The word Acrophobia has been derived from two Greek words, namely ‘Acron’ and ‘Phobia’ that mean ‘Height’ and ‘Fear’ respectively. Therefore, the term Acrophobia refers to the fear of heights. In general, most people experience a certain amount of natural fear of heights that is called the fear of falling. This is different from Acrophobia which is a condition wherein a person gets panic attacks even at the slightest of height. Acrophobia fits in that segment of phobias when a person has space and motion uneasiness.
What causes Acrophobia?
The basic explanation behind a person developing Acrophobia is the natural fear of falling which keeps on growing and improving. This fear for falling also comes along with the fear of getting hurt and injured due to this fall that they are scared of. This natural fear gets converted into Acrophobia when this fear gets to an extreme condition possibly due to unintended learning, a generalization of the fright response, or the consequence of a traumatic occurrence or experience. Sometimes after seeing someone fall from height and dying or getting hurt can also lead to this phobia.
In certain cases, it has also been noticed that this phobia can be passed on from parents to their kids.
What are the symptoms of Acrophobia?
The symptoms of Acrophobia are as severe as the phobia itself. This fear can be very excessive and unrealistic. The most general symptoms can be anxiety, panic, and fear. Others can be panic attacks, headaches, muscle tension or dizziness. These symptoms can worsen further. Most common and severe symptoms are:
- Vertigo (medical condition when a person develops dizziness)
- Shortness of breath
- Tachypnea or Rapid breathing
- Rapid heartbeat (Palpitation)
- Excessive sweating
- Trembling and shaking
- Unable to think and speak properly
What is the treatment of Acrophobia?
Since this is a phobia and is a mentally developed state, to get rid of this state is very difficult and takes a lot of time and patience, devotion and commitment. The treatment involves medication as well as various therapies.
Combinations of various medicines can be given to the patients to help cure basic symptoms and to remove anxiety and uneasiness.
Following methods can be used to treat Acrophobia:
- Medication: This is a very important part of the treatment. However, the medication part does not go along and has to be accompanied with other therapies in the treatment. The medicines that are majorly used are anti-anxiety and anti-depressant medicines to manage acrophobia.
- System Desensitization and Exposure Therapy: It is one of the most successful therapies when it comes to dealing acrophobia. In this therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to any object that he is scared of and tries to curb his or her fear gradually. In this therapy, the therapist starts off with a lighter task depending upon the level of acrophobia that the patient might have, such as climbing stairs. The therapist lets the person know that climbing stairs will not hurt him and is just as normal as walking. Here the role of the therapist is highly crucial as he tries to understand the fear of the patient first before going on to the therapy. He tries to understand what is making the person so fearful. Then he gives a task to the person and helps him challenge his own self and then slowly and gradually increases the level of difficulty so that the person develops easiness for those tasks. Along with these techniques, the therapist also follows relaxation methods. The therapist teaches the client certain relaxing techniques such as breathing control, mental visualization and muscle relaxation. The prime motive behind this is to inculcate a habit of being relaxed when confronted with a fearful situation or panic attack.
- Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT): This therapy focuses on understanding negative thoughts and recognizing images associated with the fear of heights. Here the therapist tries to replace those negative thoughts with positive ones through counseling The prime objective of this therapy is to help the patient inculcate a positive behavior and get rid of fearful behavior.
Acrophobia is a very serious form of phobia and the level can be different for different people. However, this can be reduced and even removed after a lot of patience, self-control, dedication, self-assessment and recognition.