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Barophobia is the fear of gravity. Those who suffer from this phobia have irrational concerns about the potential danger of gravity. Barophobia is sometimes caused by traumatic falling accidents in childhood. In other cases, it is caused by the individual imagining damaging events resulting from the force of gravity either failing or becoming overly powerful. Treatments for barophobia include counter conditioning, systematic desensitization, exposure therapy and hypnotherapy.
A person suffering from barophobia feels powerless over gravity. He might fear that gravity will suddenly cease to exist, sending everyone and everything into the air. Alternatively, gravity is perceived as having the potential to suddenly become forceful and capable of harming people.
The symptoms of barophobia are similar to that of many phobias. A person with barophobia will generally experience feelings of panic, dread, terror and anxiety. These symptoms might manifest themselves when the person rides an escalator or elevator, for instance. The tendency to go to great lengths to avoid riding an elevator or an amusement park ride is one symptom of the condition. The phobic individual will generally experience difficulty breathing and an accelerated heartbeat when he finds himself in these situations.
The treatment for barophobia focuses on eliminating the fear and relaxing the patient. A counter conditioning method is used in some cases wherein the phobic person is asked to consciously replace his fearful thoughts with relaxation. The next time he thinks about walking up a set of stairs or riding down an elevator, for example, he might be asked to engage in deep breathing or other relaxation techniques to overcome his phobia.
Once the phobic individual has learned relaxation techniques, some counselors will apply systematic desensitization and exposure therapy. In this case, the patient might be asked to take incremental steps to overcome his phobia. He may be instructed to step into an elevator or other location that generally stimulates his phobia. He is then to consciously apply relaxation techniques as a way to overcome the fear of gravity.
Hypnotherapy may also prove useful for barophobia. In this case, the hypnotherapist guides the patient into a deep state of relaxation. While the patient remains in the relaxed state, the therapist deprograms the brain away from the fearful state and teaches the person to adopt new thoughts when he next experiences the fear of gravity. Many hypnotherapists also teach a relaxation mechanism that the patient can immediately apply the next time he experiences the phobia.