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Have fear of height and speed. When driving on bridges, anxiety levels go high and heart beats heavily

Jun 2013
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Practicing since : 2005
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I guess , I have a fear of height and speed. whenever I drive my car on bridges and on sharp turns , I feel like I will faint. My anxiety level goes high..My heart starts beating heavily. and I feel I will loose my control over the car.
Posted Wed, 10 Jul 2013 in Anxiety and Stress
Answered by Dr. Sushil Kumar Sompur 1 hour later
Hi there ~

I understand your concerns. I believe you have no major illnesses and are medically fit except for the high cholesterol in your blood that is adequately controlled. I also believe that you will do well with medications and therapy, i.e. counseling for the specific anxiety disorder you have i.e fear of heights which in medical terms is called "acrophobia". Symptoms of specific phobias may include:

- Excessive or irrational fear of a specific object or situation.
- Avoiding the object or situation or enduring it with great distress.
- Physical symptoms of anxiety or a panic attack, such as a pounding heart, nausea or diarrhea, sweating, trembling or shaking, numbness or tingling, problems with breathing (shortness of breath), feeling dizzy or lightheaded, feeling like you are choking.
- Anticipatory anxiety, which involves becoming nervous ahead of time about being in certain situations or coming into contact with the object of your phobia.

The vast majority of people with an anxiety disorders such as "acrophobia" that you have, can be helped with professional care. Success of treatment varies among people. Some may respond to treatment after a few months, while others may need more than a year. This is why treatment must be tailored to the individual. Although treatment is individualized, several standard approaches, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy, have proved effective. Therapists will use one or a combination of these therapies. Behavioral therapies should be used together with drug therapy or medications. These include:

- Cognitive-behavioral therapy, including learning to recognize and replace panic-causing thoughts
- Exposure
- Pleasant mental imagery
- Relaxation techniques

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
In general, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can work for those with specific phobia. Weekly treatment with homework assignments usually succeeds in 12 to16 sessions. First the therapist helps the patient understand incorrect assumptions and then gradually exposes him or her to the phobia source.

What a therapist usually does in the first couple of sessions is help people identify mistaken beliefs. People with phobias catastrophize; they immediately jump to the worst-case scenario, and they overestimate the probability that it will happen. Therapists help them realize they are making those mistakes, and they talk about realistic risks. People are unlikely to be hit by lightening, for example, and their house will probably not catch fire, for example.

Secondly comes exposure, or confronting the feared situation, such as going with a therapist and getting gradually higher and higher up in a graduated manner with increasingly higher altitudes to get over the fear of heights. I hope you consult a qualified psychiatrist to get help with medications short term i.e. for about 2-4 months during which time you can start working with a therapist who can help with the CBT part of overcoming anxiety. I hope this helps.

Take care and have a lovely day!

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