you choose to do these rides, one idea for making this easier on you is to use your phone light. Another option is to bring a tiny flashlight, like the ones that can fit on a key ring. For some people just being able to see a small light, or even just knowing that they have that light, may be all they need to ward off the fear. Be sure to keep the light low, and out of the eyes of the other guests.
3. Managing with claustrophobia at Disney World
While there are some attractions and even some ride queues that could provoke claustrophobia even in those who don’t ordinarily have that problem, the majority of attractions shouldn’t be a problem for those with this issue. Some attractions have sample ride cars for you to view or sit in so you can get a feel for what it will be like.
If there isn’t a sample car to try, you can still view the ride cars without boarding. On most attractions there’s an exit just before boarding. You can view the ride cars, and if you choose not to ride, a cast member will escort you out. Ask a cast member when you get to the attraction if early exiting is possible.
For some people, just being in a ride car can provoke feelings of claustrophobia since getting off the ride is out of their control. If this is the case for you or a member of your party, consider support and counseling before your trip such as that described above, or avoid rides and attractions that you can’t leave at will. There are still a lot of attractions that you’ll be able to participate in. In fact for most indoor theater experiences you’ll be able to sit near an exit door, and there are several outdoor theater experiences that would be easy to walk out of. Animal Kingdom has a lot to see and do that’s outdoors.
As mentioned above, sometimes familiarity can help. If a ride concerns you, watch the entire ride experience on Youtube so you’ll know what to expect. Even if you do experience some claustrophobia, eliminating the unknown can help some people to manage their fear levels. Just knowing what to look for to know that the end of the ride isn’t far away can help.
Some rides that may feel claustrophobic to some people
Please be aware that this is not an exhaustive list and remember that what might feel claustrophobic to you may be different for others. Here are some of the rides and ride queues that may tend to cause claustrophobia in some people.
Spaceship Earth: As the ride takes off you move into almost total darkness and the cars go up an incredibly steep upward slope in a narrow space for some time. This may trigger claustrophobia in those who have that problem. However once you get to the attraction displays, the sloping becomes much less steep, and there’s adequate light for most of the time. There’s also plenty of space so you don’t have a closed-in feeling. For many people with claustrophobia, it may feel reasonably comfortable from this point on until the last stretch.
During the last stretch, there’s a backwards descent at the end of the ride where you’ll travel through an area with a fairly low ceiling and close walls. Though it’s not particularly tight, it may trigger claustrophobia in the very sensitive. During this descent there are no exhibits to view, but the screen in your ride car automatically turns on. Guests are encouraged to play an interactive game on touch-screen monitors mounted in front of each row in the ride vehicle. This can help distract anyone with claustrophobia since they can focus on playing the game and viewing their monitor rather than looking at their surroundings.
Mission: Space. You’re placed in a small, enclosed four-person chamber (see photo below), which is likely to be a problem for people with claustrophobia. When the ride is about to begin, the chamber doors close and the front panel moves in closer to you, increasing the potential for claustrophobia. When you’re sitting in your capsule, you’ll face your own control area and viewing “window” (video screen). It’s quite close to you, since you’ll need to reach for the controls in front of you. Here’s a suggestion:
“I have only borderline claustrophobia, and I nearly panicked the first time. Breathing deeply and taking a moment to look around (before the ride starts!) helps a lot.”
The Seas with Nemo & Friends: The queue may feel claustrophobic to the very sensitive because the dimly lit queue seems to keep winding for quite a long time. However, we didn’t have the sense of being closed in by walls. During the ride there’s one part where there’s a combination of a small tunnel, barely moving vehicles and patterns of light projections could challenge those with claustrophobia and/or motion sickness.
Tip: If you have an issue with claustrophobia during the above described segment, remember that it doesn’t last more than a minute or two, and only slightly longer if the attraction slows or stops to allow a wheelchair to load. Remember that you’re going to be out of the tunnel and off of the ride very shortly. Keep your eyes down so that you’re not looking at the walls, if necessary.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Most of the long queue is indoors, winding in an atmosphere like an underground cavern pirate lair, with dim lighting. Some people find this claustrophobic, especially when it’s crowded.
The Haunted Mansion: The Pre-show may challenge people with claustrophobia. You’re led into an octagonal-shaped room. You’re asked to move away from the walls toward the center of the room. The door shuts, and then there’s no visible exit door. It’s camouflaged. Some find this claustrophobic, especially if the room is crowded. It’s a pretty fast experience. It can feel more claustrophobic when crowded. Once it’s done, a door appears and you’re moved out of the room.
The ride car may also present a challenge to some people. Those who are ultra sensitive may find this car claustrophobic as our Facebook admin Sue Mickelson did:
“The backward portion was torture to me the first years I rode it. The combination of going backwards down a hill and the Ghost Host talking from a speaker behind me made me feel claustrophobic. I had to keep repeating “stay in the car” to myself during that whole part and several others. The stretching room and the loading room didn’t really bother me.”
However many people do fine as with this reader:
“I battle claustrophobia. There’s no way you’ll get me on Mission Space, but I didn’t have any problem at all with the Haunted Mansion pre-show or the ride car. I felt a bit fearful in the dark portions of the ride, but I was able to get through it okay, and I thought the ride was kind of cool!”
Enchanted Tales with Belle: At one point guests are led into a room designed to look like Maurice’s workshop. The guests are sardine stuffed into this room, and the door closes, so those with claustrophobia may feel uncomfortable. You’re in here only briefly, and everything after is more spacious.
Under the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid: As you’re moving downhill, the back of the clamshell shaped ride car in front of you lights up with a projection designed to make it seem as if you’re moving under water. The temperature turns cooler, and the area you enter is darker. From here the scenes you see will be under the sea. Those with claustrophobia may find this challenging since the area you’re in during this process is narrow and has low ceilings. However, you’ll soon be entering much wider rooms where this shouldn’t be a problem for most people.
Space Mountain: The vehicles look like little space rockets with open tops.The ride vehicles can feel claustrophobic to those who are sensitive. Those of larger size and those with long legs may find them uncomfortable.
Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin: Just prior to loading, people in wheelchairs will be directed through a hallway to board the ride where passengers are disembarking. The hallway itself is narrow, longish and dimly lit. It may be a challenge for someone with claustrophobia, but once you’re through it, you enter a wide-open space for boarding.
During the ride, towards the end, you pass through a tunnel-like room. There’s a “spaceship moving through space” scene projected on the walls and ceiling. This is a special effect that was invented by Walt Disney, officially titled a “speed tunnel.” This gives the illusion that you’re traveling at great speeds through space. This section can be challenging for those with claustrophobia, motion sickness, dizziness and vertigo. For those with claustrophobia, remember that this part of the ride usually only lasts maybe 30 seconds to a minute. You’ll be out shortly, and into an open area.
Here’s one person’s suggestion:
“I’ve always had to close my eyes in here… This worked fine, but once I realized that you could fire at the spaceship image for more points, the motion sickness stopped. By focusing my eyes on the ship as it moved around I didn’t seem to get queasy.”
4. Managing with a fear of thrill rides at Disney World
You can easily skip the thrill rides at Disney World and still have a plenty that’s fun to do. Another option is to start on a low intensity ride and work your way up to higher intensity rides. Of course you can quit any time. You’ll know your own limits.
So suppose you wish to start with roller-coasters. The least intense is the Barnstormer featuring Goofy as the Great Goofini, in the Storybook Circus area of Magic Kingdom. It does have some fairly intense ups and downs, but the whole experience lasts only about 90 seconds.
On a little higher intensity end of the thrill ride spectrum is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in Magic Kingdom which is a comparatively moderate roller-coaster. Splash Mountain in Magic Kingdom might have a similar thrill level or it may even be a step up, depending upon your triggers.
Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom is a big step up, and is intense with high speeds, backwards motion, darkness and a Yeti monster theme. Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster in Hollywood Studios will seem very intense to just about anyone, since it turns you upside down, is high paced and continuously dark.
5. Managing with a fear of Disney characters
For most people, the Disney characters are appealing and fun, but some can be afraid of them. Read our article on Managing with the Fear of Disney Characters here.
6. Fear of animals, birds, bugs, lizards, snakes and alligators
If you have a fear of any of these creatures, check out our article called Bees, Bugs, Lizards, Snakes, Alligators & Other Wildlife at Disney World and in Orlando. We dispel some myths and give some suggestions.
In addition, consider that Animal Kingdom and animals go together! Here are some things you should know about managing at Animal Kingdom with fear of animals.
In Animal Kingdom, in certain locations cast members will come out amongst the guests with small animals or insects. They won’t approach guests, but they’ll wait for guests to approach them.
Don’t be afraid of the bats! An area to consider in Animal Kingdom is the bat enclosure. The top is covered with netting so the bats can’t escape into the park, but the enclosure appears to be open to the guests viewing area; however it’s designed so that bats can not pass through the slats because of their wingspan. We asked cast members if a bat has ever gotten through to the guest viewing area, and we were told none had ever gotten through.
Also in Animal Kingdom the bird aviary has birds in an enclosed area that guests visit, and the birds are not restrained.
We find that you’re more likely to have close bird contact by just sitting outside and eating almost anywhere at Disney. Some of the birds can be super aggressive about robbing you of your meal. If this is a problem for you, avoid outdoor dining areas.
Reader strategies for managing with specific phobias:
Ashley Cerchiaro Diamond: “I have emetophobia and germs in general. What helped me was being mentally prepared and doing everything I could physically do to stop the anxiety. That meant bringing hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes and taking medication to help.”
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