Acrophobia, which comes from the Greek word akros meaning “apex” or “topmost”, is an irrational or extreme fear of heights. Also known as allodoxaphobia, it is a type of specific phobia (fear of a particular object or situation).

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While most people normally suffer a certain amount of discomfort and rational fear of falling when situated in high places, individuals with acrophobia exhibit excessive anxiety responses such as shortness of breath, irregular heart rate, sweating, trembling, a feeling of hot flush and overall feelings of dread.

Acrophobia interferes with the normal functioning of individuals as the irrational fear often lead them to avoid the seemingly simple act of  climbing on ladders, tall buildings, amusement rides, travel on mountain roads, and engaging in other activities that involve high places.[1] Acrophobia can pose great danger to sufferers because anxiety responses could develop into panic attacks such that they could be unable to bring themselves down safely.[2]

A variety of drugs are often prescribed to temporarily suppress acrophobic symptoms but sufferers can experience severe side effects or withdrawal symptoms. Traditional treatments for the disorder can take months or years and can even involve subjecting the patient to repeated exposure to his or her fear.[3] Treatments used for acrophobia include the traditional exposure therapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the modern virtual reality therapy and even hypnosis.

The CBT is considered an effective treatment for most specific phobias and involves approaches of guided imagery, systematic desensitization through counseled exposure, graded exposure, muscle relaxation, flooding and training for assertiveness.

The disadvantages of the CBT include the length of treatment, owing to the need to gradually expose the patient until she or he finally overcomes the fear; possible difficulty in obtaining access to the object of fear and possible compromised confidentiality of the client when the exposure requires crowded or public places.

Limited research has shown that the technology-based virtual reality has demonstrated a degree of efficiency in treating the disorder, both in isolation or when combined with the traditional treatments. An advantage of the virtual reality therapy  method is thatits affordability and usability has rendered it within easy access of clinicians.[4]

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References

Acrophobia. (2006, December 1). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 12:13,

December 5, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/

w/index.php?title=Acrophobia&oldid=91441354.

Acrophobia. (2006). Retrieved 6 December from the University of Michigan Website:

http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/aha/umacro.htm.

Acrophobia?(n.d.). Retrieved Dec. 6, 2006 from Change Thats RIGHT Now Website:

http://www.changethatsrightnow.com/acrophobia.asp.

Protivnak, Jake. Virtual Reality Therapy as Treatment for Specific Phobia. (2003). Retrieved  5

December 2006 from Columbia State University Website:

http://jtc.colstate.edu/Vol4_1/Protivnak/Protivnak.htm.

[1] Acrophobia, (2006), Retrieved Dec. 6, 2006 from the University of Michigan Website: http://www.med.umich.edu/1libr/aha/umacro.htm
[2]  Acrophobia. (2006, December 1, In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, Retrieved 12:13, December 5, 2006, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Acrophobia&oldid=91441354)

http://www.worldwidewords.org/articles/phobias.htm
[3]  Acrophobia?, (n.d.) Retrieved Dec. 6, 2006 from Change Thats RIGHT Now Website: http://www.changethatsrightnow.com/acrophobia.asp.
[4]Protivnak, J. Virtual Reality Therapy as Treatment for Specific Phobia, (2003), Retrieved 5 December 2006 from Columbia State University Website: http://jtc.colstate.edu/Vol4_1/Protivnak/Protivnak.htm.

 

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