Acrophobia is the fear of heights. People who have this fear may avoid climbing ladders, being on roofs of buildings, driving over mountains or bridges, and sometimes stairwells and railings. The origin of the word acro is Greek (meaning high, highest, highest point, top or tip end) and phobia is Greek (meaning fear). Acrophobia is considered to be a specific phobia. Acrophobia is also known as Altophobia and related to Aeroacrophobia (Fear of open high places).
It is generally accepted that acrophobia arises from a combination of external events (i.e. traumatic events relating to heights) and internal predispositions (i.e. heredity or genetics). Many specific phobias can be traced back to a specific triggering event, usually a traumatic experience at an early age. Social phobias and agoraphobia have more complex causes that are not entirely known at this time. It is believed that heredity, genetics, and brain chemistry combine with life experiences to play a major role in the development of phobias.
The symptoms of acrophobia vary by person depending on their level of fear. acrophobia symptoms include:
The symptoms of acrophobia are likely to occur when you:
Below, we have listed the types of treatment that might be recommended for acrophobia.
There is a variety of meditation methods that exist that can be beneficial for a person suffering from acrophobia. To be specific, mindfulness meditation has been proven to be advantageous in helping someone enter a more equanimous state. There are a number of ways with which you can implement mindfulness meditation and there are also a number of meditation applications for your smartphone that are developed to make things as simple as possible.
Mindfulness can be of significant help for those who are affected by acrophobia because it helps them distract themselves from their phobia or fear of heights by focusing their attention onto something else, such as focusing on breathing. This is a basic way for how one can meditate and be present.
While in the midst of a panic attack, someone with acrophobia could redirect their attention to the different sensations felt when breathing in and out which can actually aid in decreasing the amount of mental anguish endured during an episode of anxiety.
To help relieve one’s symptoms of acrophobia, one could implement mindful meditation by focusing on how the muscles in your chest and abdomen tighten and loosen with every exhale and inhale. Dwell on how it feels as your chest increases in size during each inhale and how it shrinks in with every exhale.
Besides putting your attention on breathing, you could also focus on what you hear around you, how your skin feels when you touch specific things, how certain foods taste, and how specific things smell. Basically, concentrating on your 5 senses can drastically help you get rid of some anxiety that acrophobia is associated with. Also, don't forget it will take patience and practice to become a proficient meditator. The key is to practice and be patient with yourself.
Exposure therapy is a very common way to treat anxiety disorders like acrophobia. It has the potential to be a quick successful way to help desensitize a patient to their fears. It's extremely important that the therapist conducting the exposure therapy be very adept. As an example, if the therapist were to expose the patient with acrophobia slightly to their fear, it may not be effective because the patient already has small desensitization and may need a greater amount of exposure to really trigger something worthwhile of a change.
The same can be said for the antithesis of this scenario. If the therapist were to expose the patient with acrophobia excessively to their fear, it could be highly counterproductive to the point where their acrophobia may become increasingly worse. So, it is extremely important that the therapist conducting the exposure therapy for a patient with acrophobia is very sure of just how extreme their symptoms are so that they can understand the amount of exposure that the patient can endure.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a psycho-social intervention that targets to better one’s mental health. It is commonly used to treat those suffering from anxiety disorders like generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. Someone with acrophobia could benefit from CBT and determine how it could help them to have a more knowledgeable understanding as to why act and think the way they do when it comes to their irrational fears.
CBT can be extremely beneficial for someone with acrophobia given the uncontrollable symptoms. For example, when someone with acrophobia is exposed to heights, most likely they will instantaneously have a subconscious reaction to their fear of heights. The absence of introspection is likely a big reason why someone with acrophobia will suffer to the extent that they will. CBT can help you dissect your fear better than you typically could.
Besides putting in the effort of understanding one’s specific fears, someone with acrophobia engaged in CBT may also acquire different skills aimed at assisting to alleviate the anxiety caused by acrophobia.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is an extremely effective method of treatment for people struggling with regulating their emotions. It is typically used to treat those with borderline personality disorder. It can also be very beneficial for someone suffering from acrophobia. This is because of the numerous coping skills you can learn in a DBT group. These groups are usually 6 months long and may have two people to several participants.
An effective DBT technique for helping someone with acrophobia is half-smiling. This tactic works by making you think about heights while you lightly raise the ends of your mouth by smiling slightly, thus the term “half-smiling.” Although, it may not be enough to just think about your fear of heights while half-smiling, you also have to try to stop entertaining those hurtful emotions that your fear may evoke.
DBT heavily uses mindful meditation and can immensely benefit someone with acrophobia as it is conducted in a group setting, which helps to get the patient out of their comfort zone. These practices of group mindfulness may include consuming a warm tea to focus on the sense of taste and tactile senses or simply concentrating on the breath.
Another useful DBT technique that can help someone with acrophobia is coping ahead. The ideal setting for coping ahead is somewhere where you can sit down quietly without any distractions. Shut your eyes and think about the variety of situations where you would face your fear of heights and overcome it or cope with it. This will help a lot with coping with acrophobia when you are actually exposed to heights it in real life.
Hypnoanalysis (Hypnotherapy) is a type of therapy by which a person, with the assistance of a trained specialist, has his/her subconscious mind opened to suggestions for the purpose of changing one or more behavior patterns. When the subconscious is spoken to directly, it may be possible to find the issue triggering the phobia and introduce new ideas and positive suggestions. These positive suggestions may then be used to help make the changes you desire, such as being able to freely go to the doctor. Teaching the mind to attach different feelings to doctors, needles, or medical treatments can usually be accomplished in several sessions. Some people do not like people playing with their minds. However, hypnoanalysis (hypnotherapy) is considered to be safe and works fast. Hypnoanalysis (Hypnotherapy) has been approved as a method of therapy since 1958 by the American Medical Association.
NLP is basically the study and practice of how we create our reality. The basic premise of NLP is that the words we use reflect an inner, subconscious perception of our problems. If these words and perceptions are inaccurate, they will create an underlying problem as long as we continue to use and think of them. Our attitudes are, in a sense, a self-fulfilling prophecy. In this therapy, a neuro-linguistic therapist will analyze every word and phrase you use in describing your acrophobia symptoms or concerns about your health. He or she will examine your facial expressions and body movements. After determining problems in your perception, the therapist will help you understand the root cause. The therapist will help you remodel your thoughts and mental associations in order to fix your preconceived notions. These preconceived notions may be keeping you from achieving the success you deserve.
Energy Psychology is a type of therapy that uses various techniques, such as acupressure, yoga, tai chi, prana, qi gong, and energy medicine, which teach people simple steps for making changes in their lives. The techniques stimulate energy points on the surface of the skin which, when paired with specific psychological procedures, can shift the brain’s electrochemistry. While this type of therapy is still a controversial area, it appears to be very helpful with dealing with acrophobia.
Medicine can be prescribed, but please note that these medications can have side effects and/or withdrawal systems that can be severe. It is also important to note that medicines do not cure acrophobia, at best they only temporarily suppress the systems. However, there are treatments for acrophobia, which include counseling, hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, and Neuro-Linguistic programming.
While it is recommended that you see a specialist for acrophobia, listed below are some helpful tips that may help you cope.