One of the most common phobias that people suffer from is acrophobia, or the fear of heights. While many people are scared of heights and experience nervousness or jitters when up high, a phobia of heights involves much more irrational and intense fears when dealing with heights. An acrophobe has different and more severe reactions to heights than normal people. Simple actions like walking near a ledge or climbing a tall ladder may send an acrophobe into an anxiety attack.
Some of the most common triggers for fear of heights are being on exposed open places such as balconies, climbing to higher elevations, driving across a bridge, looking over the edge of a building or out of a tall window and many more. The most common symptoms of social phobias are blushing, dizziness, clammy hands, sweating, shaky voice, loss of breath, nausea and dry mouth. While most everyone will experience some nervousness when dealing with heights, a phobia of heights is the exaggeration of the nervousness and other symptoms that are taken to intense levels.
A phobia of heights can have very limiting effects on a person’s life. Something as simple as climbing a ladder or driving across a tall bridge can become a seemingly life or death situation. An acrophobe will often choose the flight response when faced with a situation in which fight or flight is necessary. People that suffer from phobias often will want to remove themselves from the intimidating situation immediately so as to avoid the phobic symptoms. This means that a person with a phobia could end up isolating themselves, or not taking part in activities that involve heights to avoid their phobia.
You should seek help for your phobia of heights if the situation causes intense fear, anxiety or panic. You should also seek help if the phobia causes you to avoid certain everyday situations. Another indicator that you should seek help for a phobia is if you can recognize that your fear is irrational and excessive. If it is apparent to you that the phobia is unreasonable, chances are that it is also apparent to many other people in your life. Lastly, you should seek help for a phobia if you have had the phobia for more than six months because this is an indicator that the phobia will most likely not go away on its own.
People with severe phobias of heights should see a medical professional such as a therapist or a psychologist. Therapeutic remedies for dealing with phobias of heights include exposure therapy, talk therapy, hypnosis, and medication in the most severe cases. Discussing the fear with a professional and getting to the root cause of the phobia will help you to over the fear of heights. Exposure therapy is one of the most effective methods to deal with fear of heights because it systematically retrains the body and mind to not be afraid of the heights through measured times of exposure. For instance, the first step of exposure therapy could be to watching someone climbing a ladder. The next step might be for the acrophobe to climb onto of a chair, and then a ladder. The steps get progressively harder to deal with, until the last step, which might be something like looking over the edge of a cliff. The therapist will be guiding these exercises and talking with the acrophobe in order to gauge comfort levels and progress.
Another method that has proven to be successful is hypnosis. Hypnosis can reprogram the mind to think differently about heights. Since the fearful reaction to heights is mostly a psychological reaction, retraining the mind is a good way to conquer the fear. Once the mind feels differently about heights, i.e. that the body can handle being at high elevations and that death is not eminent, the emotional reactions to heights will become less severe. Whatever method you choose to cure your phobia of heights, make sure that you take the necessary precautions and tackle the issue slowly so as not to overwhelm yourself.