Psyche logo


by Judith Isidore 2 months ago in advice
Report Story

What is Acrophobia?

Photo by Tobias Tullius on Unsplash

They fear taking outdoor elevators, climbing mountains, climbing stairs, looking anywhere high, or from a high place down, and sometimes thinking about one of these things causes them to panic. These people suffer from a phobia of heights, or an intense fear of heights, which is scientifically called acrophobia.

Phobia of heights

Acrophobia or acrophobia falls under the category of specific phobias, if a specific fear is considered to be determined by a specific state of “height.” Although most people may be afraid of heights due to imagining the idea of ​​falling, but only people with acrophobia have an intense and irrational fear From heights or even thinking about them, climbing a ladder or a plane, going out to the balcony of the house.

Fear of heights is one of the most common types of phobia, and also the oldest, as one of the ancient studies indicates that one in 20 people suffers from a fear of heights. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) includes height as a type of "nature phobia", which also includes fear of water (Aquaphobia), fear of lightning and thunder (Astraphobia) and other types of nature phobias.

Causes of Acrophobia

The cause of almost any phobia can be viewed from two perspectives; It can either be innate (an evolutionary perspective) or acquired (a behavioural perspective). In general, research shows that a certain amount of that reluctance around heights is normal, both for humans and even animals. An experiment conducted by two famous scientists in 1960, called the "The Visual Cliff" experiment, proved that this phobia is due to the human innate fear of high places.

The visual cliff experience shows babies of different species crawling on a wooden board to which a thickened pane of glass is attached that covers a steep drop, and on the other side a mother stands and calls her child. Experience showed that children refused to cross the glass plate that showed a steep drop. For the child, this glass was invisible and therefore did not appear to the child, despite the presence and encouragement of his mother on the other end, it did not appear to him that it was safe.

So, it seems that phobia of heights is at least partially innate to humans, perhaps it can be considered as an evolutionary survival mechanism. However, since most children and adults are shown to be wary of heights, but not to be overly panicky about it, acrophobia, like any other phobia, remains an overreaction to the normal fear response.

Acrophobia may be acquired from traumatic experiences that involve, for example, a previous fall, watching a parent panicked from a height, or watching someone fall from a certain height. Some research has proven that phobia of heights can be genetically inherited, as a 2016 study attempted to identify the chromosomal regions associated with phobia of heights, and found certain chromosomes that are actually linked to the body’s genetic predisposition to phobia, and the study concluded that the genetic factors behind this phobia are very complex, so it could be the cause Sometimes hereditary. 1

Symptoms of a person with a phobia of heights

The symptoms of phobia of heights are similar to the symptoms of other anxiety disorders, and the physical symptoms appear on the person only when he thinks or sees high places, where it begins to provoke the sympathetic nervous system to prepare the body as if it is an emergency, and that helps the body to choose one of the two solutions; Either escape or confrontation, this is known as the fight-or-flight response. 2

In general, here is what appears physically on a sufferer of acrophobia:

  • rapid heart palpitations;
  • Shortness of breath.
  • sweating;
  • Dry mouth.
  • Nausea and sometimes vomiting.

Some sufferers also display distinct behaviours, beginning with looking for something to hold on to and a sense of loss of balance, followed by lowering, kneeling, crawling, or getting down immediately. Later behaviors also include:

  • Avoid going to places that may expose them to certain heights.
  • Avoid talking about high places in general.
  • Panic when having to be in a high place.
  • They are afraid that you will joke with them and trap them in a high place.
  • Treatment of phobia of heights

Possible treatments include:

  • Psychotherapy: Using cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), this involves gradually exposing the person to situations that frighten him, teaching him ways to control panic and restoring emotional control.
  • Actual or simulated height exposure: Of course, actual altitude exposure is the most common solution, however, in a research study published in 2017, VR therapy can be just as effective, cost-saving as There is a need for the therapist to accompany his patient to the desired location as in the actual exposure, but the virtual reality treatment method is not available everywhere.

  • Medications: These include sedatives or beta-blockers, and they are taken at the same time as the patient panics. One of the proposed drugs is D-cycloserine, which has been undergoing clinical trials since 2008 to prove its effectiveness in treating anxiety disorder. In a 2012 study, it was shown that taking sedative medications along with follow-up to CBT may improve treatment outcomes.
  • Practising relaxation techniques: Doing yoga or meditation and deep breathing can help you overcome anxiety and stress.
  • advice

    About the author

    Judith Isidore

    I'm happy to share my stories with Vocal media community.

    Reader insights

    Be the first to share your insights about this piece.

    How does it work?

    Add your insights


    Judith Isidore is not accepting comments at the moment

    Want to show your support? Send them a one-off tip.

    Find us on social media

    Miscellaneous links

    • Explore
    • Contact
    • Privacy Policy
    • Terms of Use
    • Support

    © 2022 Creatd, Inc. All Rights Reserved.