Height Insanity: A Compact Look At What Is Acrophobia? Its Symptoms, Treatment And Diagnosis.

You must have heard about the fear of heights from many people surrounding you. In scientific language fear of heights is called Acrophobia. So, let’s unfold what acrophobia is, what are its symptoms, treatment and prevention.

What is Acrophobia?

Well it is defined as an extreme and unexplained fear of heights especially when a person is not at much of height. People suffering with acrophobia usually experience an intense anxiety or panic attack when they are in high places or even at the thought of being in such situations. The degree of severity of acrophobia varies from person to person, with some experiencing mild discomfort and while others may experience debilitating panic attacks.

An average human faces various kinds of fears like fear of the dark, water, height, death, accidents, etc. Many fears can be tackled easily whereas some fears continue lifelong. Phobia in general is an anxiety disorder. It’s not unusual to feel some discomfort in high places. For example, feeling dizzy or nervous when looking down from the top floor of a skyscraper. But these feelings may not cause panic or prompt you to avoid heights altogether. On the other hand if you have acrophobia, then even thinking about crossing a bridge or seeing a photograph of a mountain and surrounding valley may trigger fear and anxiety. This distress is generally strong enough to affect your daily life.

Some unusual Facts About Acrophobia

  1. We usually think that Acrophobia (fear of heights) is the same as fear of falling. No, that’s not true fear of falling is called Basophobia or Basiphobia. Although they have some similarities like palpitations, sweating, dizziness, etc.
  2. About 3- 6% of the total population of the world suffers actively from Acrophobia.
  3. Women are twice as affected by acrophobia than men.
  4. No complete cure present till date.

Acrophobia (Fear Of Heights) Symptoms

Well the symptoms of Acrophobia can be classified into physical and psychological ones, they are as follows:

Physical symptoms of acrophobia include:

  • Common reactions in an acrophobic are descending immediately from the heighted place, kneeling down and crawling on four limbs, weeping, closed eyes, etc.
  • Increased sweating
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Increased heartbeat at the sight or thought of high places
  • Dizziness, feeling sick or lightheaded when you see or think about heights
  • Shaking and trembling when faced with heights
  • Avoid heights by going out of the way, even if that process makes daily life more difficult.

Psychological symptoms can include:

  • Experiencing panic on seeing high places or thinking about it.
  • Having an extreme fear of being trapped at a heighted place.
  • Facing extreme anxiety and fear when you have to climb stairs, look out a window, or drive along an overpass.
  • Worrying too much about encountering heights in the future.
  • It’s important to note that these symptoms can significantly interfere with daily activities and may require professional treatment if they cause distress or impair functioning.

How To Diagnose That You Have Acrophobia?

Phobias, including acrophobia, can only be diagnosed by a mental health professional. They usually start by asking you to describe what happens when you find yourself faced with heights.

Generally, acrophobia is diagnosed if you exhibit these manifestations:

➔ actively avoid heights
➔ spend a lot of time worrying about encountering heights
➔ find that this time spent worrying starts to affect your daily life
➔ react with immediate fear and anxiety when encountering heights
➔ have these symptoms for more than six months

Also Read: 15 Kinds Of Strange Phobias People Have In Their Life

Acrophobia (Fear of Heights) Treatment

Phobias don’t always require treatment. For some, avoiding the feared object is relatively easy and doesn’t have a big impact on their daily activities. But if you find that your fears are causing hindrance in your day to day work then these options can work for you –

A) Exposure therapy

  • Exposure therapy is considered to be one of the most effective treatments for some specific phobias. In this therapy, you’ll work with a therapist to slowly expose yourself to your triggers, like here it’s fear of heights.
  • For acrophobia, you might start by looking at pictures from the point of view of someone inside a tall building. You might watch video clips of people crossing tightropes, climbing, or crossing narrow bridges.
  • Eventually, you might go out onto a balcony or use a stepladder. By this point, you’ll have learned relaxation techniques to help you conquer your fear in these moments.

B) Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

  • CBT may help if you don’t feel ready to try exposure therapy. In CBT, you’ll work with a therapist to challenge and reframe negative thoughts about heights.
  • This approach may still include a bit of exposure to heights, but this is generally only done within the safe setting of a therapy session.

C) Medication

There are no specific medications which can treat phobias. However, some medications helps in subsiding the symptoms of panic and anxiety, example:

  • Beta-blockers – help by keeping your blood pressure and heart rate at a steady rate and reducing physical symptoms of anxiety.
  • Benzodiazepines – these drugs are sedatives. They usually help in reducing anxiety symptoms, but they’re prescribed for a short time or for occasional use, as they are addictive in nature.
  • D-cycloserine (DCS) – this drug may increase the benefits of exposure therapy. According to a literature review, 22 studies have shown that DCS seemed to help enhance the effects of exposure therapy.

D) Virtual reality

  • In recent years, some experts have turned their attention to virtual reality (VR) as a potential method for treating phobias.
  • An immersive VR experience can provide exposure to what you’re afraid of in a safe setting. Using computer software gives you the option to stop right away if things feel overwhelming.
  • This therapy needs more research but till now it is showing positive feedback from patients suffering from acrophobia and other fears too.

Also Read: Fear of Fido: Unleashing the Mystery of Cynophobia

Like any phobia, Acrophobia (fear of heights), significantly impacts individuals’ daily lives, causing distress and avoidance behaviors. While treatments such as exposure therapy and CBT offer hope for managing symptoms, further research and support are essential to alleviate the burden of this debilitating condition and improve the quality of life for those affected.

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Sonia Solanki

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Sonia Solanki

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