Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Treating Acrophobia and Agoraphobia

Humans suffer from a number of phobias. A phobia is an unreasonable fear of a living creature, place, thing or situation. Individuals with phobia go to any extent for avoiding a perceived danger, which is much stronger in their minds than in actual life. Confrontation with such a fear causes distress in the individual and sends him/her into a panic.

If we are to talk about the various phobias of people, the list is never-ending. But let’s talk about two specific phobias that people face commonly- acrophobia and agoraphobia. Acrophobia is the extreme fear of heights that triggers a panic attack in people while standing in a high place.

On the other hand, agoraphobia is the irrational fear of open spaces where people feel escape is difficult, thus making them averse to public places. Although not life-threatening, both phobias can cause a person to panic and become dysfunctional to some extent.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for treating these phobias

Since the underlying cause of phobia is fear, which is deep-seated in person’s thought process, cognitive behavioral therapy can help people overcome it. Although several anti-anxiety medications have been used to treat phobias, the benefits from such treatment options are usually short-lived. It is important that treatment options address the underlying cause of fear and enable people to overcome it through a non-medication approach.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is based on a model of the relationship between cognition, behavior, and emotion. CBT aims at changing the fear-inducing thought patterns of people and alters the chain of responses to such thoughts. It helps an individual to identify such thoughts, replace them with positive or constructive thoughts and bring about a change in behavior.

Since both acrophobia and agoraphobia are learned responses to a particular situation, the primary aim of CBT is to help individuals unlearn such responses. Systematic desensitization, a type of cognitive behavioral therapy, has been in use for treating both phobias for some time now. The approach works by relaxing the person and then asking him/her to imagine fearful components of the phobia. It works by focusing on least fearful components and eventually moving to the most fearful ones.

CBT helps in altering a person’s attitude and behavior by focusing on the images, beliefs, and thoughts that are deep-seated in a person’s subconscious mind. A noteworthy advantage of using CBT in treating acrophobia and agoraphobia is that it consumes less time. The results are often seen within five to ten months of using CBT. Most psychotherapists use personalized CBT for deriving both psychological and behavioral benefits from the sessions.

Cognitive behavioral therapy has been scientifically proven to be effective in treating agoraphobia, acrophobia and other types of psychological fears. Gradual exposure to phobias helps people to identify their fears and overcome them by generating an appropriate emotional response to them. The National Institute of Mental Health has found that about 75 percent of people with phobias have been successful in overcoming their fears through CBT sessions. CBT, couples with stress relief and relaxation techniques, can bring a positive change in people’s attitude and behavior and improve their overall wellbeing. If you live in Toronto and want more information on CBT in Toronto, you may get in touch with the Centre for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Toronto, Canada.