I often hear people say they "feel claustrophobic" (e.g. in a lift). This sounds wrong. To me, one is claustrophobic, or one feels claustrophobia.

Am I correct in assuming the expression "to feel claustrophobic" is technically incorrect, and should instead be "to feel claustrophobia"?

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    No. 'I feel (adj)' is actually the more common, just like 'I am (adj)', 'I remain (adj)'. "I feel blue", "I feel strange". 'I feel (generic noun)' is less common (but sounds a little off here: 'I feel claustrophobia' almost gives that fear a palpable, objectified existence, like you sense the entirety of all claustrophobia, the true essence of claustrophobia, rather than what is intended, which is just that you get anxious in a tightly closed spaces, and this is better stated as "I feel claustrophobic". – Mitch May 19 '13 at 1:45
  • To the questioner: Can you explain why “feel claustrophobic” sounds wrong to you? Is it something about that particular word? Medical conditions in general? Can you give examples of other things that are common in English but sound wrong to you? – Bradd Szonye May 19 '13 at 5:01
  • They mean different things. In what the OP seems to mean in the context, the adjective is appropriate, not the noun. The sentence with a noun has its uses. – Kris May 19 '13 at 6:19
  • Is a diagnosed claustrophobic who never goes in a confined space not still feeling like a claustrophobe? By analogy, "I'm an alcoholic; I haven't had a drink in 10 years!" – DJohnM May 19 '13 at 7:08

While you certainly can feel a condition like claustrophobia, English writers overwhelmingly prefer the adjectival form to express the feeling. The same is true for other conditions like fever.

Rarest – feel fever:

She could feel fever burning in her mouth and forehead, her hands dry and throbbing on the wheel.

Rare – feel a fever:

Take 1 teaspoon of this mixture when you feel a fever coming on.

Common – feel feverish:

About three days after the “accident,” I continued to feel feverish.

Often, there's a difference in meaning between the adjectival and noun form. For example, feeling wet is very different from feeling water. That's because feeling an adjective tells you about the sensation, whereas feeling a noun tells you about the source or cause of the sensation (and may imply a judgment or conclusion about it).

  • Which has me wondering: Is this an example of “Show, don't tell”? – Bradd Szonye May 19 '13 at 4:36

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