What is Acrophobia? The Great Fear of the Height

Do the stairs scare you? Acrophobia or fear of heights is an anxiety disorder. It makes life difficult for those suffering from it. It can be not easy even when performing daily actions, such as looking at people from the balcony or looking out the window. Here you will learn the symptoms, causes, and consequences of acrophobia. We will also tell you how to handle it.

What is Fear of Height (Acrophobia)?

Even when one is not especially high, acrophobia is an intense or unreasonable fear or phobia of heights. It belongs to a group of unique phobias with common causes and treatment options, called space and motion discomfort. This article explains what acrophobia is, its symptoms, treatment methods, etc.

Acrophobia is an excessive fear of heights. People with this anxiety disorder become panic when they are above a certain height. (elevators, stairs, etc.). 2% to 5% of the population faces this problem.

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What are the Symptoms of Fear of Height?

People who have acrophobia not only feel tense on the roof of a skyscraper or refrain from doing sports that require a large amount of elevation off the ground. They face extreme difficulties and fear in everyday activities such as looking through the first-floor window or crossing a low bridge. Besides, the fear of heights has different degrees of intensity. The most common psychological and physiological symptoms are:

  1. Anxiety
  2. Panic attack
  3. Loss of control
  4. Headache
  5. Dizziness
  6. Stress and muscle tension
  7. Severe heart palpitations
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What Causes Acrophobia?

We have all been afraid of heights since childhood, but the intensity of fear varies from person to person. This fear exists in animals and is adaptive, protecting them from dangerous heights.

What causes acrophobia?

The reasons for people’s fear of heights can be completely different. There are three main reasons causing this phobia.

1- Acrophobia due to traumatic events
Usually, this is due to childhood. Big accidents involving falling from a high place might cause this. This does not mean that everyone who has bad events about height will have acrophobia. On the other hand, some people obtain this disorder through observation, even if they are not the ones who fell. This is called representative learning. For example, if we witness our fear reaction when a wasp stings our brother, we may be afraid when a similar insect approaches us.

2- Congenital fear of heights
Currently, researchers are investigating the inheritance of the innate factors of this phobia. In families with acrophobia, children are believed to have witnessed this since birth and eventually developed it.

3- Cognitive prejudice in acrophobia
Deviations in our cognitive process also play an important role in the formation of some phobias. False information on altitude can also increase excessive anxiety and stress response and cause a phobia. The tendency to overestimate the occurrence or severity of accidents is common in these cases.

What are the consequences of fear of heights?

Many find the idea of ​​cleaning or skydiving the windows of the building extremely worrying. That doesn’t mean they have a problem. It is common to object to potentially dangerous situations. However, people who have acrophobia are often in distress in those situations. Not all phobias are clinical. For example, for a person who spends most of his time in a big city, fear of tarantulas is not a major concern. However, height is everywhere. Cities full of steep slopes or tall buildings seem like hell to acrophobics. On the other hand, cities in flat valleys without slopes can make an acrophobic feel like he/she is in paradise.

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These anxiety symptoms trigger serious avoidance behaviors in acrophobics. Avoiding the stimulus that triggers fear causes this disorder to continue. Acrophobics withdraw their hands from daily activities. Acrophobics often refuse to engage in fun activities such as enjoying the scenery, riding a roller coaster, or taking the cable car.

If the profession requires an interest in height, they may have difficulty working. For most people, moving to the tenth floor of a building is not a problem; however, this may be a serious problem for acrophobics. Fear can render them extremely ineffective, and their performance may go down or even have to quit.

Likewise, any phobia can significantly deteriorate a person’s quality of life in various areas. They can be emotionally frustrating and cannot be ignored by the person suffering from them. Also, people have negative effects on their own will. These disorders are relatively common and attract psychologists’ attention looking for ways to help people with extreme anxiety.

Is vertigo the same as fear of heights?

In general, we associate these two terms because they are both related to a height-related discomfort, but they are not synonymous. Vertigo is a sensation of rotation and loss of balance. It feels like the elements around us are moving, or we are turning. On the other hand, people who are afraid of heights can experience vertigo at any time. However, dizziness is only one symptom of this disorder. In short, these challenges are interrelated, although not equivalent.

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Treatment Options

If your height fear is not pathological, there are ways to keep you free from this fear. It is possible to unwind in anxiety situations, but it is best to seek professional help if you have a phobia that is really noticeable to you. Some psychological assessment tools, such as questionnaires, can see if we have any unreasonable fear. Many therapies have proven to be a great help for acrophobia. However, it is not known, which is the best method. However, seeking appropriate treatment is essential to improve the quality of life of those affected.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy is the most commonly used therapy to treat phobias. Procedures such as exposure techniques have a long and successful tradition in research and clinical practice. These methods gradually bring acrophobics closer to the object of their fears. They gradually become safer and reduce anxiety reactions.

Patients may be referred to as fear stimulation by professionals (psychological help specialists) or may resort to direct exposure to fear techniques. On the other hand, the animation can be symbolic or alive. It can also be done in a group or individually. Symptoms do not always disappear completely, but they allow them to perform daily activities, such as riding the elevator or looking out a window, without being paralyzed by fear.

The psychological intervention will greatly increase quality of life. Besides, these treatments are under continuous review. In fact, the emergence of new technologies such as virtual reality helps people encounter their fears in a more controlled environment. The acrophobic person can overcome difficulties that he has never imagined before.

Last Updated on December 11, 2022 by Lucas Berg


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