Acrophobia Free Essay Example

Acphobia is defined as the irrational, unrelenting fear of an activity, situation or object that causes an individual to want to keep away from it. A person suffering from a phobia experiences a relentless, irrational, f ear of some exact object, condition, or activity that does not pose any real danger (the danger is mentally exaggerated). Phobias have been scientifically classified into three: social phobias, agoraphobia and specific phobias. Social phobias include the fear of meeting new people, public speaking or other harmless social situations. Agoraphobia refers to the extensive fear of being outside, especially in open spaces. Agoraphobics have a powerful fear of being in circumstances from which instant flight is not possible or in which assistance would not be readily accessible in case the person should become besieged by nervousness or experience a fright attack or panic-like symptoms. The specific fears refer to fear of specific objects, situations or activities.  Some of the most widespread phobias include fear of open spaces (agoraphobia), clowns (coulrophobia), public communication or other group situations (social fear or social anxiety disorder), closed-in spaces (claustrophobia), flying (aerophobia), commitment (commitment phobia), blood, animals (zoophobia), driving, needles (aichmophobia), spiders (arachnophobia), snakes (ophidiophobia), germs (mysophobia), heights (acrophobia or altophobia), and having dental work done (dentophobia). Fears of dwarfs, helmets, haunted houses, pickles, math and feet are other less widespread phobias and may be thought of as bizarre or extraordinary by some but can be just as devastating as those phobias that are more common.

Acrophobia, also known in some scientific circles as altophobia or allodoxaphobia, refers to the inexplicable, irrational and unfathomable fear of heights or high places. The name acrophobia is derived from the Greek words akros meaning “apex” or “topmost” and phobos meaning fear. Acrophobia can cause an individual to fear a range of objects related to vertical distance from the floor. Acrophobia is at times confused with vertigo; which is a health disorder that causes a sensation of dizziness and spinning. Other phobias related to acrophobia include Illyngophobia and Bathmophobia; which is the fear of steep slopes and stairs.

There are a wide range of symptoms experienced and exhibited by an acrophobic when they are exposed to height. Acrophobics feel an overpowering sense of panic when at a height. They instinctively begin to look for something to hold on to and lower their body position. When ah a height, the acrophobic will subconsciously crawl, scream or descend immediately. Most acrophobics begin to doubt their sense of balance and might go down on all fours to effectively lower their center of gravity. Physically, mentally and emotionally, the reaction to acrophobia is similar to the reaction to any other fear. The acrophobiac may begin to sweat, shake, experience severe heart palpitations and even scream or yell out. He or She may become horrified and physically immobilized. It even becomes complicated to think.

While most people usually undergo a certain level of uneasiness and coherent fear of falling when positioned in high places, individuals with acrophobia display extreme anxiety responses such as briefness of breath, sweating, irregular heart rate, a feeling of hot flush, trembling and general feelings of terror.

Acrophobia interferes with the ordinary functioning of individuals as the inexplicable fright often leads them to keep away from ostensibly simple acts such as climbing on tall buildings, ladders, amusement rides, travelling on hilly roads and participating in other activities that entail high altitudes. Acrophobia can be of great risk to sufferers because anxiety reactions could result into panic attacks such that they could be unable to bring themselves down in one piece.

Acrophobia was traditionally attributed to habituation or a past traumatic occurrence involving heights. The traditional mode of reasoning assumes that for an individual to become acrophobic, they must go through a dangerous, harrowing ordeal involving high places. Advancements in science and research have unearthed evidence that casts doubt upon this ancient reasoning. New studies show that acrophobia, among other specific fears, is in-born and non-associative. The new studies suggest that the fear of heights is an evolved adjustment to a prehistory where falls caused a considerable hazard. This means that acrophobia developed as a safety mechanism for Homo sapiens.

Another possible causative factor for acrophobia is inability to maintain balance. In such a case, the acrophobia’s unease is both well founded and derived. The dysfunction model explains that, a normal person uses vestibular, postural and visual control systems to appropriately maintain balance. An acrophobic relies primarily on visual indications either as a result of insufficient vestibular activity or erroneous strategy. Locomotion at a high height requires more than ordinary visual processing. The visual cortex becomes congested, thus, causing confusion.

Advancements in medical research and technology have resulted in various methods to help acrophobiac to overcome their fear of height. The most popular and by far most successful means of treating the fear of heights is the use of virtual reality technology. This technology simulates and creates computer-aided images that are life-like. The patient is put through such simulations under the aid of a medical professional under psychological counseling until the fear is gone. Virtual reality methods are based on the psychological processes of cognitive-behavioral therapy. The use of virtual reality is highly advantageous as it saves on cost and time used. Drugs such as D-Cycloserine are also used clinically to reduce anxiety and relax muscles. However, such drugs are known to be potentially addictive and may have severe withdrawal symptoms.

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