NEW HAVEN, CT—A study published Monday in the Journal Of Abnormal Psychology found that individuals who suffer from panic disorders react negatively to being locked in underwater elevators for indefinite periods of time.
According to Dr. Samuel Lepore, who led the Yale University study, test subjects suffering from the disorder experienced full-on panic attacks as soon as the elevators shuddered to a halt, and they exhibited symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, and numbness in the extremities when it became apparent the car was stuck and the emergency call button didn't work.
"Given the results, we can now say conclusively that people who suffer from severe anxiety dislike being trapped in small boxes hundreds of feet under water," said Lepore, who logged more than a thousand hours of clinical study on the subject. "In fact, our research suggests that it makes said individuals experience extreme discomfort with almost no degree of relief."
"Furthermore, statistics showed their displeasure increased exponentially every hour we kept them locked in there," Lepore continued.
Among several external factors found to significantly increase physiological anxiety responses were the flashing of a "warning" signal on the elevator's button panel, suddenly cutting the lights and allowing water to drip in from the ceiling, and shaking the floor to make it seem as though it might give out from underneath the subjects at any moment.
Additionally, participants who had their cell phones confiscated before the test exhibited more frequent heart palpitations than those who simply had their phone batteries surreptitiously removed, while both groups hyperventilated to a similar extent when a frantic "Evacuate now!" warning was broadcast over the intercom.
Those who managed not to pass out when a temperature meter on the elevator wall read "120 degrees" went on to have the strongest panic attacks overall, researchers said.
"Throughout the 200 clinical trials we ran, all participants suffered immensely and reported that they did not enjoy the experience," said Lepore, explaining the results were the same whether the sound of a thrashing great white shark or that of an exploding torpedo was suddenly blasted over loudspeakers as the elevator doors shook violently. "Most interestingly, every single subject appeared to be further agitated when informed that oxygen levels in the elevator were dropping rapidly. Typically, some variance is expected in trial studies, but in this case we found none."
To determine whether their results could be replicated, researchers conducted numerous additional studies. In one experiment, anxiety-prone participants told they were taking part in a sleep study were sedated and transferred to a cockroach-filled casket with their hands and feet bound.
In another, researchers discovered that if they stranded subjects on a stalled ski lift 100 feet in the air just after sunset on a remote, deserted mountain next to a total stranger screaming "OH MY GOD, OH MY GOD, WE'RE GOING TO DIE, WE'RE BOTH GOING TO FUCKING DIE UP HERE," people who have panic disorder—especially when coupled with larger abandonment issues—do not respond positively.
"Although thought-provoking, this research only scratches the surface of what we hope to learn," Lepore said. "I think we're going to need many, many more hours of research in the field with hundreds of participants before we reach any conclusion that can be deemed definitive."