Telly hardman Ant Middleton has confessed that he secretly suffers from a fear of small ­spaces – and is terrified of lifts.

The former elite soldier – star of hit Channel 4 show SAS: Who Dares Wins – admitted that getting in an elevator can bring him “close to a panic attack”.

The SBS veteran revealed: “I suffer from claustrophobia – not an ideal ­condition to have when you’re in the Special Forces.

“I’m OK in crowds, but could you put me into the boot of a car without me flipping out? No. Could I spend any meaningful time in a small caving tunnel? No.

“A small lift is enough to bring me close to a panic attack – those moments when you find yourself taking long, deliberate breaths to try to keep yourself calm.” He explained: “I hate the lack of ­control. When I get into those situations, I’m immediately looking for the exit route.

The telly hardman is terrified of confined spaces

“If I enter a lift and I know I’m ­completely locked in, that’s when I say to myself, ‘F***, if something goes wrong, I’m going to have to prise those doors open. Breathe, breathe, breathe, breathe: whatever you do, don’t stop.’

“If there’s a little cubby hole, something that gives me more space to ­escape, then I’m OK with it.

“If I’m crawling through a tunnel and I can see a light at its end, I’m fine. I know there’ll be enough air.

“If it’s bendy and I can’t see the exit, then I’m in trouble and I know I’ll have to work really hard to calm myself down.”

Ant says suffering from claustrophobia can be especially difficult when you're in the Special Forces

Ant, 39, revealed his fear in his new book Zero Negativity: The Power of Positive Thinking. He admits that now that he is no longer an active soldier he tries to avoid situations where he could find himself in confined spaces.

He said: “I’ve got better and better at coping with claustrophobia over the years.

“In my old life there were times when I’d no choice but to put myself through it, and on those occasions I was able to exert the self-control needed to succeed.

The hardman tries to avoid situations where he could find himself in confined spaces

“Now, however, I’ve reached a point where I ask myself, ‘how much of my life am I really going to be spending in these sorts of small, confined spaces?’ The answer is – not much.

“So is it worth expending vast amounts of my time and energy ­confronting this fear? Probably not. It doesn’t affect my career, it’s not ­stopping me from being a good ­husband or father and it’s not preventing me doing anything I love.”

Ant added: “When I struggled with fear and found myself not wanting to go back to Afghanistan, I had to ­confront it, because I risked losing ­everything I loved doing.

Ant has been getting better and better at coping with claustrophobia over the years

“I had to ask myself if I was willing to sacrifice my training, the belonging I felt as part of that unit, to the fact that I was scared. No, I wasn’t willing to abandon any of it, so I worked on it, I challenged it until I had defeated it.

“Claustrophobia is different. At the time, it was manageable and I knew I could just drag it along with me.

“Now I simply steer clear of any ­situation where I think I’m likely to feel that discomfort.”