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Acrophobia Fear of Heights

The word acrophobia is derived from the Greek words acron, which means height, and phobos which means fear. Acrophobia can cause a person to fear many things related to being too far above the ground such as climbing a ladder or being on the top floor in a tall building.

As with all phobias, our brains overreact to the fear-producing event which in this case is heights. The thing about being afraid of heights is that it is a natural occurring safety mechanism built into our psyche to protect us from jumping off bridges and cliffs.

If you suffer from a fear of heights, don’t think that you are alone. Millions of people suffer from acrophobia including many famous people such as Sheryl Crow, the singer. Woody Allen and John Madden also suffer from acrophobia.

Fear of high places is one of the most common phobias because it is found in everyone as a safety precaution. The serious issues begin to occur when the natural, healthy emotion becomes a debilitating experience for the person. Everyone reacts differently to the experience but some people become paralyzed by acrophobia and cannot function properly because of the overwhelming need to stay on the ground.

Doctors use many different methods to treat acrophobia such as one-on-one therapy, group therapy and medication. One of the first forms of treatment a therapist will use is to ask the patient to gradually climb stairs or take an elevator ride on an exterior elevator with glass walls.

By facing the fear a little at a time the patient learns to reinstruct the brain to react normally when faced with having to go above ground. This process works over time as the patient gradually and repeatedly performs the exercise.

Relaxation and stress relief techniques are frequently used in therapy sessions with good results. Relaxation techniques may include things such as controlled breathing, muscle relaxation training, guided mental imagery, or soothing music. Therapists also help people who have acrophobia by teaching them to develop coping skills and to manage their fear and anxiety.

The therapist begins this process by helping the patient understand and adjust the thoughts and beliefs that lead to the anxiety and to practice behavioral skills that will increase confidence by gradually and consistently creating real situations and overcoming those situations slowly.

Acrophobia can also be treated medically with different types of drugs most of which are anti-depressants.

Anti-anxiety and anti-depression medications are often used to relieve the symptoms of acrophobia by reducing the level of anxiety experienced by the patient. Drugs such as tranquilizers and anti-depressants as well as drugs known as beta blockers may be used to treat the physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heart and heavy breathing.

Acrophobia is a treatable mental health issue that can be overcome through intense therapy and drugs. People who suffer from acrophobia should consult a health care professional to begin treatment.