Overcoming the Fear of Heights – Conquering Acrophobia

Girl sitting over high mountain view

Are you afraid of heights?

Whenever you stand atop of something very high, do you begin to feel squeamish, with butterflies starting to take flight in your stomach, your legs feeling like they’re turning to jelly, and feeling dizzy and light-headed?

If you feel any or combination of the above then you most likely have a fear of heights, which by the way is a common phobia.

Acrophobia is the more exact term for this fear of heights, even when you’re not necessarily that high up. Vertigo is sometimes misleadingly attached to fear of heights but is caused by a different condition entirely even though the symptoms can appear to be similar.

I’m sure that doesn’t sound too reassuring, but understanding why you’ve a fear of heights and how you can deal with it better, may help!

First off, a fear of heights is more common for being on top of something high, usually out in an open-space. However, this isn’t always the case as many people are just as afraid of being on the top floor inside of a tall building, as they would be if they were standing outside on the roof of that same building.

Whatever the circumstances this fear can impact the enjoyment of life and missing out on experiencing many things such as observation towers in tall building, and journeys to magnificent views atop a summit or along hiking paths.

As is the case in many phobias understanding more about what is going is a first step to dealing with the fear.

 

WHAT CAUSES OUR FEAR OF HEIGHTS?

Construction WorkerThe actual fear of a specific height will vary for individuals.

While one individual may be afraid of standing on top of a tall building, another individual may feel the same degree of panic just standing on a chair, or a desk like the students were in the film Dead Poet’s Society, you know, “Captain my captain!

Trust me, if you have this type of phobia bad, you don’t feel like a ‘captain’ at any height above ground level.

Is this fear of heights normal? Is it learned? There are mixed reviews on how acrophobia comes into being for certain individuals.

Evolutionists suggest most people are indeed born with a certain disdain for heights.

In fact, there have been experiments conducted that demonstrate infants and children are naturally cautious when it comes to heights. Is there some innate ‘gene’ built in humans that makes them naturally cautious and perhaps fearful of heights as a self-preservation mechanism? Or a ‘gene’ that allows them to have no fear of heights at all?

For the longest time, it was thought Native American’s seemed to have no fear of heights and this was why they were hired for working on bridges and skyscrapers. They seemed to be “born” to be surefooted on narrow iron beams high above rivers or ground. However, there has since been enough evidence to refute this myth.

Learning theorists suggest the fear of heights is learned. This could occur in one of two ways.

One may have had a bad fall or bad experience from a place of a great height which made them fearful of high places. One or more bad experiences or perceptions with high places may have conditioned them to be extremely fearful of heights.

The other theory is an individual may have developed acrophobia from their parents, guardians, teachers or even watching TV or movies, warning them of the dangers of high places. Basically, they trusted others’ opinions that ‘heights’ are dangerous and even scary.

Perhaps it’s a combination of the two – genetic predisposition for being apprehensive of heights combined with repeated warnings or media perceptions of heights.

Either way the “fear” became ingrained in the unconscious mind and your habit of being fearful took over and was triggered in the circumstances it first became memorized.

No matter how you developed your fear of heights, you can overcome it to experience places and life without impacting the pleasure of everyday living.

 

WAYS TO OVERCOME FEAR OF HEIGHTS:

Girl with ThoughtsFirst, none of these ways are likely to reduce your fear so you can be a construction worker dancing hundreds of feet above ground working on the next skyscraper. I think these are a special “breed” of people to do that job and I haven’t seen one dancing anyway in my limited experience – they all seem to have a healthy respect for working on high.

While there are many suggestions about ways of dealing with acrophobia such as relaxing and breathing deeply and even medications to help dispel the anxiety or panic they don’t tackle the problem but just symptoms.

We tend to look to the psychotherapy world for solutions to help overcome fears and two common ones are Reality Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Reality Therapy is considered a Cognitive Behavioral approach therapy. It involves counseling and problem solving using choices and based on creating a better future for the patient rather than a focus on the past. I’ve provided a resource below for more information. It was developed by Dr. William Glasser.

Simply put Cognitive Behavioral Therapy centers on a person’s thought process and self-empowerment to control the thoughts causing the anxiety or panic. We’re all responsible for our thoughts and so recognizing this is a first step to controlling what we think and when. Again, I’ve put a link in the resource section below for more details.

Neither of these therapeutic approaches is quick and for those seeking an alternative treatment for acrophobia then hypnosis offers a viable option. In as little as one or two sessions, one can become more relaxed when it comes to being in high places.

With repeated exposure and experiences with heights following hypnosis, the intense feelings of fear can dissipate, and reduce or even stop the triggers causing the fear to surface. See a local hypnotist with experience in phobias or check out self-hypnosis sessions for overcoming fear of heights like the one here >>>

 

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Fear of Heights Phobia – Acrophobia >>>
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 101 >>>
What is Reality Therapy? >>>

 
Erika Slater CH
Free At Last Hypnosis
Massachusetts

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