Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fear of Heights Determined to be Rational After All

Kombu and Hijiki say that getting
up is "much easier" than getting down.
University of California, San Francisco

After months of scientific investigation, psychiatrists at UCSF Medical Center have determined that acrophobia, heretofore defined as an irrational or pathological fear of heights, is, in fact, perfectly rational.  As a result, acrophobia will be removed from a long list of diagnosable anxiety disorders and those who suffer from it will no longer be subjected to the terrible, debilitating stigma that the acrophobic label once carried.

Dr. Mark Rosen, who spearheaded the groundbreaking study, reports, "A true phobia is an irrational fear of something that, in reality, poses little or no threat.  In my study, I have proven scientifically that heights are actually very dangerous, if you are unlucky enough to fall from them." 

The experiment consisted of two groups of dummies. One group was seated on couches in Dr. Rosen's living room while the other was placed on the roof of his three-story house.  Then, he waited.  "What I discovered, and hold on to your hat because this will knock your socks off," Rosen explains,  "is that the odds of falling increase with altitude.  Not only that, those that fell from the roof suffered much more severe injuries.  Therefore,  it makes logical sense to be afraid of heights."

Dr. Vera Kwan assisted Dr. Rosen in executing the study.  "Not to brag or anything," she asserted proudly, "but it was my idea to use dummies in the first place.  I thought it would be more humane than using students."

Rosen concurs. "It was a first rate idea.  The clean-up was much, much easier than it would have been."

Next door neighbor Steve Damien remarked that he would have liked to have been informed in advance about the nature of the study.  "It was kind of startling when I saw that first body come crashing down."

Rosen hopes that the results of his study will have far-reaching effects.  "I suffer from fear of heights, myself," he admits, "and it's always been hard for me.  At school, kids taunted me for being different and called me demeaning names like 'acrophobe.'  Now that I've proven that it is perfectly rational to be afraid of heights, the dark  cloud of shame has lifted.   My hope is that from now on, acrophobics all over the world will no longer be humiliated, disqualified from housing and employment opportunities, or made to use separate underwear and handkerchiefs as if they were somehow dirty or contagious."

What's next for Dr. Rosen now that his study on acrophobia is complete?  "I would like to test out a theory I have about the use of aversion therapy for compulsive, late night snackers.  As they reach for one of their favorite snacks, I will pull out one nostril hair with a set of tweezers.  Enough to hurt a bit without doing any serious damage.  We'll see how long it takes before they lose all interest in night time snacking."

Written by Diana Shapiro
Photo courtesy of


  1. This is really groundbreaking and has application to most phobias. For example, many Ghanains have a fear of visiting their capital city i.e. accraphobia. But with Dr. Rosen's analysis the fear becomes rational - there is more crime , pollution, fast food etc , in the city leading to a greater risk of desease or worse. Thakls for calling this research to our attention. Dad

  2. So ridiculous it's hysterical. Still grinning and chortling. Kate