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Acrophobia (Fear of Heights) : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

About Are we born with a fear of heights? Symptoms and Behaviors Health Risks Causes Diagnosis Treatment Medication How to Overcome Fear of Heights? Home Remedies Additional Info
Acrophobia (Fear of Heights) : Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment

What is Acrophobia?

There are many people in this world who have a fear of height. They cannot even think of crossing a bridge above the river even looking at a picture of a mountain can trigger fear and anxiety within them.

Do you know why? Because they are acrophobic. Acrophobia describes the fear of heights which causes anxiety and panic. According to many kinds of research, acrophobia is one of the most common phobias.

The acrophobia word comes from the Greek word for heights which is acron, and greek word for fear, which is phobos. The person suffering from acrophobia does not enjoy outings to amusement parks if these involve roller coasters and ferris wheels, because of their phobia of heights.

This phobia of heights can trigger unpleasant symptoms that result in persons with acrophobia avoiding the possibility of higher altitude situations altogether.

Are we born with a fear of heights?

According to the evolutionary psychology perspective, fears and phobias are innate. That is people experience fear of height without direct or indirect contact with heights. Psychologists suggest that people who are afraid of heights are more likely to escape from a dangerous situation or avoid it altogether.

By this, they are more likely to survive and later reproduce, and allow them to pass it on their genes. This fear has been passed down from generation to generation.

Symptoms and Behaviors of Acrophobia Patients

Panic and anxiety attacks are common symptoms of acrophobia. Also, for some people extreme high altitude may trigger this fear. Others may fear any kind of height including small stools or tables. Some of the physical and psychological symptoms include:

  • Increased sweating
  • Increased heartbeat at a sight
  • Thought of high places
  • Chest pain or chest tightness
  • Feeling sick or lightheaded
  • Shaking and trembling when faced with heights
  • Dizziness
  • Feeling like you’re falling or losing your balance when you look up at a high place or down from a height
  • Going out of your way to avoid heights

Psychological Symptoms of Acrophobia Includes:

  • Experiencing a panic attack when seeing high places or thinking about going at the height
  • Feeling of extreme fear of being trapped somewhere high up
  • Experiencing anxiety & fear when you have to climb stairs, look out a window, or drive along an overpass
  • Worrying about encountering high places in future

Health Risks of Acrophobia

The danger present in most phobias is a risk of limiting your life and activities to avoid the feared situation. However, acrophobia is unusual in that having a panic attack while high off the ground could lead to the imagined danger.

The situation may be safe as long as normal precautions are taken, but panicking could lead you to make unsafe moves.

Acrophobia Possible Causes

Sometimes, sudden traumatic events may develop acrophobia in people. Other causes includes:

  • Falling from a high place
  • Watching someone else fall from a high place
  • Having a panic attack or negative experiences while standing at a height

It is to be mentioned that phobias including acrophobia can also be developed without a known cause. Sometimes genetics or environmental factors also play a vital role. A person can be acrophobic if someone else in your family suffers from acrophobia.

How to Diagnosis Fear of Heights Issue?

Any phobia can only be diagnosed only by a mental health professional. Your doctor would suggest any psychiatrist. They can help you with diagnosing the phobia. They would ask you to describe what you feel or what happens to you when you find yourself placed with heights.

You are advised to mention everything including your mental health symptoms you are experiencing. Also, remember to tell her since how long you have had this fear.Acrophobia is diagnosed if you:

  • Actively avoid going to heights
  • Spend sufficient time worrying about encountering heights
  • Find that this time spent worrying starts to affect your daily life
  • React with immediate fear & anxiety when encountering heights
  • Have the above mentioned symptoms for more than six months

Treatment Strategies for Acrophobia

Not always phobias need treatment. Some people can also treat their phobias by avoiding the feared object so that it does not impact their daily life activities. But, others need proper treatment.

Your therapist will also make you watch some video clips of people crossing tightropes, climbing, or crossing narrow bridges. Also, you will be going out on a balcony or using a stepladder. These activities will help you learn relaxation techniques to help you kill your fear of heights.

  • Exposure Therapy for Acrophobia Problem: This therapy is considered to be one of the most effective treatments for specific phobias. In exposure therapy, you will work with a therapist to slowly expose yourself to what you’re afraid of. For acrophobic, you might start by looking at pictures from the point of view of someone inside a tall building.
  • Use of Relaxation Technique for Acrophobia: Affected people can do yoga, deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and medication can help you cope with anxiety and stress. Regular exercise can help too.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Fear of Heights: Cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT may help if you do not feel ready to try exposure therapy. In CBT, you’ll be working with a therapist to challenge and reframe negative thoughts about heights. This therapy may include a bit of exposure to heights, but there is nothing to worry about as it is done only within the safe setting of a therapy session.
  • Hypnosis To Overcome Your Fear Of Heights: It involves helping a person to enter deeply in a relaxed state. The therapist will use guided imagery and suggestive techniques that help a person to unlearn the fear response to the phobia. Some evidence suggests that hypnotism and hypnotherapy are useful to help people to overcome the fear of height. However, more research is needed to know the benefit of hypnotherapy.
  • Virtual reality: Some experts take virtual reality (VR) as a potential method for treating phobias. An immersive VR experience can provide exposure to what you’re afraid of in a safe setting. Using computer software gives you the option to stop right away if things feel overwhelming. There are many studies that show that VR therapy turned out to be a great help for people suffering from phobias including acrophobia.
  • Action steps: Educate yourself about the acrophobia and look for the treatment options which can help the individual to manage the fear of heights. Never feel embarrassed to talk about your phobia in front of your family and close friends, and ask for their support, so you can manage your phobia of heights.

Medication for Acrophobia

There are no particular medications designed to treat phobias. Some medications, however, can be taken to get relief from panic or anxiety attacks. These include:

  • Beta-blockers: These drugs keep your blood pressure and heart rate at a steady rate & reduces other physical symptoms of anxiety.
  • Benzodiazepines: These medications are sedatives. They help in reducing anxiety symptoms, but they’re typically only prescribed for a short time or for occasional use, as they can be addictive.
  • D-cycloserine (DCS): This medicine increases the benefits of exposure therapy.

How to Overcome Fear of Heights?

There are many ways to overcome your fear of height. You are advised to take the help of a therapist as he/she will help you deal with your situation in a proper way. Also, your therapist can help you develop tools that will help you prevent your phobia affecting your daily life.

Home Remedies to Overcome from Acrophobia

There are many ways to manage the fear that draw upon nature itself to lessen the impact of more intense moments. Below are the natural remedies useful in controlling the fear when you encounter heights.

  • Relaxation technique makes you feel calm: make relaxation techniques ally as it keeps you calm prior to a panic attack. Relaxation technique allows you to gain a great sense of personal centeredness.
  • Switch to decaf: Caffeine in your system can amplify the symptoms of panic attack. When you yourself experience the fear of heights you don’t need to push off caffeine. Decreasing the instance of stimulating foods and drink can provide great benefits when the fear triggers.
  • Natural herbs: There are a variety of herbs that have proven effective in treating many health concerns like anxiety issues such as fear of heights. Below are natural herbs:
    1. Lavandula
    2. Chamomile
    3. Augustifolia
    4. Passiflora Incarnata
    5. Melissa Officinalis

Additional Info on Acrophobia

Acrophobia, like other phobias, seems to be a hyper-reaction of the normal fear response. Some people may learn about this phobia from either a past fall or from a parent's nervous reaction to heights.

Educate yourself about the acrophobia and look for the treatment options which can help the individual to manage the fear of heights.

Acrophobia is different from the other phobias as if a person gets a panic attack while in a high place, it might be an unsafe move that can be dangerous too. So, treatment for acrophobia is necessary, if high places is a part of one's life.

Never feel embarrassed to talk about your phobia in front of your family and close friends and ask for their support, so you can manage your phobia of heights.

Popular Questions & Answers

What is ocd and acrophobia doctor said my brother have this problem. And prescribed medicine citagol. betagel tr 40 and rozep. What is reason of acrophobia. Is it treatable. How much time a person should eat medicine to get rid of this problem. And what can I do to get out of this problem thanks.

M.Sc - Applied Psychology, PG Diploma in Guidance and Counselling
Psychologist, Hyderabad
Phobia is a condition of being afraid of the event without experience. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which time people have recurring, unwanted thoughts, ideas or sensations (obsessions) that make them feel driven t...
1 person found this helpful

Sir I am suffering from acrophobia. I feel very much anxiety and suffocation during travelling by train or flight even in my room if locked by some one from out side. Uneasiness and breathlessness at that time very much anxious to come out any how in open air after some time I feel well. Further I am also suffering from dmt2 with hypertension. Please do find a solution and oblige me.

Post Graduate Diploma in Counselling, MA In Clinical Psychology
Psychologist, Pune
Hmmm, it happens. But not to worry. You need of exposure therapy. You can do daily practical with your self. Go outside, stay in the lock room only for a second. Slowly increase the period of staying in the room you will show that the ratio of you...
1 person found this helpful

I am 47 years old male non diabetic non hypertension non thyroid, 5.8 feet height and 75 to 80 kgs weight most sensitive person suffering from acrophobia I mean fear of heights. Thus cannot drive on mountain slopes cannot use glass elevators and am afraid of third fourth story Windows and balconies. I already tried to expose myself to heights but of no use. Please prescribe necessary medication?

BASM, MD, MS (Counseling & Psychotherapy), MSc - Psychology, Certificate in Clinical psychology of children and Young People, Certificate in Psychological First Aid, Certificate in Positive Psychology, Positive Psychiatry and Mental Health
Psychologist, Palakkad
Dear, the best method is to keep away from those circumstances. With the help of medicines, you may temporarily overcome the hysteria and anxiety, but that is not a permanent cure. Slowly, when time passes, you will overcome this problem. Take care.
1 person found this helpful

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