Fear of heights is a commonly occurring type of anxiety. If you are afraid of heights, you experience a distressing, stifling feeling when at some height. However, it is normal to be afraid when you are at a great high. Such fear ensures that we do not engage in risky behavior and take safety measures when, for example, going for mountain climbing. Fear of heights is found in every human being and has existed as long as humanity itself. So being afraid of heights is a natural emotion and a type of survival mechanism of nature.
Fear of heights, however, can also become a phobia, which is also called acrophobia. This kind of fear can even occur at heights which should not be scary at all. An example of this is getting very anxious when you have to cross a bridge. Crossing a bridge does not involve any life-threatening risks such as mountain climbing. Yet, people with acrophobia show the same symptoms as if they were climbing a mountain.
How do extreme forms of fear of heights develop?
Fear of heights can develop to become a phobia, for example after seeing someone fall. It often is an extremely negative experience that triggers a type of anxiety or phobia. For example, being a witness of someone falling can be so traumatic, that extreme types of acrophobia develop. The more extreme forms of this phobia generally occur in ages under 10 or over 50 years. Once such a negative experience has taken place, anxiety may not be limited to a single situation. In extreme forms of the phobia, you might not only be scared when having to cross a bridge but also, for example, when you are in an elevator. Extreme types of acrophobia thus do not only limit themselves to what you have seen/experienced during the negative experience but will rather become bigger and entail more and more.
What do you experience when acrophobia shows itself?
When you are confronted with the fear of heights, you experience different anxiety symptoms. These symptoms can differ from time to time but are generally the same.
When you experience fear of heights and end up in a scary situation, your heart will start beating faster, your breathing becomes more shallow, your muscles tense up. This is a typical physical response to fear. Your body will get your ready to deal with the fearful situation more efficiently and quickly. For example, you will notice that you can run faster when you are scared.
In addition to physical symptoms, there are also psychological symptoms of anxiety. For example, people often have the feeling that they are out of touch with reality and even experience depersonalization in more extreme types of fear of heights. This means that they have the feeling to no longer be in touch with reality or their body. You sort of feel like you float above your body and no longer have any control over your bodily functions.
How can I reduce my fear of heights?
If you notice that your fear of heights is not only limited to situations which actually could be life-threatening, and when your fear hinders you in your daily life, it can be useful to seek treatment as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the more time you usually need to deal with the symptoms.
An effective type of treatment for anxiety is behavioral therapy. In this type of therapy, the negative constructs of anxiety are treated and slowly replaced by healthy constructs.
"15Minutes4Me.com" is an online self-help program which makes use of behavioral therapy, combined with systematic solution focused therapy, in order to treat anxiety, depression, and stress from home. You can follow the program every day in order to work on your fears on a daily basis.