Acrophobia Treating Acrophobia 2 Treating Acrophobia GRADE-90 Wood (1999) describes a person suffering from a phobia experiences a persistent, irrational fear of some specific object, situation, or activity that poses no real danger (or whose danger is blown all out of proportion). Agoraphobia, social phobia, and specific phobia are three classes of phobia. Agoraphobics have an intense fear of being in a situation from which immediate escape is not possible or in which help would not be available If the person should become overwhelmed by anxiety or experience a panic attack or panic-like symptoms. People who suffer from social phobia are intensely afraid of any social or performance situation in which they might embarrass or humiliate themselves in front of others – where they might shake, blush, sweat, or in some other way appear clumsy, foolish, or incompetent. Specific phobia – a marked fear of a specific object or situation – is a catchall category for any phobias other than agoraphobia and social phobia. Specific phobia can be divided further into four other subcategories.

The four categories are situational phobia, fear of natural environments, animal phobias, and blood-injection-injury phobia (p521). By definition, phobias are irrational, meaning that they interfere with one’s everyday life or daily routine. For example, if your fear of high Treating Acrophobia 3 places prevents you from crossing necessary bridges to get to work, that fear is irrational. If your fears keep you from enjoying life or even preoccupy your thinking so that you are unable to work, or sleep, or to do things you wish to do, then it becomes irrational. Wood (1999) states that phobics will go to great lengths to avoid the feared object or situation. Some people with blood – injection–injury phobia will not seek medical care even if is a matter of life and death. And those with a severe dental phobia will actually let their teeth rot rather than visit the dentist (p522).

It is very important that people suffering from phobias be treated, in order to be able to enjoy their lives to a higher extent, literally speaking for those individuals suffering from acrophobia. Claustrophobia and acrophobia are two types of phobias that are usually treated by therapists. Acrophobia is the situational phobia in which there is a fear of heights. Being on a bridge, in a tall building, flying, or in any situation in which height will cause discomfort would fall into this category. Prior treatments for acrophobia would make the patients confront their fear. Acrophobes would be treated by gradually riding a glass elevator floor by floor or by standing on high balconies, going to a higher floor every other time over and over until they feel comfortable with Treating Acrophobia 4 the situation. Now and days acrophobes can be treated for their phobias by using virtual reality. Virtual reality therapy is being widely used at present time. It is so widely used that is has become very cost effective.

Treatment for acrophobia takes place in the doctor’s office and no longer requires taking trips to tall buildings or bridges. Virtual reality therapy requires the phobic sufferer to wear a helmet, reading sensors, and to stand in a certain designated area. Stover (1995) states that virtual reality therapy gives patients a greater sense of safety and control over their environment. According to students who tested in virtual reality, the elevation-intensive stimulations look very realistic. In Stover’s article, he recalls the story of Christopher Klock, and how he would walk up 72 flights of stairs, avoiding the glass elevator, to meet his friends for dinner.

As crazy as it sounds, this is a good example of a phobia being irrational. Klock, as explained by Stover (1995), is among the first people to be treated for acrophobia with virtual reality technology. Both researchers are examining virtual reality therapy to treat people suffering from acrophobia. Stover (1995) explains that in a recent study, the researchers treated ten students whose answers on a questionnaire indicated a problematic fear of heights. At seven weekly sessions, the students used virtual Treating Acrophobia 5 reality equipment to experience the views from foot bridges suspended above water, balconies overlooking the university campus, and a glass elevator in a 49-story hotel lobby. After seven weeks the students had gained significant confidence compared with another group of acrophobic students who received no treatment (p 1).

The approach taken by Rothbaum is very similar to that of which Stover explained. Rothbaum (1995) screens four hundred seventy-eight college students for acrophobia. Twenty students who showed substantial fear and avoidance of heights were chosen. Of these twenty students, twelve would take the therapy and eight would be on the waiting list without therapy. According to Rothbaum (1995) three footbridges, four out door balconies, and one glass elevator were all used in the virtual reality sceneries. Both researchers basically described the same approach for there experimentation.

They took a group of students and subdued them to the virtual reality therapy. Both groups were treated for seven weeks using very similar circumstances, such as simulations of elevators, balconies, and bridges all in virtual reality. One last note was that both had some students who were not treated by the virtual reality therapy, for future comparisons with those who were treated. Treating Acrophobia 6 Stover (1995) states that after seven weeks, the students had gained significant confidence compared with another group of acrophobic students who received no treatment. According to Rothbaum (1995), in this controlled study of the application of virtual reality to the treatment of a psychological disorder, we found that students treated with virtual reality graded exposure experienced reductions in self-reported anxiety and avoidance of heights and improvements in attitudes toward heights and that students in a waiting list comparison group did not evidence any change (p 3).

As stated above by both researchers, both experiments had positive results. Stover describes his positive results by saying that “the students gained significant confidence”. Rothbaum (1995) states that students “experienced reductions in self-reported anxiety” and “improvements in attitudes toward heights”. Both experiments showed students who took the virtual reality therapy improved, compared to those who didn’t take or were on the waiting list for the virtual reality therapy. Both articles were very interesting in capturing the fullness of virtual reality therapy.

After reviewing both articles a reasonable conclusion about virtual reality therapy would be that it is very successful, as stated in the results of both articles. References Rothbaum, B.O., Hodges, L.F., & Kooper, R., Opdyke, D., et al. (1995, April). Effectiveness of computer-generated (virtual reality) graded exposure in the treatment of acrophobia [14 paragraphs]. The American Journal of Psychiatry [Online serial].

Available: Stover, D. (1995, August). Overcoming Phobias [5 paragraphs]. Popular Science [Online serial]. Available: Wood E.R.G., & Wood, S.E. (1999).

The world of psychology (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn & Bacon Sociology Issues.