Having extreme irrational fear of heights is not unusual. According to the phobia dictionary, the specific name for this fear is acrophobia. A person who suffers from acrophobia will avoid situations that are higher than just a few feet off the ground.
A person who suffers from acrophobia often suffers a panic attack whenever they are presented with a situation where they’re very high off the ground. These people will insist on getting down quickly and may even present the fear that they will fall from the height. However, they will behave perfectly normal when their feet are firmly planted on the ground. They may not present signs of anxiety by looking at high structures such as skyscrapers or tall roller coasters.
A person who suffers from acrophobia will present both physical and psychological symptoms. Some physical symptoms that may manifest are the typical symptoms of anxiety. These include tremors, nervousness, difficulty swallowing, dry mouth, feeling of construction in their chest, difficulty breathing, headaches, and muscle aches. The person may also have heart palpitations and feel as though they are missing heartbeats.
Sometimes a person who suffers from acrophobia will also begin to hyperventilate which will lead to dizziness. They may also feel a tingling sensation in their hands and feet most specifically in their fingers and toes.
The psychological symptoms for person with acrophobia include fear at the anticipation of having an anxiety attack. Even the thought of going up high can trigger anxiety. Because of this, they can become a sensitive to noises, maybe restless, irritable, or lack concentration at what they’re doing.
There are several different ways to treat acrophobia. The most common way, based on information from the phobia dictionary, to treat this fear is through systemized desensitization. Therapists make the person face the fear starting with something simple such as seeing a photo of a high place. As he or she goes through therapy, the patient may be asked to write down how he or she is feeling when confronted with pictures or video of high places. The patient may be asked to list all situations in which anxiety begins. This could be writing a roller coaster, climbing to the top of a tall building, being on an airplane, or standing on an unstable bridge. Being able to pinpoint what high situations cause anxiety will help the therapist to work with the patient to desensitize him or her to those situations.
Sheryl Crow is one well known person who fears heights. It goes to show, even celebrities have even common fears like everyone else.
Once the therapist knows, what the triggers are and how the patient feels when those triggers are presented treatment can take place. During sensitized desensitization, therapy patients will learn relaxation techniques that will help them cope with their anxiety when presented with these situations. The patient will learn how to relax their whole body when confronted with a high area. The relaxation techniques will be continued throughout all of the sessions to reinforce the learned technique.
As therapy progresses, there will be actual exposure to these high situations. When therapy begins a video or picture will be the only thing shown, however therapists will insist that patients climb on the rickety bridge, get on the airplane, or ride the roller coaster. The exposure will start with the least intimidating situation and gradually build to the situation in which the anxiety is at its peak. A good therapist will not insist on moving past and intimidating situation to the next most intimidating situation until that previously intimidating situation has been conquered. This type of therapy, which is the most effective for those that suffer from acrophobia, may take months or even years to complete.
Acrophobia is a very common fear. There are treatments for those who want to conquer their fear of heights as long as this person is willing to work with their therapist to conquer their fears. Generally, medication is not prescribed for people suffering from acrophobia as some anti-anxiety medications cause drowsiness and dizziness and would not make it safe for the person to be exposed to a high area.