Symptoms, causes, and treatment of acrophobia

What is a fear of heights?

Acrophobia is defined as the fear of heights. Unlike certain phobias (such as flying phobia), acrophobia can cause you to fear all kinds of things related to being away from the ground. Depending on the severity of the phobia, you may be afraid of being on a high floor of a building, as if you were just climbing a ladder.

Conditions related to fear of heights

Symptoms related to fear of heights and that may ensue include:

  • Vertigo: True vertigo is a medical condition that causes the feeling of spinning and dizziness.Ilyngophobia is a phobia in which the fear of developing vertigo actually causes vertigo-like symptoms. Acrophobia can induce similar feelings, but the three conditions are not the same. If you experience dizziness, please see your doctor for an examination. Medical tests may include blood tests, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can rule out various neurological diseases.
  • Bathroom phobia: The fear of slopes and stairs, called bathroom phobia, is sometimes related to fear of heights. In bathroom phobia, you may panic when watching a steep slope, even if you don’t need to climb it. Although many people with bathroom phobia have acrophobia, most people with acrophobia do not develop bathroom phobia.
  • Climacophobia: This fear is related to bathroom phobia, but it usually only occurs when you plan to climb. If you suffer from altitude phobia, as long as you can stay safely at the bottom, you may not be afraid to see a set of steep stairs. However, climate phobia may occur at the same time as fear of heights.
  • Aerophobia: This is a special fear of flying. Depending on the severity of your fear, you may be afraid of airports and airplanes, or you may only be afraid when you are in the air. Acrophobia occasionally occurs at the same time as a fear of heights.

Symptoms of acrophobia

Emotionally and physically, the response to fear of heights is similar to the response to any other phobia. You may never experience dizziness, but you may experience the following fear of heights:

  • Emotional symptoms: You may panic when you feel that you are high off the ground. You may instinctively start looking for something you can hold on, and find that you can’t believe in your sense of balance. Common reactions include immediate descent, crawling on all fours, kneeling or lowering the body in other ways.
  • Physical symptoms: You may start trembling, sweating, heart palpitations, or even crying or yelling. You may feel scared and paralyzed. It may become difficult to think.
  • Anxiety and avoidance: If you have a fear of heights, you are likely to begin to fear situations that may cause you to spend time at heights. For example, you may worry that the upcoming vacation will let you stay in a hotel room on a higher floor. You may postpone your home repairs because you are afraid of using a ladder. If your friend has a balcony or floor-to-ceiling windows upstairs, you may avoid visiting their home.

Risk of acrophobia

The greatest danger with most phobias is the risk of restricting your life and activities to avoid terrible situations. However, acrophobia is unusual because a panic attack at high altitude can actually cause imaginary danger.

As long as normal precautions are taken, this situation may be safe, but panic may cause you to make unsafe actions.

It is very important to get professional treatment for your fear of heights as soon as possible, especially if height is a routine part of your life.

Causes of fear of heights

Studies have shown that a certain degree of reluctance to heights is normal, not only for humans, but also for all visual animals. In 1960, the famous research psychologists Eleanor J. Gibson and Richard D. Walk conducted the “visual cliff” experiment, which showed that crawling babies and numerous The infants of the species refuse to pass through the thick glass panel, which covers the obvious steep slope. The baby’s mother was there to encourage him, but did not convince the baby that it was safe.

Therefore, fear of heights seems to be at least partly entrenched and may be an evolutionary survival mechanism. Despite this, most children and adults are cautious, but not overly afraid of heights. Like all phobias, acrophobia appears to be an overreaction of the normal fear response. This may be a learned response to a previous fall or a parent’s response to high levels of tension.

Acrophobia treatment

Acrophobia can share certain symptoms with vertigo (a medical disease with multiple possible causes) and other specific phobias. For these reasons, if you show signs of acrophobia, it is very important to seek professional help as soon as possible.

Treatments for fear of heights include:

  • Psychotherapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is the main treatment option for specific phobias. Frequently use behavioral techniques that expose you to terrible situations either gradually (system desensitization) or quickly (overflowing).In addition, you learned how to stop panic reactions and restore emotional control.
  • Exposure: Traditionally, actual exposure to heights is the most common solution. However, a study published in 2017 showed that virtual reality may be just as effective.One of the main advantages of virtual reality therapy is the cost and time savings, as there is no need to accompany the “onsite” therapist. This method is not ubiquitous, but as the cost of virtual reality equipment drops, it may become easier to obtain over time.
  • Medications: Sometimes sedatives or beta blockers can be used for short-term relief in certain situations to help relieve the panic and anxiety you feel. Since 2008, the drug D-cycloserine has been used in clinical trials for the treatment of anxiety. A 2012 study found that combining the drug with cognitive behavioral therapy may improve results.However, the study authors stated that more research is needed on dosage and length of treatment.
  • Relaxation: Doing yoga, deep breathing, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation can help you cope with stress and anxiety. Regular exercise can also help.