Fear of heights

Photo by Jakob Dalbjörn on Unsplash

When the mere thought of walking out onto the balcony of a high-rise building and looking down causes sweating and heart palpitations, panic attacks are a symptom of a phobic disorder.

What is the name of the fear of heights?
Panic, pathological fear of heights is called acrophobia. This is a fairly common phobia that many people suffer from.

Acrophobia can cause a lot of trouble for a person, especially if his activities are related to life in a metropolis, the need to stay in high-rise buildings. People can be terrified of elevators, stairs, or escalators. If left untreated, this phobia can progress, leading to isolation and stress, and health problems.

Causes of fear of heights in adults
The fear of heights is quite natural – it is part of the self-preservation instinct. But at the same time, there are no vegetative reactions and panic, paralyzing fear. Pathological deviations, phobias of height occur under special conditions. They can be divided into two groups:

Psychological fear of heights due to increased impressionability, fixation on specific episodes seen in films, real-life, or told by people. This provokes an obsession with a particular problem in susceptible and emotional individuals. As a result, fear is cultivated, which is especially pronounced under the confluence of specific circumstances.
Physiological influences are associated with the work of organs and systems. Often, problems are possible in people with disorders of the vestibular apparatus, suffering from instability and dizziness.

Often, fear of heights for no reason can arise after experiencing stress, severe moral trauma. The consequences lead to the fact that certain events or situations form an uncontrollable horror of the mind.

Symptoms of fear of heights in adults
An attack of acrophobia or anxiety about heights is most often accompanied by:

  • dizziness even at low altitude, lightheadedness, which threatens to fall, inability to stand on his feet – a person, feeling a similar symptom, convulsively grabs objects, trying not to fall;
  • palpitations, which are felt in the temples, chest – sometimes this is also accompanied by unpleasant sensations in the chest, discomfort;
  • severe shortness of breath, a feeling of lack of air – difficulty breathing adversely affects health and psyche, which leads not just to fear, but to a real attack of panic;
  • increased sweating – due to fear and the release of a large portion of stress hormones leads to increased sweating, the skin becomes covered with cold sticky sweat;
  • dry mouth due to suppression of the process of salivation as a reaction to stress hormones, a metallic taste in the mouth is also possible, problems with swallowing saliva, chewing, gasping for breath – because of this, a person may realize that it is difficult for him to ask for help;
  • trembling of the limbs and trembling in the body – overexcitement and emotional stress leads to tremors, muscle contraction with tremors, which worsens the condition in combination with other factors.

Treatment for fear of heights in adults
If acrophobia is severe, it can significantly complicate a person’s life and requires treatment by a specialist. Without therapy, habitual activities may become impossible.

The basis of the diagnosis is a detailed discussion of all the existing symptoms that the patient has, with a detailed study of the medical history and life. This allows you to find out where the phobia came from. In addition, the doctor can conduct a series of tests that will show the severity of the condition, the presence of additional problems – depression, panic attacks.

Modern methods of treatment
This phobia is treated either by a psychotherapist or a clinical psychologist. Despite the fact that there is a general algorithm for helping with phobic disorders, each person is deeply individual, and therapy is tailored specifically to his personality. Conventionally, we can divide the therapy into two stages. The first is to work with thinking and emotions, in which we analyze various distortions of thinking, learn to work with emotions, and study techniques of self-regulation. The second is gradual exposure, i.e. contact with a specific situation of the patient that causes a phobia.

Prevention of fear of heights in adults at home
First of all, the basis for the prevention of any phobia is the rational upbringing of the child, the establishment of a healthy attitude to the surrounding reality without risky behavior, but also without excessive guardianship and prohibitions.

What complications can there be with a fear of heights? Is it dangerous for life and health?
Behind almost any phobia, behind any fear, there is a fear of death. Acrophobia (fear of heights) is no exception. From the point of view of evolution, man has never lived and has never been at a height, so this fear is quite understandable from the outset – to fall from a great height means death.

Such fears do not directly harm health and life, but, of course, they can greatly ruin the usual life, since a person deliberately limits himself in many ways. Acrophobes cannot work in certain professions, there are problems with flights, even the choice of housing in multi-story buildings.

When to see a doctor for fear of heights?
Most phobias are caused by a combination of disturbing personality traits inherent in childhood and adolescence as a result of living conditions and upbringing, and a situation in which a person experienced a strong fear for his life.

In the case of acrophobia, we are talking about some kind of incident that occurred at a high altitude. For example, a person, who got stuck on a Ferris wheel when the cockpit was up and swaying in the wind. After that, he began to feel fear of heights and avoid such places and situations. It is with all these problems that you need to deal with the treatment, consult a doctor.

Is it possible to treat acrophobia with folk methods, dietary supplements, or do without a doctor, be cured in one session?
Now there are a lot of pseudo-specialists who offer to save a person from all problems in one session. I would like to advise you to treat such methods with caution since our psyche is a very complex system and simply removing the symptoms is not a good idea, which can turn into problems in the future.

Likewise, with various dietary supplements, herbs, unconventional methods – they can do much harm! Therefore, as with any other health problem, it makes sense to consult a professional.


11 thoughts on “Fear of heights”

  1. Thank you, this is clear and helpful. I suffer from acrophobia, since I was a child. I’ve never had good balance anyway, and when I was young had a bad fall. I do manage high places, even airplanes, but simply do not like the height.

    1. I think I started to afraid of heights now, when I was a child, I was jumping from roof to roof and it was fine)

  2. I have been a house painter for many years and have needed to climb up ladders. At first it was always scary, but you learn how to deal with it; mostly just don’t look down. It is always better to look at what you are doing.

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