Acrophobia – The Fear of Heights

What is Acrophobia?

Acrophobia is the fear of heights and is one of the most common phobias with 37 per cent of the population suffering from it. Someone living with acrophobia will experience an irrational fear and extreme anxiety when they think of or are confronted with heights. This will often lead to the sufferer avoiding situations or places that involve heights.

How does Acrophobia start?

Acrophobia usually begins with a stressful/traumatic event involving a height of some kind. This would have triggered The Fight or Flight Response as the brain tried to protect itself from recurring similar events.  You were not born with this fear, which means that something has happened in your life to give you a heightened awareness of heights. This could be an event which felt traumatic to you at the time such as:

  • falling from a high place
  • watching someone else fall from a high place
  • having a panic attack while in a high place

Overcoming Acrophobia

The great news is that acrophobia can be completely overcome. It is vital to address and alter your perception of the event/events that created your phobia in the first place. For example; if you had a bad experience while being up high, ask yourself what height actually did to you. How did it orchestrate that negative event? Why blame it when it simply exists and has no interest in you? Once you change your perception of the trigger in question, you will change how you feel. To address and overcome your phobia, firstly establish when it started. Writing a timeline will help you do this. We have a PDF timeline sheet for you to download and fill in. Next, start by following these top tips:

  1. Change your perspective. Alter your perception of the installation event, see it for what it was and not how it felt and still feels. If you know that your acrophobia started in childhood, accept that your fear is based on a child’s interpretation of what happened. Look back at the event now through an adult’s eyes. Updating your view of the trigger event will help you see it differently. 
  2. Challenge the inaccurate belief that triggered your phobia with overwhelming positive counter-evidence. For example, if you experienced a traumatic experience from being up high, were you the only one there? Did others react in the same way? It is also possible that you have copied your fear from a parent or older sibling, if this is the case, it is time to accept that the behaviour did not belong to you, why would you want to copy behaviour that inhibits your life so much? 
  3. Accept responsibility for conquering your fear and make the decision to stop feeding it. Our thoughts create our feelings. Our feelings create our actions. And our actions define our lives. So it is really important to change your way of thinking.

Living with acrophobia can be extremely challenging, however, you are not alone. Here at Trauma Research UK, our belief is, ‘it’s not what’s wrong with you, it’s what happened to you’. With this philosophy, we believe that everyone can successfully overcome their mental health issues if given the right help and support. Read more…