Being afraid generally of anything can be very tiring, and it can interfere with your quality of life. Trying to avoid situations which can provoke your fears can be exhausting, especially if you are exposed to them in your surroundings.
The extreme fear of heights is also known as acrophobia, and it is more common than you think. Acrophobia affects around 5% of the general population, and the number of people experiencing some degree of anxiety when placed on open high spaces. If your fear of heights is so extreme that it interferes with your performance at school or interferes with your enjoyment of everyday activities, you are likely to have acrophobia.
As any other condition there are ways by which you can help yourself in overcoming this fear, and you can also seek professional help from a physiologist or psychiatrist.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a main treatment of choice for specific phobias. This technique is based on gradual or rapid exposure to the trigger of fear, although, the gradual approach is more commonly used and proven effective. In addition, you are being taught ways of stopping the panic reaction and regaining emotional control. When it comes to fear of heights, actual exposure to heights is the most common solution. However, several research studies have shown that virtual reality may be just as effective.
Pharmacological treatment is the second line treatment approach, and it appears that using the medication in tandem with cognitive-behavioral therapy may improve results, but the research remains preliminary at this time, and the mediations are reserved for more severe and cases repellent to psychological therapy.
5 steps to overcoming your fear of heights
Step 1: Face Your Fear
Determine the triggers for your fear. Some people suffer from a fear of heights so acute that they avoid even thinking about tall buildings, while others’ fear is much more minor.
By definition, a phobia is an illogical fear, and using simple logic can help you overcome it. For the most part, the sorts of things that trigger a fear of heights – skyscrapers, airplanes, and roller coasters, for instance – are incredibly safe. These things are specifically engineered to be as secure as possible and malfunctions are so rare that when one of these things does break down in some way, it’s usually national news. It’s easy to forget just how unlikely it is for you to suffer any sort of harm at all from normal, everyday activities like flying or working in a tall building.
Once you are aware of your fear and the extent to which you can take height, try to move and push those limits. Slowly and gradually expose yourself to greater heights – for instance, you may want to start simply by reading or studying on a 2nd-story balcony. Then, when you’re comfortable, you can offer to do some roofing work on your home (and so on). Take pride in your accomplishments and with patience, you might eventually even find yourself doing extreme adrenaline sports like bungee jumping to celebrate your new strength.
Step 2: Start receiving therapy
Find a therapist that suits your needs. There are numerous schools of psychotherapy, ranging from traditional psychoanalysis to alternative approaches. The goal of any therapy program should be to help you safely and gradually lessen your fear while teaching you how to control your anxiety. Therapy may or may not be coupled with medicinal treatments. There is no universal and guaranteed method to successfully tackle a phobia, so different therapists may offer different paths to overcoming your phobia. Ultimately, you must decide which type of therapy is the best option for you.
However, before you decide for a certain therapy, explore the method of treatment offered. Though, as noted above, therapy can take many different forms, the end goal should be to help you gradually reduce your fear and/or manage your anxiety. While taking therapy sessions you will most likely learn how to control your anxiety. This will make it more manageable and you will learn how to cope with your fears, master your thoughts and feelings.
Step 3: Try medication treatment
If you feel that you may need more than a support from a psychologist, look for consult from a psychiatrist or doctor that is familiar with prescribing medication for phobic disorders. As with any problem that’s caused you to seek medical help, it’s important to choose a doctor whose expertise is suited to your problem. If you don’t know any doctors or psychiatrists who prescribe medication for phobias, a good way to start looking is by contacting your “normal” doctor (i.e., your family practitioner, etc.) She/he will most likely be able to refer you to a trusted colleague.
In cases of phobias, medication-based options is usually considered the last line resort for managing your fears, since it will not solve the underlying psychological issue that causes acrophobia.
However, it can make life much easier by easing your anxiety and allowing you to relax in situations that would normally cause stress. You may also find that you’re more willing to confront your fear head-on when you’re relaxed.
Step 4: Explore natural remedies
You can be surprised on how much your diet affects your feelings and behavior. Heavy caffeine consumption can be a contributing factor to anxiety related to acrophobia. Limiting or abstaining from caffeine could help lessen symptoms. In addition, cutting down on caffeine is likely to make you less high-strung and more relaxed, which can make it easier to confront your fear.
Improve sleeping habits and exercise regularly. While also beneficial to your overall health and well-being, proper sleep and exercise can naturally improve the way your body and mind processes stress or anxiety related to acrophobia. Natural endorphins released by frequent exercise can leave you feeling refreshed, relaxed, and happier, which can ease anxiety and make normally-stressful situations more manageable.
Try herbal or homeopathic remedies. Various herbal and homeopathic solutions have been reported by some to relieve symptoms associated with acrophobia. However, always consult with your doctor before pursuing an alternative treatment.
Step 5: Avoiding Damaging Myths
One common misconception is that when it comes to phobias is that people have to “face their fear” by doing something that would normally terrify them. For someone suffering from a fear of heights, this would be, for instance, riding a roller coaster, going skydiving, looking over the edge of a cliff, or some other similar task. The logic behind this philosophy is that, by completing this traumatic task, the person suffering from the phobia learns that activities that aggravate his or her fear are safe and that the fear has no risk of real danger. On the contrary, such approach shown that not only it doesn’t help in people with acrophobia but rather has no effect at all and may even aggravate the fear.
Don’t tolerate acrophobia. If a fear of heights keeps you from working, relaxing, or doing the things you love, is not something that you should try to learn to “tolerate”. Rather than feeling ashamed and/or trying to suppress a fear of heights, show strength by seeking real treatment.