Tips And Tricks To Reduce Anxiety And Claustrophobia During An MRI
Written By Kobi Nathan, Pharm.D., M.Ed., CDP, BCGP, AGSF
Sleep Disorders
January 1, 2023

Definition of MRI and its uses

Powerful magnets and radio waves are used in the routine medical process known as magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, to provide precise images of the inside of the body.

These images can aid medical professionals in diagnosing and treating various illnesses like cancer, brain abnormalities, and accidents.

Traditional MRI scans are a useful tool in medicine, but it’s not unusual for patients to have anxiety before having the procedure.

The idea of lying inside a small tube for a long time in the MRI room can be frightening for many people, whether it’s due to a fear of a confined space (claustrophobia), a fear of loud noises, or simply a fear of the unknown.

Prevalence of anxiety surrounding MRI scans

People frequently experience anxiety before having an MRI. In fact, according to research that was published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine, approximately 30% of people in the US population report some degree of anxiety before an MRI.

What causes anxiety during MRI scans?

Fear of small spaces (claustrophobia)

People may experience anxiety in relation to MRI scans for many reasons. Claustrophobia, or the dread of confined areas, is the cause for certain people.

For those who have experienced panic attacks in the past or get anxious easily, the idea of spending a long time in a tight space might be frightening.

Fear of loud noises

Some people might be concerned about the MRI scanner’s customary loud noises. Some people may find the machine’s pounding, knocking, and buzzing noises unpleasant while it takes photos of the body.

Fear of the unknown

The unknown might contribute to an anxiety-inducing experience for someone even if they don’t have a specific phobia.

Many patients experience worry and uncertainty before getting an MRI procedure because they are unaware of what to expect.

You’re not the only one who experiences anxiety before getting an MRI test.

This article will discuss various methods for lowering anxiety before, during, and after the procedure.

You can have a more positive MRI experience by being well-prepared and using effective coping mechanisms.

How to prepare for an MRI scan to reduce anxiety

You may do numerous actions to lessen anxiety and have a more positive experience if you’re nervous about getting an MRI soon.

Ask your doctor for a prescription for anxiety medication and discuss your anxiety there.

It’s crucial to discuss your anxiety with your doctor and request a prescription for anti-anxiety medication or other sedation options in the first place. This can help calm your anxiety and make the process easier to handle.

It can also be beneficial to bring a friend or family member with you to the appointment for emotional support. Being with someone you can trust might give you a sense of security and comfort.

Dressing comfortably and loosely for the appointment can also help to calm your nerves.

Feelings of discomfort and claustrophobia during the MRI might be exacerbated by wearing restrictive or tight clothing. So, it’s probably a good idea to leave your yoga pants at home!

Additionally, it’s crucial to let the MRI technicians know whether you have any heart problems, metal implants or body piercings. These items may cause damage to the MRI machine and interfere with it.

Finally, doing deep breathing exercises will help you relax and settle your MRI anxiety. Your heart rate can be lowered, and your anxiety levels can be decreased by taking slow, deep breaths.

You can feel more in control and be better ready to handle any anxiety that may surface during the procedure by following these preparation steps for your MRI.

Coping strategies during the MRI scan

You can employ many techniques throughout the MRI scan to control your anxiety and make the procedure more bearable.

One method is to use noise-canceling headphones and listen to white noise or your favorite music. White noise can be used to block out the MRI machine’s noises, while music can be relaxing and distracting.

You can also put on a sleeping mask to keep yourself focused and avoid feelings of MRI claustrophobia.

It can also be beneficial to use visualization and meditation techniques to go to your “peaceful place,” or to concentrate on something in the room. The 333 rule for managing anxiety can be a wonderful tool to use!

Try closing your eyes and visualizing a serene setting, or focus on a specific object in the space while taking deep breaths.

Remembering that the MRI is not uncomfortable and will be over shortly is also crucial.

Even though the process could occasionally seem uncomfortable, it’s vital to remember that it is temporary and done for your health.

Never be shy to tell the MRI technologist if you feel stressed or need a break. They can frequently meet your demands and are there to assist.

By employing these coping mechanisms, you can aid in lowering anxiety and improving the MRI experience.

Follow-up care for managing anxiety after the MRI

It’s normal to feel apprehensive before getting an MRI, but it’s crucial to address these feelings and create a strategy for dealing with worry after the test.

Talk to a therapist about your anxiety and develop a treatment plan

One choice is to discuss your anxiety with a therapist, who may then help you create a treatment strategy.

Your therapist can assist you in pinpointing the underlying causes of your anxiety and developing coping mechanisms for the future.

Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga

Using relaxation methods like yoga or meditation can also be beneficial for controlling anxiety after an MRI.

These activities can assist in calming the mind and lowering tension- and stress-related symptoms.

Reach out to a support group for individuals with anxiety about medical procedures

A helpful resource is getting in touch with an emotional support group for those with anxiety before medical procedures.

Speaking with others who have gone through similar things might help one feel understood and supported.

By following these steps, you can create an anxiety management strategy and have a better experience with future medical procedures.

Tips and Tricks to Minimize MRI Anxiety or Claustrophobia

  • Know what to anticipate
  • Get to know how the MRI machine works
  • Put on an eye mask
  • Bring noise-canceling headphone and listen to calming music
  • Put earplugs in
  • Request a blanket
  • Do breathing exercises and other calming techniques
  • Bring a trusted companion with you
  • Ask your doctor for a mild sedative



In conclusion, MRI scans are crucial for identifying and treating various medical conditions. You can take action to lessen anxiety and have a more positive experience, even if it’s normal to feel nervous about the MRI appointment.

Discussing your anxiety with your doctor and requesting a prescription for a mild sedative can be beneficial.

Wearing loose, comfy attire, wearing a sleep mask, doing deep breathing, and bringing a friend or family member for support can also help.

Other coping mechanisms like music or visualization exercises might help you stave off severe anxiety while you are in the MRI exam room.

Additionally, don’t hesitate to speak with the technician and request a break if you feel overstimulated.

Consider consulting a therapist and using relaxation exercises to handle your anxiousness after the MRI. Don’t forget to seek out a support group as well if you need more assistance.

By adhering to these instructions, you can feel more in control of your anxiety and have a more positive MRI experience.

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