As summer approaches, many of us will have that inner urge to travel the world, climb every mountain and experience the finer and most beautiful things in life. But, travelling doesn’t come without its anxieties. One of the biggest anxieties facing holiday-makers and travellers alike is a fear of heights; no matter the height. It is incredibly normal to feel nervous, and a little jittery when you’re standing at a great height and looking down beneath you. Even when you know there is no safety implication, and you can see the view is totally worth it, the circumstance of feeling like you’re literally on top of the world, can cause panic, hysteria, nausea or a panic attack; culminating in a less-than exciting experience, and one that you’ll remember for its harmful impact on your emotional state.
So, if you have an intense fear of heights – including a ladder, mountain, Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building, you have a phobia known as acrophobia and it is known to be one of the most common and established phobias in the world. And like all phobias, there is no direct cure or pill for a phobia such as this, but with holistic therapy, regular visits to the psychologist and positive thoughts, you may well rid yourself of this life-infringing fear.
To break it down into a nutshell – what are the symptoms of acrophobia?
- Dizziness – trembling and increased heart rate
- A sense of unreality
- Fear that you will die
- Preoccupation with the fear object
Definitively, the Oxford English Dictionary defines acrophobia as an extreme or irrational fear of heights and it dates as far back as the 19th century, where doctors merge the Greek word for summit and phobia to create the term which we call it today. And although the phobia can affect everyone in completely different way, the symptoms above are some of the well-known effects of being afraid of heights. The phobia can cause further mental turmoil, with extreme thoughts, even if they are not mentally unstable. Experts have often looked to anyone who claims to be afraid of heights to suffer from a panic attack as they feel they are in a dangerous situation, and as humans it is unnatural to be at the highest heights without a fear or concern for safety. We are born to be naturally afraid of something we cannot control, or something that is out of our comprehension.
Do you recognise some of these famous celebrities who are afraid of heights?
Who would have thought that the designer of the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel is afraid of heights – not exactly the smartest career move. Successful singer and song writer Sheryl Crow and director-actor Woody Allen also join the list. Woody Allen apparently has the largest number of phobias, including a fear of dogs, insects, certain diseases, showers with a drain hole, heights, small rooms and crowds…Now if that’s not enough to make you feel any better, I don’t know what is.Stunt daring ator Sylvester Stallone also struggles with heights, despite having performed some of the most nail-bitting and gripping stunts in his life.
Photo credit:nicolas venin/flickr (commons.wikimedia)
But fundamentally, is there a cure?
A cure isn’t the answer for a phobia – it is an irrational fear and anxiety caused by a trigger or event in your life. Cognitive behaviour therapy can be used to help sufferers change their patterns. Any treatment can be effective as long as it is based on a learned response, in which you can apply at any given time or place. This technique is really powerful, but at the same time uncomfortable and daunting. Therapists can help anyone afraid of heights to develop life-long skills to manage and cope with their anxiety and fear stemmed from heights. As a sufferer, you will need to understand and adjust your thoughts and beliefs and to learn and practice ways in which to battle it.