This blog post will take us through the etiological, symptomatic and therapeutic factors of the phobia, Aeroacrophobia.
Aeroacrophobia is an irrational fear of open and highplaces.
The person who suffers from this phobia will be afraid to climb up to a higher place, even if it is a floor in a building or the rooftop of the house.
This fear includes open places along with a fear of heights.
They start avoiding the stimulus of their anxiety and therefore, do not visit places where they have to go to either a higher ground and that too with an openness to them.
These places involve hill or mountain tops, places from where one can fear a fall.
Usually the fear of precipices and edges can also be a part of Aeroacrophobia.
Even the thought of these high and open places can bring on a full-blown anxiety attack in the person suffering from Aeroacrophobia.
Aeroacrophobia is an intense fear of high open places that gives rise to extreme symptoms of anxiety.
At times one phobia may exist with another and the person suffers continuously at the hands of one stimulus then another.
Behind each phobia is an obsessive thought and the avoidance of the fear evoking stimulus is compulsion itself.
Causes of Aeroacrophobia
Aeroacrophobia may be caused due to the following factors:-
- Genetic Predisposition
Every person has a genetic tendency to contract a disease or go through a mental illness. This predisposition is embedded in our DNA and is handed down to us over the generations.
If the person’s ancestors suffered from anxiety disorders, phobias, mental illness or even Aeroacrophobia, then chances are higher for him/her to suffer from the same or from either of these.
Phobias are familial and most often than not run in families. Their intensity may vary from person to person, from one relative to the other.
- Biological Cause
Hormones play an important role in causing anxiety disorders, specifically phobias as well.
Thyroid Stimulating Hormones (TSH) is directly related to the etiology of anxiety related problems that occur.
Symptoms that indicate a Thyroid malfunctioning are:
- Changes in menstrual cycle
- Nervous demeanor
- Losing or gaining weight
Low levels of Testosterone (male hormone) can also lead to anxiety.
Serotonin, is also called a happy chemical and depletion of this hormone can also cause anxieties of varying levels.
Dopamine, the ‘feel good’ chemical or neurotransmitter is involved in happiness and a state of elatedness.
When the levels of Dopamine drop anxiety and a feeling of dread become a common forte.
Adrenaline rush is another biological factor that emanates the ‘flight or the fight’ response. This response is triggered when the brain suffers from a threat.
This threat may be caused by a stimulus that causes anxiety. This stimulus is the very stimulus that initiates a phobia fear.
In the case of Aeroacrophobia, this stimulus will be the high open places.
- Behavioral Cause
Children learn behaviors and attitudes from people around them.
These people may be their parents, siblings, extended family members like uncles or aunts, grandparents or any significant others they are attached to.
In Aeroacrophobia it is often found that if a member of the family or peer group is scared of height and open places, chances are higher that the child will also develop Aeroacrophobia.
- Traumatic Incidence/s
Aeroacrophobia may also be caused due to an incident or accident that was caused in a place which was high or in an open place high up.
It could have been a fall or a road accident up in the mountains.
It can also be that the person also suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the symptoms resemble those of Aeroacrophobia.
- Media, Literature & Facts
There are many movies that depict traumatic scenes of accidents happening up in the mountains or plains high on hilltops, these all contribute to the fear of confronting these places either in imagery or in person.
Symptoms of Aeroacrophobia
Different people display the symptoms of the same phobia differently; with varying degrees of severity.
There are two types of symptoms; Physical symptoms and Psychological symptoms.
The Physical Symptoms include those that involve changes in the bodily sensations and are felt by the sufferer.
- rapid heartbeat (tachycardia)
- Sweating and trembling
- dry mouth
- raised blood pressure
The Psychological Symptoms include those that impinge on the mind and are visible through a person’s behavior.
- feelings of dread
- fear of dying when at a high open place
- fear of losing control
- fear of harm
- fear of illness
- feeling of helplessness
- mood swings
Therapeutic Interventions for Aeroacrophobia
Phobias can be treated through a variety of therapeutic interventions. a) Systematic Desensitization b) Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) c) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP) d) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction MBSR) d) meditation e) medication
- Systematic Desensitization
This is one of the most common therapies used in treating phobias and an effective way to desensitize the person suffering from phobia.
In this therapy the client with phobia is exposed to the stimulus gradually with varying degrees of severity, varying durations of time.
The degree of severity is hierarchical,ranging from low to high. Every time the ‘exposure’ of the feared stimulus is increased.
In Aeroacrophobia the client is exposed to images of these high open places first. For the fear to be invoked during therapy, the patient must be exposed to an intense stimulus (one that is feared).
The aim of Systematic Desensitization is to remove the ‘feared stimulus’ and substitute it with a ‘relaxation response.’
Initially a relaxation technique that involves deep breathing is taught to the client.
Then the client is asked to present a list that has a hierarchical presentation of his fears, starting from the least fear evoking situation to the most.
The therapist takes the client through these situations via two methods:
a) In vitro – where the feared stimulus is made to imagine
b) In vivo – where the client visits the the feared place in reality
The exposure to the phobic stimulus is of varying durations, where the client exercises relaxation techniques and can revert to a previous non-threatening situation any time.
- Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
In CBT the therapist helps the client to amend his thoughts so that a desirable behavior can be achieved.
This therapy is effective, because if the thoughts or cognitions alter then there will be a lasting impact on behavior.
The therapist separates the problem into parts. These may include: thoughts, feelings and actions.
The therapist helps the client to discover the reason for this thought and behavior that follows. This therapy is goal oriented and short termed. Therefore, the results are seen soon.
It changes the way a person thinks and feels. CBT does not focus on probing the past to resolve current problems, rather it concentrates on the present situation.
Our thoughts determine how we act or react to certain stimuli and situations.
Therefore, negative thoughts bring about a negative behavior response or an undesirable behavior.
Whereas, positive thoughts propagate desirable and healthy attitude and response.
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT)
Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) is a form of CBT and designed by Albert Ellis.
According to Ellis, “people are not disturbed by things but rather by their view of things.” This is what subjective perspective is.
c) Neuro Linguistic Program (NLP)
In this therapy the client is asked to
- Access the phobia in a safe environment.
- Help them to replay the phobia along with happy emotions.
- Disassociate from the phobia.
d) Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR involves being aware of one’s own thoughts, feelings and reducing the interference from around the environment.
We do not pay attention to how we process the various stimuli that affect us.
We do not process the way our bodies feel and respond, there is no focus on our thoughts and how these thoughts are influencing our emotions.
In MBSR, the client is ‘woken up’ to actually experience the various senses. ‘Focus’ is the keyword!
Alters the emotional attachment one has to his/her thoughts. This attachment is actually the root cause of Bufonophobia and other phobias as well.
Meditation helps to disconnect is by far the quickest, most effective way to do this.
Meditation helps one to detach their thoughts from the emotional content of the phobia.
Meditation helps you to alleviate all irrational thoughts.
Relaxation and maintaining focus gives one the strength to press into the phobic fear and gain access so that it can be eroded, session by session.
e) Group Therapy
Group Therapy is one of the most effective treatments available for phobias. In this the client does not find himself as a lone sufferer.
These groups are individuals who are afflicted with the same types of phobias or anxieties.
They come together to share their thoughts, experiences and their coping mechanisms. This also helps in developing a ‘sense of I am not the only one’ suffering.
These groups are a great support system for the person who suffers from anxiety.
Knowing that there are others like him gives a great relief and the encouragement that is received from these groups is unsurmountable.
f) Routine Modification
The person suffering from Bufonophobia is advised to alter his daily routine and bring about a change.
The change is always considered to be a healthy way of dealing with stress and phobias in particular.
- Adopt a walking regimen
- Induct exercise on a daily basis
- Alter eating and drinking habits
- Improving the sleep cycle
There are a number of medicines that the Psychiatrist can prescribe if the symptoms of aeroacrophobia are severe and hinder the daily activities of the sufferer.
- Anxiolytics (anti-anxiety drugs)
These should only be taken after the consultation with the doctor and shouldn’t be initiated or discontinued as per personal discretion.
These medicines are not only used to treat depression, but also to alleviate the symptoms of Aeroacrophobia as well as other phobias.
Medicines alone might not be as effective, but if used in conjunction with therapies then the results will be better.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the fear of heights called?
The fear of heights is called Acrophobia.
Is Aeroacrophobia a common phobia?
Yes, Aeroacrophobia is quite common and taken usually as a fear of heights only, little people know that high open places pose a much larger threat than only a fear of heights.
Is meditation more effective than CBT?
Meditation and CBT are equally effective for the treatment of Bufonophobia.
How can MIndfulness be effective?
Mindfulness is an effective treatment because it makes us focus on our breathing and on aspects of our body and the presence we ave, rather than on the fear evoking stimulus.
Below is a complete list of all Phobias which we currently cover.
Titles to Read
- The Anxious Brain: The Neurobiological Basis of Anxiety Disorders and How to Effectively Treat Them by Steven M. Prinz M.D. and Margaret Wehrenberg Psy.D. | Mar 17, 2007
- How To Treat Anxiety With Meditation, not Medication by Dan Coffey
- Overcoming Anxiety: How to Treat Anxiety Disorder and Overcome Anxiety for Life by Susan Belgwin
- Little Book of Mindfulness: 10 minutes a day to less stress, more peace by Patricia Collard | May 27, 2014
- The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh, Vo-Dihn Mai, et al.