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I understand that acrophobia ("fear of heights”) may be issues with the vestibular system.

I have a terrible time in tall buildings near the balcony or window, but I'm okay in a plane, rollercoaster, etc. I can't go anywhere near the edge of a cliff, and even pictures of it make me flinch. It seems to be getting worse with age (I'm now 35), but doesn't disrupt my life in any significant way, but I am eager to see if there's a treatment, particularly living in Abu Dhabi, where everyone lives on floors 5 and above!

Are there any physical treatments that have been shown to be effective to treat acrophobia? I want to avoid just masking the problem (anti-anxiety drugs, etc.).

  • There aren't many medications or procedures that have a significant impact on phobias. I used to be acrophobic, and now I'm not, but unfortunately, I don't know how that happened. Therapy is the answer - probably a form of Behavioral therapy, possibly Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. As the previous answer suggests, the focus will be on confronting the phobia head on, with the help of cognitive techniques to reduce the intensity of the phobic reaction. – Wad Cheber Jul 25 '15 at 1:53
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Behavioral therapy works well. Behavioral therapists initially focus on teaching what anxiety is, helping the client to identify anxiety responses, teaching relaxation techniques, setting goals, discussing methods to achieve those goals, and helping the client to visualize phobic situations.

One behavioral therapy often used to treat phobias is systematic (serial) desensitization, in which the therapist progressively exposes the client to the threatening object in a safe setting until the client’s anxiety decreases. During each exposure, the complexity and intensity of exposure gradually increase, but the client’s anxiety decreases. The reduced anxiety serves as a positive reinforcement until the anxiety is ultimately eliminated. - Videbeck Psychiatric Mental health Nursing 5th edition

Other behavorial therapy that can be used is Flooding (implosion therapy). It works by exposing the patient directly to their worst fears. For example, standing in a glass room in a height of 1000 feet or letting a person to be submerge in a pool for hydrophobic patients. At first the person would experience extreme panic, but later on their anxiety will subside because they have no choice but to confront their fears until they'll realize that it will do them no harm.

However, flooding is rarely used because it can be dangerous if the therapist is not careful. The patient may experience extreme panic that can further lead to seizure, paralysis, or even death.

I, too, an acrophobic and having a hard time to get over with this fear even though I am a nurse and I know how to treat it. In your case, you can use the desensitization method and expose yourself in extreme heights gradually, but I advised you to have someone or a psychologist or psychiatrist with you to assist you when something goes wrong.

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