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Fear of heights (acrophobia) treatment

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

Fear of heights, acrophobia

Fears are usually emotions that are triggered by your subconscious mind in order to protect you. We experience fears because the human mind was designed with survival as its most important priority priority however when this fear becomes irrational in such a way that its triggered on situations that can't harm you then its called a disorder.

Fear of heights or acrophobia is an irrational fear of heights. A person suffering from acrophobia may become very anxious in high buildings, when climbing a ladder or when looking down from a window.

One thing that may seem confusing to acrophobic people is that hey may not fear the heights that they already got used to. For example a person suffering from fear of heights might not find problems in looking from his room's window but he may become anxious when being at the same height in a different place.

What’s dangerous about acrophobia is that the person may experience a panic attack when being at the high place and so may be unable to control himself up there.

What causes fear of heights (acrophobia)

Acrophobia may be caused by a traumatic experience with heights that happened at your past (maybe when you were a child) like falling from a high place.

your unconscious mind triggers the feelings of fear each time you approach a high place in order to protect you (to prevent the past trauma from reoccurring).

fear of heights (acrophobia) treatment

There are many ways to treat phobias,one very effective method is called systematic desensitization.

Systematic desensitization is a method of therapy that is helpful in treating anxiety and phobias without involving sudden direct exposure unlike the case of exposure therapy.

In systematic desensitization the fearful situation is divided into levels and each level is experienced alone until you can feel relaxed while facing it. if you managed to go through a certain level successfully you should then move onto the next level and do the same until you end up feeling relaxed while facing your worst fears.

In the case of fear of heights you can divide the levels according to the floors in a certain building. For example Level one could be looking from the window of the first floor. Level two could be looking from the window of the second floor and so on.

Cognitive behaviour therapy can also be used to treat fear of heights. Cognitive behaviour therapy works on altering the way you think and so by changing your thoughts your unwanted emotions aren't going to be triggered at all.

Final words on acrophobia

Bear in mind that fear of heights in general could appear rational because after all falling is something bad but the problem happens when this fear stops you from doing your normal daily tasks or from living a happy life. In such a case you should seek treatment for acrophobia.

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