Acrophobia is an irrational fear of heights or high places. Many people dislike heights, but someone with a clinical case of acrophobia can have intense emotional and physical responses at just the thought of being in a high place. Acrophobia is simply a severe fear of heights. Now being afraid of heights is a common and sometimes appropriate feeling. But the phobia part kicks in when you feel afraid in a safe environment such as inside a skyscraper. Acrophobia is treated with graded exposure therapy. (Horton, 2011) Fear of heights seems to have a simple physiological explanation, and there is a solution to it: Learn to rely more on your ears for balancing.
Fear of heights
In this essay I try to analyze my fear of height through self-inspection and document my experiments in trying to overcome this irrational feeling also known as acrophobia. First of all, make sure to take this text for what it is, namely the naive, non-expert, non-scientific ramblings of someone with no medical training whatsoever, so please don't hold me responsible if you get some false or harmful information here. You might or might not have a similar condition like me, I have no idea, and even if I had, I wouldn't be qualified to give any advice. So what is fear of heights (acrophobia)? It seems to be one of those things like autostereograms where if you are wondering if you experience it or not, then it's almost certain you don't. I'm pretty sure I have at least a mild form of it as I am afraid when I look down from heights, but it's not so serious that I couldn't look out from my window. I have climbed some decent mountains and my feelings have ranged from general discomfort to complete panic. The alarming thing was to discover that it's been getting worse recently and I have real difficulty climbing to places where I had no trouble years ago, so I decided I had to do something about it. Just to make sure, acrophobia is when you look out from the balcony on the second floor and feel safer to stay close to the wall or hold on maniacally to anything secure or when you feel dizzy on a mountain trail and you have to crawl on all fours, grabbing every blade of grass for the illusion of safety but you are pretty sure you could fall any moment. If you look down, the world seems to spin and sway, your stomach contracts, you forget to breathe regularly, mouth dries out, you start sweating like a pig and generally panic in every possible way and swear that if you ever get down alive, you'll never set foot on a hill again. Meanwhile your friends are carelessly passing by, jumping from one rock to the other, wondering what the hell is happening to you... Fear of heights is a misnomer. It is not height per se that I am afraid of. I have no trouble flying in airplanes, I have flown glider planes, I think I could manage parachutes, paragliders or even space flight without acrophobia kicking in. It's not being on high altitudes that I find scary but being in places where I feel I can fall on sharp rocks or buildings and places where I can't easily tell which is the horizontal direction, where I am already not sure if I am standing straight or I am tilting. I'm talking about mountaintops, towers, bridges, balconies. At first I thought that I feel safe in airplanes because my mind tells me there is no way I could fall out, as it is well sealed. On a cliff, if I really wanted to, I could jump voluntarily if I went crazy for a second. This explanation occurs in a bizarre short story of Edgar Allen Poe where he argues that fear of height is really fear of oneself, our "dark side" that would urge us to jump and commit suicide. This "pull of the deep" explanation or the notion of a "latent death wish" seems like a fascinatingly romantic idea to a teenager, but lately I started to become suspicious. Why would I have this sort of split personality or psychological issue that none of my friends seem to suffer from. Surely there must be some more down-to-earth...
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