The fear of heights, or acrophobia, affects a significant part of the population. It refers to that anguish that one experiences when seeing the void before him, that where a certain distance opens between oneself and the ground. Thus, things as common as climbing a ladder, a Ferris wheel, taking a walk up a mountain or any related activity always generates a pathological measure.
For those who experience a fear of heights, the feeling is horrible. These symptoms are compounded by a feeling of incompetence that is often favored by comments and even criticism from those around them who do not suffer from this fear.
Now, is it possible to overcome the fear of heights? Is there a way to deal with that reaction? Let’s see below more information about this condition and what strategies to put in our favor to improve our quality of life.
“For each new height we reach, new and more perplexing dangers threaten us”
Fear of heights or acrophobia: concept and characteristics
In the Journal of Neurology A study carried out by the Ludwig-Maximilians University, Germany, was published in 2013. A relevant fact is undoubtedly the fact that this disorder affects almost 5% of the population. What’s more, given that not everyone takes the step to request help, the data could be higher.
Another striking element is that it affects women to a greater degree, especially those who are included in an age cohort between 50 and 59 years. It is that decade where the fear of heights is more evident, however, it is common that throughout their lives they have manifested at some point some problem or feeling of anguish when they are in such situations.
It must be said that since it is not common for us to see ourselves in those situations where we are in high locations, we are not always fully aware of this fear. It is at that moment when the following symptoms appear:
- TOinternal turmoil
- Feeling sick to your stomach
- Postural instability
- Muscle tension.
- Feeling of panic, alarm or threat.
Vertigo and fear of heights
It is important to note that vertigo is not the same as fear of heights. The first dimension usually appears in many patients who have, for example, problems with their cervicals: the floor and everything that surrounds it begins to spin. It is an illusory sensation, which although it also usually appears in acrophobia, does not itself determine this disorder.
In the fear of heights there is panic, there is a sense of alarm and a broader and more adverse symptomatology.
How can we face the fear of heights (acrophobia)?
Many will be reassured to know that acrophobia is undoubtedly one of the most common (and oldest) phobias. In a study published in the journal Current Opinion in Neurology, it is explained how this condition appears already commented in La metamorphosis, when Ovidio describes Phaethon (mortal son of the sun god Phoebus) scared and pale while driving the solar chariot. The reason was none other than the fear of aturas.
On the other hand, despite how common it is, it is striking that only a small part of people ask for help for this problem. When it is done, it is because, indeed, this condition already affects people’s quality of life.
1. If you are afraid of heights, practice with virtual reality
We cannot expect fear to go away on its own. If we fear something, no matter how irrational, the solution is not to avoid it, but to confront it, either in an extreme way or little by little.
Although extreme techniques for overcoming phobias have been widely used for years by third parties, it seems much more effective to go little by little and voluntarily. In this way, one of the most used and effective techniques today is undoubtedly virtual reality.
Thus, as explained in a study by the Department of Psychology of the University of Minho (Portugal), in many cases 3 sessions are enough to see good results.
2. Breathe deeply when fear overwhelms you
When fear, terror, and anxiety about being high take over, take a deep breath to calm yourself and take control. Breathe out slowly, and if you can’t, try to hold your breath for a few seconds before exhaling. In this way, you are forcing your brain to think, putting aside the emotional reaction that takes over your thoughts and prevents you from thinking.
A technique that works very well is to think that fear has a value on a scale of 10. Give your fear a value and feel the level drop as you breathe. Visualize it.
Assuming and identifying fear is the best way to combat it.
3. Forget negative experiences from the past
Remembering unpleasant experiences in the past about heights only increases fear and anxiety. If you remember the past, the fear you felt will condition your current experience.
Detach yourself from those memories and look ahead. Thinking about the past will reinforce your fear, while facing the future with serenity will help you feel that you can achieve it.
4. Prepare your mind
Faced with the prospect of heights, your mind may be predisposed to fear. That’s why you have to prepare. Sit in a comfortable place and close your eyes. Focus on your breathing and pay attention to the exhale. Afterwards, visualize yourself in a high place, fearless and calm, and feel how you enjoy the experience.
In this way you will program your brain for a pleasant experience and you will experience the control that you can exert over your feelings and sensations thanks to conscious breathing.
“If there is no fear, courage is worth nothing. The difficult thing is not not to be afraid, but to carry on despite it. “
5. Focus on the final destination
There are people who, even with fear, face heights because they want to be on top at all costs. If you are able to put your goal before your fear, what you must do is focus on that goal, and not on the fear.
At other times, the problem comes when you are up. What to do before the blockage that prevents you from going down? In these cases where the goal is to get down, which can cause dizziness, you should focus on your breathing and each step, one by one. Don’t think about “the bottom line.” Feel that each step is a section that you open on the road, that there is nothing else below until you open it with your next step.
6. Enjoy your success
When you arrive, think that you have made it. You have outdone yourself. Enjoy that feeling of success and keep it in your mind. Next time you can draw on that memory, which will give you strength and motivate you, as it will remind you that you can achieve it.
7. Don’t be ashamed
Do not be ashamed, accept your fear and start working to try to eliminate it or at least reduce it. Remember that the first step to achieve change is to recognize what happens to us …
“It is wonderfully human to be afraid.”
To conclude, fear of heights is a common condition but one of the most treatable. For our part, we recommend that in case you suffer from this problem, take the step and try a session with virtual reality.