Tamara on Acrophobia and Desensitization Therapy

Hey everyone! Today I want to welcome the lovely Tamara Narayan to my blog as part of her blog tour! Take it away, Tamara! 

 I’m Looking Down! Acrophobia and Desensitization Therapy

Image: zerega
A donkey follows a huge, green ogre across a crumbling wooden bridge like the one pictured above, but over boiling lava instead of a river. The ogre advises the trembling donkey to keep his head up, but alas, a wooden slat falls away under his hooves, and the poor animal shrieks, “Shrek, I’m looking down!”
Approximately 2% of the population suffers from acrophobia, or an irrational fear of heights. Twice as many women are affected than men. (I couldn’t find the stats for donkeys.) While most people feel a twinge of fear gazing down into the Grand Canyon or at the apex of a roller coaster, someone with acrophobia may have a full blown panic attack a few steps up a ladder.
Image: uckhet
Vertigo is notanother word for acrophobia. Rather, it is the sensation of movement (of the person or objects around them) when no movement has occurred. Vertigo can be triggered by looking down from a high place, which explains the confusion between the terms. For example, I’d get dizzy walking across a grate like the one below or any high place where I’m responsible for my balance. But looking out of the window of a plane? No problem. In fact, I prefer a window seat. So I experience vertigo even though I’m not acrophobic.
Image: Max Morley
In my short story, One Step Away, Darryl James’ life is ruled by extreme acrophobia. This affliction started early, when he was abandoned on top of the monkeybars while his entire class, including the teacher, went inside after recess. (This actually happened to me.)
Image: David K
As an adult, things only get worse. His wife leaves him after enduring things like hanging Christmas lights herself while six months pregnant and Darryl quitting his job after a departmental transfer to the third floor.
When his acrophobia puts his son’s life in danger, Darryl seeks help from a psychiatrist. Since he has a heart condition, medication or flooding (doing something extreme like jumping out of a plane) are not viable treatments. Instead, Darryl undergoes desensitization therapy or a gradual exposure to greater and greater heights.

These days, Darryl’s psychiatrist might use virtual reality technology, but this story is set a bit too far in the past for that. To celebrate the end of his therapy, Darryl travels to a city with skyscrapers, where he’ll experience a relapse at a pivotal moment in history. To find out what happens, check out Heart Stopper and Other Stories, available at Amazon.com.
One dreams of feathers, wings of might
Yet experiences terror at a meager height.
This phobia takes every dear thing away
Then, in a brutal twist, saves a dark summer’s day.

About the author: From doling out movie popcorn to flinging smelt to penguins, Tamara Narayan’s career took the “road less traveled”. It veered off into a land of integrals and other strange things while she taught college level math, but these days she’s cruising the fiction highway. In addition to the Heart Stopper collection, her short story Scrying the Plane is in the IWSG anthology Parallels: Felix Was HereFind her at http://www.tamaranarayan.com.

If you’d like to explore whether you have acrophobia or not, check out this YouTube video of a guy climbing a tower over 1700 feet high. Can you watch without flinching or feeling butterflies in your stomach?

Thanks for stopping by, Tamara! Anyone else Acrophobic? I know I am. When I was a kid, I was so scared of heights that I couldn’t even comfortably stand on a choir bench. Which sucked, because I was tall, so I always got put on the highest one.