Acrophobia

Anne Coates describes her fear of heights & Dr Keith Souter explains how homeopathy can help

Acrophobia, fear of heights, belongs to the group of  disorders known as the specific phobias. The word is derived from the  Greek akros, mean­ing “high” and phobos, meaning “fear”.  The thing about specific phobias is that although they can cause  considerable anxiety or phobic fear, they can usually be incorporated  into one’s life. In other words, the anxiety only comes on when faced  with the situation, so if one can avoid putting oneself in that  situation, then it need not pose a great problem.In fact, this is generally how people deal with their phobias. They  avoid sit­uations and live around them. Unfort­unately, these specific  fears often impinge upon one’s social life and if one is to con­tinue to  avoid the situations which pro­voke the fear, then a diminishing social  life is usually the consequence. The good thing, however, is that the  more specific the phobia, the easier it is to treat, either with some  form of behavioural therapy or with homeopathy.In homeopathy it is important to listen to the individual’s  experience of a problem. Many people often mistakenly use the term  vertigo to describe their fear of heights. This is understandable, since  the problem they experience is often pro­voked by heights. Yet vertigo  is a very specific spinning sensation which makes the individual feel  that they are actually moving. Since it may be provoked by look­ing down  from a height, it is perceived to be one and the same thing as a fear  of heights. This is not actually the case.

Anne’s story 

I can remember exactly when I first experienced acrophobia. I had  taken my daughter to the ballet at Sadler’s Wells (pre-refurbishment)  and had booked my favourite seats – first row dress circle. What I  hadn’t bargained for was the steepness of the tiering. I sat down and  couldn’t move for fear that I would topple over the balcony! Although I  knew intellectually that this was totally improb­able, I couldn’t stop  the feelings. I kept telling Olivia not to move either and she looked at  me as though I had gone mad.That day marked a turning point. I went from someone who loved high  and scary fairground rides to someone who was often found riveted to the  spot unable to move forward for fear of heights. At these times my  insides felt as though they were going to fall out – not a very pleasant  feeling. On a chair lift to the Needles on the Isle of Wight I was  convinced my daughter would slip out of the belt on the seat and I  wouldn’t be able to stop her. High balconies on holiday were a misery  and sight-seeing was often curtailed. Going down a steep escalator on  the underground was a tor­ment. And I became increasingly worried about  falling down stairs.Over the next few years my acro­phobia seemed to increase in  severity. The Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame left me clinging to walls.  Most often a little hand (growing bigger each year) guided me to safety.  The problem came to a head when a friend booked theatre tickets and the  seats were in the upper circle. If someone had placed a million pounds  in front of me I would not have been able to bend forward to pick up the  money for fear of toppling over the seats. My friend kept making silly  comments which didn’t help and at the interval I was only able to leave  my seat when a kind man, seeing my terror, reached out and held me as I  made my way along the row. I didn’t go back to the seat for the second  act. Acrophobia isn’t a debilitating dis­ease, but it was having a major  effect on my social life. I decided the time had come to contact one of  the experts on Health and Homeopathy. As it happened Dr Keith Souter and  I were on line at the same time and we corresponded by email about the  problem. Keith suggested Lac felinum which appealed to me because of my  love of cats – we have four!Keith advised taking one 30c Lac felinum half an hour before going  into a theatre (or anywhere where I had prob­lems) and then taking one  as and when needed throughout the performance.I tried it out when we went to see The Sound of Music which my  daugh­ter and her friends were desperate to see. I remembered to take  the Lac felinum before going into the theatre and I had to take it  several times during the per­formance. In fact the friend sitting next  to me commented on how often I’d taken it. But to me it was working as  I’d managed to stay in my seat. Having used remedies for my daugh­ter with great success (especially  Coc­culus for travel sickness), I knew that I would need to take fewer  doses of Lac felinum as time went on. However, there were times when I  forgot to take it before going into a situation when I would need it.  This happened at a Proms concert and when some late-comers meant I had  to stand to let them pass, I had great difficulty sitting down again.However a few weeks later I went to the theatre with the same friend  who was amazed at how much better I was. The play we went to see was All About My Mother and  I was so impressed I wanted my daughter to see it. The Old Vic offers  resident tickets at a very reduced price – the problem is that the seats  are most often in the gods. I bought these tickets and Olivia couldn’t  believe that I was actually sitting there in such a relaxed way. My acrophobia is so much better now. In fact I rarely take the remedy  (often I forget!) and although I might feel a bit wobbly now and again  it is nothing compared to the horrible feel­ings I once had.On a recent press trip to Switzerland, I was surprised that each of  the other three journalists suffered in some degree with acrophobia. We  were very high up in the mountains and had to cross a bridge over an  extremely deep ravine. I actually managed to peer over the wall, having  taken one Lac felinum before leav­ing the hotel. That was the only time I  took the remedy throughout the trip. On our second day the weather was  very bad and as we were descending the moun­tain, our cable car came to  an abrupt stop, swinging in mid-air. I heard the ski instructor swear  under his breath and watched him turn white, while the other woman in  our party turned green. I felt the most amazing sense of calm and peace –  and no symptoms of acrophobia at all.

Two main keynotes 

There are two main keynote features in Anne’s case. First of all is  the realisation that this is purely a fear of heights. There is no  mention of a spinning sensation, no actual vertigo. Very specifically,  the fear is that she could topple over the bal­cony. Although she could  rationalise it and understood that there would be no way that this could  happen, yet the fear was so intense that she would be rooted the spot. This is typical of Lac felinum. There is usually a fear of falling downstairs, yet without vertigo. The second main feature is this sen­sation that the insides could fall  out. Once again, this is utterly classic for Lac felinum. Sepia also has  this dragging down sensation, yet does not generally have the fear of heights.

Picture the kitten 

The picture of the fire brigade being called out to rescue a kitten from  the top of a tree is almost a cliché. The kitten has no trouble getting  up there, yet seems rooted with fear to the branch. No amount of  coaxing seems to help. Yet logically, cats are climbers. It will not  fall, it will eventually climb down. It is a question of self-belief.  You do not, after all, find cat skeletons in trees.

The Milk remedies 

The Lacs (the Milk remedies) have cer­tain themes in common. Milk is the  food used to nurture all young animals. This indicates their use in  situations in people’s lives which revolve around issues of dependence  and independence. And about bonding between parents and child. Each of  the milk remedies will manifest this in a particular way.Lac felinum is very useful for fear of heights as illustrated  beautifully in this case. Another remedy often thought of for fear of  heights is Argent nitricum, yet the type of fear is very different.  Instead of fearing that one will fall, as is the case with Lac felinum,  Argent nitricum is associated with a fear of hav­ing a lemming impulse.Lac felinum is often useful for  grace­ful, neat people. They may be perfec­tionists and dislike  mistakes. They can be curious, yet soon after may be indiffer­ent as  well. All of these are cat attributes.
From time to time someone in need of Lac felinum may get down in the  dumps. They can be cross, they might even metaphorically hiss at others.Their eyes are very important to them and they do not like things too  close. They may be very protective of their eyes and be aware of  tiredness, prickling sen­sations and eyestrain. And when they have eye  symptoms they may end up with headaches.You can never predict how a cat will react. They expect to have their  food set before them, yet when it is produced they walk away. Sometimes  they will ignore their owner, at other times they will crave attention.  This alternation of symptoms is a common feature when Lac felinum is  needed. They can be hot or cold and chilly. They can be heavy limbed, or  sprightly. When indicated Lac felinum often produces an excellent response, a feeling that the contented cat has had its milk.

Keith Souter MB ChB FRCGP MFHom MIPsiMed DipMedAc was a  GP in Yorkshire for almost 30 years. He is a specialist in medical homeopathy & the author of Homeopathy for the Third Age and Homeopathy: Heart & Soul

Anne Coates is the author of four non­fiction books including Applying to University The Essential Guide.