Fear of heights lies deep in the subconscious. From the point of view of evolution, this fear is necessary for a person to quickly mobilize its resources in order to ensure correct behavior in a dangerous situation. Norm and pathology are separated by a thin line which everyone can cross. Thus, many people experience heavy emotions even in a situation not connected to a real opportunity to suffer from being on height. Such manifestations allow us to draw a conclusion about the development of an individual acrophobia, which is an obsessive state characterized by fear of being at a high altitude.
What Is Acrophobia?
Acrophobia is a fear, which could not be understood, logically explained and controlled by the patient. Phobia takes over a person’s life and makes him avoid certain situations, thereby provoking partial social isolation. To some extent, a person is deprived of freedom. He cannot safely walk on high bridges, go to a ski resort and refuses to travel by air. Such persons often do not accept invitations to visit their relatives or friends only because they live on the upper floors of houses. The patient has a fear of stairs, balconies and transparent floors in buildings. Once in any of these places, an acrophobe begins to experience panic. He falls to the ground and covers his face with his hands. He feels dizzy, experience tightness in the chest and he is near fainting. The somatic symptoms of acrophobia also include shortness of breath (in the absence of physical activity), frequent heartbeat, nausea, trembling in the body, increased sweating, “lump” in the throat. In case of a sharp fall after the deterioration of the physical condition, an acrophobe can injured, so the person should be accompanied by someone in dangerous places for safety. Psychological manifestations of the fear of heights are:
- constant fussiness, irritability;
- aggression, anger;
- contemplating about dangerous situations;
- frequent anxiety, bad feelings;
- inability to sleep for a long time;
- inability to concentrate.
Psychiatric studies show that 80% of acrophobes are convinced that they are not able to control their thoughts and actions when they are at height. At the same time, the test person thinks that the fall down is inevitable. According to the patients, sometimes they feel the desire to jump down. Studies have also shown that none of the patients were susceptible to depressive disorders and did not intend to commit suicide.
Note!Physiological symptoms patients are often misinterpreted and the patient seeks for help of specialists such as a cardiologist or gastroenterologist. However, to get rid of acrophobia completely, you should contact a psychotherapist. At the same time, you need to be ready to take an active part in your recovery.
Development of the Phobia and Ways to Treat It
The exact cause of the manifestation of this disorder has not been revealed to date, but it is known that acrophobia can develop under the influence of several factors.
- Manifestation of organic brain disorder as a result of injuries, inflammations or infections.
- Heredity. In the presence of mental disorders in parents, the probability of developing phobias in a child is very high.
- Exposure to toxic substances.
- By-past stressful situations.
With a pronounced manifestation of psychological symptoms of the fear of heights, the patient excessively focuses on his feelings. As a result, depression develops. At the initial stage of treatment, such patients are too suspicious, they do not believe in a successful outcome and doubt the correctness of the chosen methods. The best option in overcoming the fear of heights is a combination of medications and psychotherapeutic sessions. Treatment with antidepressants should last at least six months. Tranquilizers are prescribed for up to two weeks. Among the most effective psychotherapeutic methods are systematic desensitization, paradoxical intention, psychoanalysis, and cognitive behavioral therapy.
It is necessary to clearly distinguish pathological and natural fear of height. Even a person with a completely healthy mind can feel unwell when in the mountains or feel anxious before jumping with a parachute. The normal form of anxiety is adequate to the existing situation, while the pathological fear of being at a height is not related to the real threat.