The most prevalent fear you’ll ever hear someone mention that they suffer from is fear of heights. It isn’t a matter of if it’s a fear of falling from a height or simply the worry about going to high places; lots of people suffer from fears of heights. Although it’s classified as fear, a fear of heights has an underlying rational motive – as humans, we are taught by our brains the notion that being in the air is extremely dangerous because we could fall and be hurt or even dead.
It’s the same reason the fear of darkness plagues humans. Our minds tell us that since we can’t perceive an imminent danger to us, the darkness that conceals the threat by itself is dangerous. Today, we’re going to talk about fears of heights. We will discuss the best way to conquer the fears of heights, what fears of heights are known as, and the anxiety of heights can cause.
Definition of a fear of heights, and what fear of heights is called
The proper scientific term to describe what a fear of heights is called is acrophobia. The definition for what a fear of heights is called is as such (by the writers at Dictionary.com):
ac • to • pho • bi • a
1. extreme or irrational fear of heights.
The name acrophobia comes from the Greek ákron, which means “peak, summit, edge”, and the Greek phóbos, meaning “fear.” Many phobias are an amalgamation of Greek words, and this one is no exception. It’s a rather fitting name, too – basically, it’s a fear of high places.
Why are people afraid of high places in the first place?
As discussed in the intro section, fear is a natural survival instinct that alerts us to potential dangers. Darkness can hide danger, so we fear darkness, heights can lead to falls, so we fear heights, water can lead to drowning. Hence, we fear the ocean; fire can lead to burning, so we fear fire et al.
Many of the current fears that many people suffer from are inherited from our more primitive ancestors. As we evolve, we retain many of the inner workings that our ancestors had. All of our fears and desires come from that – the reason we experience arousal because it is in our nature to propagate our species. The reason we defend our family is that they carry on our genetic coding.
We find diamonds so fascinating and beautiful because our ancestors’ brains were hard-wired to be attracted to sparkling river water, which often meant that it was clean. It’s a very interesting scientific process, though all the same, a fear of heights can prove to be less interesting to those who suffer it, thanks to the incredible burden that it saddles them with.
A person with a fear of heights may never go on a plane, or go to the Grand Canyon, or jump off of a diving board, all because of the idea that if they fell, death would be certain at best and flat-out guaranteed at worst puts fear into their heart and mind.
A fear of heights certainly varies, though – a person can go on a plane knowing that it’s usually safe on a plane, while that same person could be downright terrified to be standing on a diving board.
But then, at the same time, that situation could be completely reversed – the very thought that if that plane malfunctioned or were hijacked, that person would almost certainly die could keep that person from ever flying on a plane.
Yet, that same person could jump from a diving board with the greatest of ease, as that person may have a fear of heights when the situation is outside of their control. In contrast, that fear of heights goes away completely when the situation is completely under their control.
A lot of fears are the product of weakness. If you are in an unfamiliar area or, let’s say, you are a passenger in another person’s car; you could be terrified to your very core. How can you trust that this unfamiliar area doesn’t have ne’er-do-wells? Or a vicious mountain lion looking to gobble you up?
And when you’re driving in your friend’s car, how can you know for certain whether they are fully capable of driving safely? And even if you asked them to drive more safely, how can you know that they will?
Fear of heights to irrational degrees
While there are valid situations wherein someone can feel real fear concerning being up high (such as being in an aeroplane or standing on a cliff), some people may even find themselves so burdened by their fear of heights that they can’t even standoff of the ground in their own home.
Who can be rather crippling, as it prevents those people from using such necessities as ladders to reach hard things? If you ever find yourself struggling with a fear of heights to this level of difficulty, then if you can afford it, I recommend that you seek therapy to help you cope with your fear of heights.
Your therapist can help you figure out ways to come to terms with why you have this crippling fear of heights, and they can try and help you figure out ways to overcome it. If a therapist is not in your price range, then at least hopefully, the following section can help give you some basic advice to put you on the straight and narrow.
How to get over the fear of heights
The fear of heights phobia is a troublesome thing for many people who want to do normal things without feeling apprehensive about it. While the answer to “how to conquer the fear of heights” has some answers – namely treatment – there is often no true fear of heights cure. Getting over the fear of heights is not a simple task, as you also have to address the “why” of how you came to need to be overcoming fear of heights in the first place.
Was it a bad experience as a child? Maybe you fell from the jungle gym, giving you that fear of height? Or maybe your mind has a chemical imbalance that misconstrues just how dangerous a specific height is? Once you’ve figured out just what is holding you back concerning fear of heights, only then can you go down the path and figure out how to overcome the fear of heights.
Once you have taken this path, there are some things you can do to condition you to no longer be bothered by your fear of heights. For those who have a very serious fear of heights, you should try to work your way up to higher and higher plateaus gradually.
For example, in a safe situation, you should try jumping down from increasingly higher heights (with the assurance that you won’t be injured when you land – such a thing would have an inverse effect on your overall progress!).
For example, you could practice jumping from a sturdy table onto the floor. It may not seem like much, but legitimately people are afraid to be even that high off of the ground. A good way to try and fight your fear of heights is to jump off of a diving board.
Once you have practised in a safe, controlled environment, you can move onto a more daunting safe environment. For example, flying in a plane is generally considered safe – you are more likely to be struck by lightning than die in a plane crash, for example.
Of course, not everyone can afford to go on a plane to try and overcome their fear of heights, so if you plan on doing it, make sure to go someplace you want or need to visit. Heck, maybe you could visit the Grand Canyon if you’re feeling bold about overcoming the fear of heights!
If you can’t afford it, you can try and visit high places, like mountains or hills, and just examine the lower surroundings. Being in high places can result in dizziness or nausea, so if you plan on doing this, do be sure to observe from a stable area where you can’t fall off.
Well, that’s all I can say about how to overcome your fear of heights. All in all, one must remember that there is no shame in having that fear of heights – everyone has their fears, and they are all natural. We can only hope that you will be on your way to having no fear of heights by the time you leave this article.