Acrophobia is a phobia that affects millions of individuals worldwide. It is the second most common phobia. 

Circumstances such as approaching balconies in high-rise buildings can be intimidating. The phobia might make it challenging to carry out regular tasks. We look at acrophobia and discuss which treatments and therapy can be used to overcome it.

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Price Comparison In-Person vs. Online Therapy

If you’re seeking therapy for acrophobia, you can get results with both in-person and online therapy. However, the latter is more cost-effective. A therapist may charge you $50 to $200 for one session. Depending on how many sessions you need, this can be very expensive. 

Online platforms like BetterHelp are much cheaper. BetterHelp pricing is $60 to $90 per week which includes a lot of features for therapy and support. 

In-Person Therapy BetterHelp
$50 to $200 per session

$60 to $90 weekly

1 live session weekly

$240 to $360 monthly

4 live sessions monthly

Get 10% off on BetterHelp.com

Acrophobia

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What is Acrophobia?

Acrophobia, or the irrational fear of heights, is a fairly common phobia. The name acrophobia is derived from the Greek words “acron,” which means “height,” and “phobos,” meaning “fear.”

Furthermore, acrophobic individuals experience discomfort at higher heights, such as uneasiness or dizziness when they gaze down from the top of a high-rise structure. 

Not only that, but thinking about crossing a bridge can cause anxiety, fear, and panic in people who have acute acrophobia. This stress has a detrimental impact on the individual’s physical health and everyday productivity.

Acrophobia is a particular phobia that falls within the  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classification systems (DSM-V) and International Categorization of Diseases (ICD-10). 

The anticipatory anxiety that underpins acrophobia separates it from physiological height vertigo. The avoidance of heights and objective hazards places the phobia on the most severe end of the spectrum, including provoked panic episodes.

Cause of Acrophobia

Acrophobia develops as a result of the fear of falling off from a great height. However, the vicious spiral associated with the illness may be what makes acrophobia symptoms so-called “dynamic.” 

In other words, anxiety causes co-contraction of the anti-gravity muscles in a person’s attempt to maintain postural stability. 

Research has revealed that anxiety and fear of falling may be to blame for behavioral changes. This causes greater sensitivity to sensorimotor balance, and the body may sway rigorous, which worsens emotional imbalance and heightens the original concern.

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Symptoms of Acrophobia

Acrophobia is characterized by the following physical and psychological symptoms:

  • Chest ache
  • Rise in heartbeats when exposed to or thinking about high areas
  • Sweating
  • Trembling and shaking
  • Excessive anxiety and terror
  • Panicking while viewing high areas or thinking about going up to a high spot
  • Feeling nauseous or lightheaded when contemplating heights
  • Being terrified of being confined somewhere high above
  • Excessive concern about potential encounters with heights

Treatments & Therapy To Overcome It

The good news is that acrophobia can be overcome with effort and time. Acrophobia, like other phobias such as trypophobia or entomophobia, may only be diagnosed by a mental health professional, such as a team of qualified counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists. 

Professional help can aid individuals in determining an accurate diagnosis and determining the extent to which the stressed mental condition impacts daily living. 

In order to diagnose acrophobia detailed questions are asked about the person’s experiences, background, and symptoms. In order to be diagnosed with acrophobia, individuals must have had a persistent fear and anxiety of heights for at least six months. 

There are several acrophobia therapy methods available. Several studies have shown that exposure can help people with acrophobia manage their fear of heights more efficiently. This might include behavioral treatment as well as its subtype, cognitive-behavioral therapy. 

However, another strategy, such as guided mastery, may be more beneficial than frequent exposure alone. Guided mastery is similar to exposure treatment, but with the added benefit of therapist instruction or direction. 

This is significant because such a line of therapy might supplement even more innovative options, such as virtual reality. If a person suffering from acrophobia wants to overcome it, one of the following therapies may be considered.

Fear of Heights

CBT

Cognitive-behavioral therapy, also known as CBT, is one of the most used treatments for acrophobia. Behavioral strategies that expose the client to the dreaded situation are used in this type of therapy. 

Behavioral approaches that gradually or immediately expose individuals to a frightening event are widely utilized. Individuals will also learn how to halt the reaction and restore emotional control. ​

These behavioral strategies can be utilised gradually or abruptly, and the patient is taught how to halt the frantic reaction and restore emotional control. At the same time, direct exposure to heights is also used to treat acrophobia. 

Psychologists may also involve the patient in cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT), in which the healthcare professional eliminates any negative beliefs linked with heightened places and locations in the patient’s head.

VR Therapy Play

Some study suggests that virtual reality can be just as helpful as other recommended therapy. Virtual reality saves both money and time. However, it is not widely available. As the cost of virtual reality equipment falls, this type of treatment may become more accessible over time.

Virtual reality has emerged as a more promising method for dealing with phobias of all kinds. Its distinctiveness arises from the fact that several studies have shown it to be as successful as cognitive-behavioral treatment, and therapists have complete control over exposure factors. 

Furthermore, virtual reality treatments imitate real-life scenarios and can elicit physiological reactions such as sweating while reducing objective hazards or increased heart rate.

Historically, the most common treatment has been real exposure to heights. However, a 2020 research study found that virtual reality might be just as effective. The elimination of the condition for an on-site therapist presence is a significant benefit of virtual reality treatment.

This approach is not available everywhere, but as the cost of virtual reality equipment falls, it will certainly become more accessible in the future.

Exposure Therapy

Other acrophobia treatment options include procedures such as exposure therapy, which encourages people to participate in real-life circumstances such as climbing a ladder in order to overcome their fear of heights.

Exposure therapy entails progressively exposing a person to the circumstance, item, or another thing that is generating their fear and assisting them in adapting to it. It may just take a few sessions of treatment, with the eventual objective of the person facing their fear.

Flooding is a type of exposure treatment in which a person is exposed to the most intense degree of their fear all at once. Exposure treatment can also be done in stages across several sessions. This therapy is carried out in collaboration with a qualified mental health practitioner. 

The purpose of exposure therapy is to eliminate the fear reaction by exposing someone to their feared stimuli in a safe atmosphere.

Hypnotherapy

Hypnotherapy consists of assisting a person in entering a highly relaxed condition. The therapist will next employ guided imagery and suggestive strategies to assist the individual in unlearning the fear reaction to the phobia.

Anecdotal research shows that hypnosis and hypnotism may be beneficial in overcoming acrophobia. A more scientific study, however, is required to fully comprehend hypnotherapy’s potential advantages.

Relaxation

You can cope with anxiety and stress by practicing deep breathing, yoga, exercise on a regular basis, progressive muscle relaxation, or meditation.

Final Thoughts

Most individuals are terrified of heights, but for some, this fear may be crippling, which means they have acrophobia. 

Acrophobic persons avoid high locations because they feel acute anxiety or panic episodes when they are exposed to them. This phobia can be treated with treatment or a combination of therapy and medicine. 

Consult your doctor about which medication and therapies may be beneficial to you. If your doctor is unfamiliar with the condition, consider a mental health specialist who can assist you.

Josiane Camilleri

Josiane Camilleri

Professor

Writer for Therapy Hunter as well as psychology
professor at Malta University.

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