Vertigo, fear of heights or acrophobia: how to treat yourself?

>> The feeling of dizziness one can experience when staring into space, for example from a balcony or in a panoramic elevator, is common to most people. But in some cases, the experience of height can trigger panic fear in the subject, even on the first rung of a ladder. For the most disabling cases of “acrophobia” – according to the term – behavioral therapies exist, reminds the microphone of Europe 1 Dr Jimmy Mohamed, our health consultant.

We must distinguish two things: acrophobia and fear of heights. Fear of heights is normal, innate. Cro-Magnon man had to be afraid of heights to ensure the survival of the species. This fear is linked to what is called visual intolerance to height. We would be too dependent on our eyes to guide us. Thus, if one looks down from a high perched place, a danger signal will cause one to feel fear. It is a defensive reflex.

Conversely, acrophobia is an irrational, obsessive fear that will lead to anxiety, but for very small heights, such as climbing on a stepladder or even taking the elevator. It can have a real impact on the lives of people who are subject to it and would be linked to a trauma in childhood: a fall or a worrying situation.

Project yourself in high-rise situations

Unfortunately, there is no medication to cure acrophobia itself, unless you have an associated anxiety disorder, which is quite common among acrophobes. In contrast, cognitive behavioral therapy has proven to be effective. Behind this somewhat barbaric name hides a process of desensitization. A therapist, usually a psychologist, will first suggest that you imagine yourself on top of a bridge, and that you walk on that bridge. And then, little by little, he will submit images to you.

Other, more modern techniques use virtual reality. You are put on a virtual reality headset, thanks to which, for example, you will go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. This type of therapy works very well, but is not yet reimbursed.

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