Definition of Acrophobia in English

According to experts in Psychology, acrophobia is the name given to exaggerated and impossible to control fear of heights. This concept has its origin in the Greek terms akra (translated into Spanish as “height”) and phobia (understood as “fear”).

The term phobia, meanwhile, comes from the Greek words phobos (fear) attached to the suffix ia (quality), which is understood as a quality of fear. Acrophobia is a term coined in the late nineteenth century and began to appear in cities where tall skyscrapers existed. It was Andrea Verga, a renowned Italian psychiatrist of that period, who, studying the symptoms that this disease presented, was able to describe it.

According to scientific studies, this term is related to a persistent and unjustified fear of heights that can arise in certain situations and is reflected through high levels of anxiety. The stage of life in which it usually occurs for the first time is in late childhood or early adulthood and may be the consequence of strong psychological pressure or stress. Some specialists also associate it with the fear of not resisting the temptation to jump into the void from a high place.

An acrophobic (person who suffers from acrophobia) exhibits evasive behavior in the face of the feared situation, caused by a sudden level of anxiety produced by said phobia and which may affect their social and work life.

Those who suffer from acrophobia, therefore, avoid by all means leaning on a balcony, approaching the edge of a precipice or going up to an elevated viewpoint, for example. It is not even necessary for a person to be at a high altitude to feel fear: the fact of supposing or imagining that he or someone he knows may be in this situation, causes him a level of anxiety such that he cannot repress and that is usually result in a panic attack.

The symptoms of these nervous crises are: accelerated heart rate, excessive sweating, difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, loss of control, chills and lightheadedness. It is a very strong feeling of fear and insecurity that can even convince the patient that he is losing his balance and that the body is not responding.

Acrophobia is related to vertigo from height, which causes those who suffer from it a marked feeling of insecurity and fear of the possibility of a fall, which can be experienced even by a third party who could fall. When someone feels vertigo, their balance is altered and is conditioned by a sensation of rotary movement that can be detected both in the body itself and in any object that is around it.

To treat acrophobia, the “ habituation ” method is used, which consists of presenting the patient with different relaxation techniques that help them cope with high stress situations. The therapist gradually gets the individual to face situations in which this phobia appears, so that the patient works on it and the fear gradually decreases.