Fear of heights (Acrophobia): Causes, signs and remedies

The fear of heights is one of the most common phobias. The intense, persistent fear of heights causes many troubles in life. However, the feeling of fear can be completely eliminated with timely treatment.

What is a fear of heights?

The fear of heights is one of the most common phobias with a prevalence of about 5% of the population

What is fear of heights?

Fear is a normal human response. This emotion is triggered when we are faced with a serious or potentially dangerous object/situation. However, some people develop an irrational fear of seemingly innocuous things. This condition is known collectively as a phobia or a phobia of anxiety disorder.

Acrophobia is one of the most common phobias and anxiety disorders. People with this syndrome have an intense and irrational fear of heights. This fear dominates causing patients to avoid flying, crossing bridges, climbing stairs, and some even avoid looking at pictures or watching video clips of mountains or tall buildings.

In fact, when in a high place, everyone’s common reaction is a feeling of insecurity and mild anxiety. However, most people can control their emotions. Meanwhile, people with acrophobia have an extreme, strong fear and the patient may become panic when seeing tall buildings or having to climb stairs, etc.

There are no specific statistics on the number of people with fear of heights. However, some small-scale studies show that about 1 in 20 people experience excessive fear and anxiety about heights. This shows that the incidence of fear of heights is very common.

Causes of fear of heights

Like other phobic anxiety disorders, scientists have not yet identified a specific cause of the fear of heights (Acrophobia). This syndrome is thought to develop in children and adolescents and then progress to adulthood.

Several factors have been identified to be associated with acrophobia including:

  • Evolutionary Outcomes: Evolutionary theories suggest that excessive fear and obsession with heights may be the result of evolution. This fear helps people to be aware of the dangers of heights such as falling, falling, etc.
  • Gradually, the gene “afraid of heights” is formed and passed on to children.
  • Heredity: The fear of heights can be inherited from parents or grandparents. Although the genes and ways of inheritance have not been found, experts have found that the risk of this syndrome is significantly increased in people who have a family with a fear of heights or suffer from phobias and anxiety disorders. other fear.
  • Negative experiences related to heights: Most phobias develop from past negative experiences. People who have fallen, fallen from a height or witnessed events such as plane crashes, elevators, etc. will have a high risk of developing this syndrome. The amygdala in the brain will “remember” the emotions from these experiences and form an unconscious defensive response. When faced with heights, this organ activates a fear response with the aim of helping the body sense danger.
  • Family influences: Children can learn from their families’ responses to altitude and form a similar response. Therefore, even though they are not related by blood, if they live with someone with acrophobia for a long time, it is more likely that the child will grow up to also have a persistent and strong fear of heights.

Women are at a higher risk of acrophobia than men. The reason is because of a weak, sensitive, or anxious personality. In addition, if there is a negative experience of altitude, women themselves will be more vulnerable. Therefore, the likelihood of developing acrophobia is higher than that of men.

Signs of a fear of heights

Acrophobia is characterized by extreme fear, phobias, and anxiety about heights. Patients often fear the following situations:

  • Climbing stairs
  • Using the parking basement with many floors
  • High altitude games
  • Standing on the balcony
  • Some people feel nervous when taking elevators (especially transparent elevators that can be seen outside)
  • View from above

Some people even get scared when they think about themselves standing at a very high place or when they see pictures, video clips, etc. of high mountains, tall buildings.

The fear of heights is not simply a feeling of insecurity and anxiety when standing at high places. This syndrome strongly influences behavior and emotions and causes a number of physical symptoms. The severity of symptoms increases when the person is facing heights (climbing, looking out the window of a tall building, etc.).

What is fear of heights?

When standing in a high place, the patient often lies or squats down to reduce the feeling of fear

Signs of a fear of heights:

  • Always worried, scared and feeling insecure when thinking about yourself standing at the top
  • Constantly thinking negatively, believing that you will get stuck or fall/fall if you are at a height
  • Want to quickly get out of a scary situation such as climbing a ladder, crossing a bridge, etc.
  • There are behaviors to avoid going to high places such as restricting work in high-rise buildings, choosing another route to avoid having to cross bridges, not participating in high-altitude games, refusing to climb mountains or ride cables hang,…)

When faced with heights, feelings of fear increase which release the hormones cortisol and adrenalin leading to physical symptoms such as:

  • Trembling
  • Extreme fear
  • Panic
  • Feeling nauseous
  • Lightheaded, dizzy
  • Increased sweating
  • Increase heart rate
  • Chest pain
  • Jitter

In these situations, patients often squat down and close their eyes to ease feelings of fear. The fear of being out of control and breaking out in crowded places makes many patients feel inferior and inferior. This further prompts avoidant behaviors that lead to many troubles in life.

Is fear of heights dangerous?

Acrophobia is a fairly common condition. In today’s life, having to go to high-rise buildings or cross bridges is inevitable. Therefore, fear of heights needs to be treated as soon as possible. If left untreated, the patient’s quality of life and health will be significantly affected.

Fear of heights causes patients to avoid going to tall buildings, refusing to climb mountains, cross bridges, etc. These avoidant behaviors limit life experience and make work difficult. Most people with agoraphobia refuse to work at heights or work in tall buildings. In addition, the patient also refused to travel and play with people for fear of having to go to high places.

People with altitude sickness themselves are aware that their fears are irrational and abnormal. They realize the difference between themselves and those around them, but can’t control their fear. Therefore, in addition to the effects on quality of life, people with agoraphobia also face stress, anxiety, and sometimes develop depression.

Diagnosis of fear of heights

Your doctor will use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to diagnose acrophobia. Patients are diagnosed with this syndrome only when an unreasonable fear of heights and the condition has to persist for at least 6 months.

In addition, the fear must be large enough to prompt avoidant behaviors and cause certain obstacles to life. In addition, the patient will also be diagnosed with some accompanying problems. Most people with a fear of heights often develop at the same time as other psychological problems such as agoraphobia, fear of driving, etc.

Methods of treatment for fear of heights

It is almost impossible to completely dodge to high places such as high-rise buildings, airplanes, etc. Therefore, most people with acrophobia will be treated. Psychotherapy is a highly effective method of eliminating excessive fear and anxiety. Besides, taking medicine and relaxation measures are also considered to bring the most effective.

Approaches to be considered during the treatment of acrophobia:

1. Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy is always the first choice when treating phobias, including acrophobia. This therapy is communicative and aims to eliminate the irrational, excessive fear of heights. Psychotherapy has many intervention directions and experts will choose the appropriate method depending on the patient’s health status.

English fear of heights

Psychotherapy can improve an intense, irrational fear of heights and help patients defuse negative emotions.

Acrophobia can be improved with exposure therapy, hypnotherapy, and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT):

  • Exposure therapy: Exposure therapy is also known as exposure therapy or desensitization therapy. This therapy helps patients reduce their irrational fear of heights and learn to manage their own fears by exposing them to increasing levels of fear. Initially, the patient will be exposed to altitude by thought, then by images, video and finally face-to-face. Throughout the process, the specialist will accompany the patient to equip the patient with coping skills.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is done in tandem with exposure therapy for the best results. If exposure therapy helps the brain gradually adapt and reduce fear and anxiety, CBT helps patients change negative thoughts. With proper height awareness, the person will reduce fear, avoid panic, and reduce avoidance behaviors.
  • Hypnotherapy: Hypnotherapy is performed in some cases. Through the state of suggestion during hypnosis, the specialist will understand the source of the fear and help the patient change inappropriate thoughts. In addition, hypnotherapy will also help patients reduce stress, anxiety and improve sleep.

2. Take medicine

The fear of heights causes constant stress and anxiety. These emotions can lead to insomnia and high blood pressure. Therefore, in addition to psychotherapy, some patients will be prescribed some additional drugs as follows:

  • Benzodiazepines: This group of drugs is used to reduce anxiety and stress caused by people with acrophobia. Sedatives also help improve insomnia and lift spirits during therapy. However, this drug can be addictive, so it should only be used for a short time and absolutely should not be stopped suddenly.
  • Beta blockers: Beta blockers are used to improve the physical symptoms associated with acrophobia such as heart palpitations, hypertension, insomnia, headaches, etc. Besides the benefits, the group This medication has many potential risks and should only be used when absolutely necessary.
  • Antidepressants: Antidepressants are used if the patient is sad, pessimistic, distressed due to the effects of the fear of heights. For those who have already developed depression, this class of drugs is given long-term to prevent relapse.

3. Relaxation measures

The fear of heights causes a certain amount of stress. Dominant fear causes the patient to feel insecure, anxious, and fearful. These negative emotions can develop into generalized anxiety disorder or depression. Therefore, patients need to implement relaxation measures in parallel with the use of drugs and psychotherapy.

English fear of heights

People with fear of heights should practice yoga, meditate, etc. to relieve stress and depression

Relaxation measures for patients with acrophobia:

  • Meditate every day to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. In addition, experts have also found the effectiveness of meditation in controlling fear and releasing negative emotions. In addition to the benefits for mental health, meditation also helps improve health, improve sleep and reduce some of the physical symptoms caused by agoraphobia.
  • Have a scientific and balanced diet to improve health. People with fear of heights should add foods that can improve mood such as white meat, vegetables, fruits, yogurt and nuts, beans, etc. Limit caffeine, alcohol and other foods. stimulant.
  • Avoid staying up late and limit stress at work to keep your mind at ease.
  • Spend time on favorite activities such as painting, knitting, taking care of plants, pets, etc. instead of thinking too much about your own health status. The pleasure from these activities helps to soothe negative emotions and prevent psychological problems such as depression, generalized anxiety disorder, etc.
  • Fear of heights is a common phobia. So, do not hesitate to join groups to share experiences. In addition, this is also an opportunity for patients to expand relationships and find joy in life.

Acrophobia is a very common condition. This syndrome profoundly affects quality of life and increases the risk of depression, generalized anxiety disorder, etc. However, patients can prevent complications by early examination and treatment.

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