What is Fear Of Heights or Acrophobia: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Diagnosis

What is Fear of Heights or Acrophobia?

Are you afraid when you are at a height? Do you close your eyes when your rides involve higher altitudes? Is there anxiety feeling when you get to know that you are high off the ground?

If your maximum answers are yes then you are suffering from acrophobia, which is fear of heights.

Acrophobia is an intense fear of heights which can lead to anxiety and panic. It is one of the most common phobias.(1) Most of us might be afraid of high places, but that does not mean we completely avoid heights or get panicked on even thinking about high places.

What Causes Fear of Heights or Acrophobia?

What Causes Fear of Heights or Acrophobia?

Fear of heights or Acrophobia might develop after a traumatic experience involving height such as:

  • Fall from a height
  • Having seen someone else fall from a high place
  • A negative experience when at a height

Sometime there might not be any known cause. Genetic or environmental factors may be responsible for Fear of heights or Acrophobia. If someone in the family suffers from acrophobia chances would be high of you suffering from it.

Symptoms of Fear of Heights of Acrophobia

The main symptom of Fear of heights or Acrophobia is panic and anxiety which are triggered by extreme heights. Some may even fear any kind of height including a stool or a small step ladder.

There may be the development of both physical and psychological symptoms.

Physical symptoms of Fear of heights or Acrophobia include:

  • Sweating, chest pain, tightness in the chest, increased heartbeat
  • Lightheadedness
  • Trembling and shaking on reaching heights
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Losing balance when looking down from the height or even when looking up to a high place
  • Avoiding height even if this habit is disrupting the daily routine

Psychological symptoms of Fear of heights or Acrophobia include:

  • Fear of being trapped up at a height
  • Worrying about encountering heights in future
  • Panic on seeing high places
  • Anxiety on looking out of the window or while driving along an overpass
  • Crying or yelling
  • Feeling terrified or paralyzed

How is Fear of Heights or Acrophobia Diagnosed?

Any kind of phobia can be diagnosed by a mental health professional. It is analyzed on the basis of the symptoms that you are acrophobic. Such as:

  • If you are seen avoiding height actively
  • Worrying about encountering heights
  • Worry affecting your daily life
  • Fear and anxiety which crop up immediately on encountering height.

How is Fear of Heights or Acrophobia Treated?

Phobias mostly do not require any treatment. Most of the time avoiding them does not cause much impact in daily activities.

But for those who are really troubled because of the fear, the following treatment can prove to be helpful.

Exposure Therapy

This therapy involves exposing the person to what he is afraid of. The therapist slowly introduces the view of a picture of someone inside a tall building or he might make the individual watch video clips of people crossing tightropes, climbing and crossing a narrow bridge.

Eventually, he would make the person go out onto a balcony or climb a step ladder.

The therapy gradually reduces the fear or helps you conquer the anxiety in these moments.

Cognitive (CBT)

Cognitive behavior therapy works well for those who are not ready for exposure therapy. The therapist challenges or reframes the negative thoughts about the height. There may be exposure therapy involved along in which the person is exposed to height. But it is done much later after completing a few sessions of CBT.

Medications

Sometimes beta-blockers or sedatives are given for short-term relief. This relieves anxiety and panic.

Relaxation Techniques

Certain relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, and progressive muscle relaxation might help an individual to cope with the anxiety. Regular exercise might also help get over with the fear.

Talk to your doctor about the fear and if he is not much familiar with the treatment, get referred to a mental health professional. Never be embarrassed of talking about your fear with friend and family. They might be of help or support to you in getting rid of the fear.

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