Acrophobia – The Fear Of Heights: The word acrophobia is derived from the Greek word ‘akron’, meaning edge or summit. Acrophobia is rightly defined as an irrational or morbid fear of heights. Many of us feel apprehensive when looking down from a height. However, in those who suffer from acrophobia, this discomfort is intense and brings feelings of panic and agitation that are not within the normal range.
Acrophobia belongs to a specific category of fears referred to as ‘space and motion discomfort’. Many a time, the word ‘vertigo’ is used incorrectly to describe fear of heights. An individual who suffers from vertigo feels dizzy that comes not only when looking down from a height but also due to other stimuli.
Acrophobia is believed to be caused, like other phobias, as a result of constant conditioning or traumatic incident involving heights. However, recent studies have suggested that the fear of heights is inborn and common in many of the mammals.
The word phobia can be used to describe those whose fears are at the very end of the spectrum. Such a fear can disrupt everyday living when the person becomes scared to climb a flight of stairs, or standing on any form of raised platform.
Acrophobia – Fear Of Heights: Introduction
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The psychological symptoms can vary between acrophobics. Some may experience the physical symptoms just by seeing high places or even just thinking about having to go up a high building, structure or place. To others it may be a fear of being trapped and having no escape from somewhere high. Most common, as you’d probably expect, the phobia manefests itself when having to experience being up high. This could be having the climb a ladder or stairs, looking out of a high window or down from a roof, crossing a bridge, climbing a mountain etc. Finally, it’s oftem acompanied by a fear of further encounter with heights again at some point in the future.
Research indicates that a contributing factor to this fear is because of a degree of dysfunction in the ability to maintain balance. Balance is maintained using visual, proprioceptive, and vestibular cues. Even in normal individuals, visual cues are seen to recede in heights. People then rely more on the vestibular and proprioceptive cues for movement. An acrophobic continues to rely more on visual cues which may be due to a wrong strategy or inadequacy of the vestibular and proprioceptive functions. As the visual cortex becomes loaded, confusion sets in.
Symptoms of Acrophobia
Both physically and emotionally, the symptoms of acrophobia are similar to other phobias.The acrophobic experiences (amongst other symptoms):
- Panic attacks.
- Involuntary shaking.
- Shortness of breath.
The acrophobic may or may not experience symptoms of vertigo. However, a sense of panic sets in that may cause the individual to look for something to cling on, lower the body, crawl on all fours, and even stop moving.The mind becomes paralyzed with fear and it becomes difficult to think further.
Acrophobics dread future situations wherein they may have to spend even some time at heights, for example, even driving over a bridge, using the balconies in houses, staying in a hotel room on a higher floor, etc.
Acrophobia – Treatment Options
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular treatment choice for the disorder. Techniques where the acrophobic is gradually exposed to a simulated situation (using virtual reality) or even actually exposed to heights and taught to rationalize and react (systematic desensitization) positively are used.
Alternately, a rapid flooding method is sometimes seen to be useful. The virtual reality method is seen as a savings in both time and money as there is no need for a therapist to accompany the sufferer to the location.
Anti-anxiety medications, tranquilizers, or other drugs may be prescribed to combat the physical symptoms but will not cure the underlying psychological cause of the problem. They may also cause side effects that may have to be handled in an appropriate fashion.
Herbal and homeopathic treatments are favored by some as they offer relief from the physical symptoms without the uneasy side effects. Lavender and passionflower are herbs that help to soothe nerves. Bryonia alba and Gelsemium are homeopathic ingredients among others that help to combat dizziness, nausea, and sweating.
Fear Of Heights – Self Help Treatment
A fear of heights is one of the more common phobias. As such there are a number of top quality treatment solutions. Remenber – it CAN be overcome!
One treatment option we think is worth considering is a self-hypnosis program called simply Overcome Fear Of Heights. It’s delivered as an audio download so it can be followed at your own pace and in your own time. It can also be repeated as often as required. What we really like is the fact that it costs less than $15 and is fully guaranteed to work. This means that if you’re still an Acrophobic after 90 days you can get your money back in full with no questions asked.
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