What is Acrophobia? 

Acrophobia is a fear of heights. It is one of the most common phobias. People with acrophobia feel anxious and uncomfortable when they are near heights or when they are in an elevated position. Some people with this fear refuse to go to tall buildings. While others may only feel uncomfortable on balconies or in open spaces high up in a building.

Acrophobia is a form of anxiety disorder. People with acrophobia fear heights for different reasons. Some people have acrophobia because they suffered a serious injury or illness when they were very young and never fully recovered from the experience. 

What acrophobia feels like?

Microphobia is an intense fear of small things, like germs and insects. Trying to avoid little things can lead to negative thoughts and behaviors that affect daily life. Symptoms worsen over time, but therapy can help you get better.

Causes of Acrophobia 

Acrophobia is an irrational fear of heights. It is one of the most common phobias. People who suffer from acrophobia experience panic attacks and other symptoms when they are near heights or even thinking about heights. 

The cause of acrophobia is not known, but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Some people may be more prone to developing acrophobia if they have a family history of the disorder, or if they have experienced a traumatic event involving heights.

Environmental factors

Such as vertigo or dizziness may also contribute to the development of acrophobia. Acrophobia is a type of anxiety disorder, which means that the person suffers from panic attacks and other symptoms when they are near heights or even thinking about heights. The cause of acrophobia is not known but it is believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. 

What are the signs and symptoms of acrophobia?

The main symptom of acrophobia is feeling intense anxiety and fear of heights. Some people with acrophobia fear significant heights such as a tall bridge while others also fear shorter heights such as being on a ladder.

Psychological symptoms

  1. Feeling intense fear and anxiety when thinking about, looking at or being in high places.
  2. Fearing that something negative will happen in a high place such as falling or being trapped in a high place.
  3. Feeling a strong desire to escape if you’re in a high place.

Physical symptoms and signs

  1. Experiencing a rapid heartbeat when thinking of or looking at heights.
  2. Feeling dizzy and lightheaded when thinking of or looking at heights.
  3. Feeling queasy
  4. Trembling
  5. Having shortness of breath.

How is acrophobia diagnosed?

Acrophobia is diagnosed through a thorough series of questions about the person’s history, experiences and symptoms. Usually, you have to have had experienced persistent fear and anxiety of heights for at least six months in order to be diagnosed with acrophobia.

Your healthcare provider will likely use the criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). A publication by the American Psychiatric Association, to diagnose acrophobia. Your provider will also rule out any other physical or mental health conditions that could be causing your symptoms.

Criteria for diagnosis

In general, phobias have at least four criteria for diagnosis, including:

  1. Intense and unreasonable fear: The fear of the object or situation is persistent and out of proportion to an appropriate level of fear.
  2. Anticipatory anxiety: An individual who has a phobia tends to dwell on or dread future situations or experiences that will involve the object or situation they are afraid of.
  3. Avoidance: Many people who have a phobia will actively avoid the feared object or situation. Some go to extreme lengths to avoid the thing they are afraid of.
  4. The phobia interferes with day-to-day activities: The fear the individual experiences has to limit their everyday life in some way in order for it to be diagnosed as a phobia.

How is acrophobia treated?

Acrophobia can usually be treated with psychological treatment (psychotherapy) such as exposure therapy, virtual reality exposure therapy and/or cognitive behavioral therapy. Sometimes people need medications that temporarily relieve symptoms of fear and anxiety to cope with fear while they are participating in therapy.

Exposure therapy 

Exposure therapy is a common form of psychological treatment used to treat specific phobias. People with phobias usually avoid situations that involve the thing they are afraid of. Because of this, they aren’t able to learn that they can manage their fear when presented with their specific phobia or that their feared outcomes often do not happen. Therapists and psychologists use exposure therapy for people who have a phobia to slowly encourage them to enter situations that cause them anxiety, and to try to stay in that situation so that they can learn to cope.

Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) 

Virtual reality exposure therapy is a type of psychological treatment that uses technology to show the person realistic. But fake situations to help them cope with stressful and anxiety-inducing situations. If you have acrophobia, you may use a virtual reality (VR) headset that will show you simulations of situations that involve heights. This way, you can be exposed to heights in a way that’s completely safe. And feels, real but isn’t. Research has shown that virtual reality exposure therapy is effective in treating acrophobia.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is a form of psychological treatment. Through talking and asking questions, your therapist or psychologist helps you gain a different perspective. As a result, you learn to respond better to and cope with the stress and anxiety you feel when you are exposed to things that cause you fear.

What medications are used to treat acrophobia?

Medications aren’t usually used to treat specific phobias like acrophobia. Sometimes people with acrophobia might take medications. To temporarily help them relieve symptoms of fear and anxiety to treat their phobia when they’re going through psychological therapy or in situations that are unavoidable. Medications sometimes used to help treat acrophobia include:

  1. Beta blockers: Some beta-blockers are used to treat or prevent physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a fast heart rate.
  2. Relaxants (benzodiazepines): Medications like benzodiazepines, which are used to help you relax, can temporarily reduce the amount of anxiety you feel.

What are the risk factors for developing acrophobia?

Healthcare professionals still aren’t sure of the exact cause of acrophobia. So far, they have found that the risk factors for developing acrophobia can include:

  1. Falling from a significant height or watching someone else fall from a significant height.
  2. Experiencing a negative event, such as a panic attack, while in a high place.
  3. Having a family history of anxiety disorders.

What is the prognosis (outlook) for acrophobia?

Only about 10% to 25% of people who have a specific phobia, such as acrophobia, seek treatment for their condition because many can avoid the situation that they fear. If you have acrophobia, avoiding situations that involve heights can prevent you from completing everyday tasks such as walking up a flight of stairs or crossing a bridge and can lower your overall quality of life. Having acrophobia can also be potentially dangerous if you experience a panic attack while at a significant height, such as while on a ladder. This is why it’s important to seek treatment.

Research has shown that exposure therapy, especially virtual reality exposure therapy, is successful in treating acrophobia. People who have acrophobia and don’t seek treatment are two times more likely to develop a generalized anxiety disorder or depression that’s unrelated to their specific phobia.

What are the causes of Acrophobia? 

Acrophobia is the fear of heights. It is one of the most common phobias. There are many different causes of acrophobia. 

  1. Some people are born with a fear of heights, while others develop it later in life. There are several factors that can contribute to the development of acrophobia.
  2. Some of the most common causes include fear of falling, fear of being out of control, and fear of death.
  3. People who have a fear of heights often avoid high places and situations that could put them in danger. 

Treatment for acrophobia usually involves cognitive behavioral therapy, which helps patients learn how to cope with their fears. Phobias are commonly caused by exposure to the stimulus. For example, exposure to heights can lead to acrophobia. A person who is afraid of heights may avoid high places and situations that could cause him or her to fall. 

What Causes Acrophobia? 

Acrophobia is an irrational fear of heights. It can be mild or severe, and it can make even the simplest activities, like going up a flight of stairs, very difficult. While the cause of acrophobia is unknown, it is thought to be related to a fear of death or injury. Some people may be more likely to develop acrophobia if they have a history of anxiety disorders or panic attacks. Other people may have a fear of heights that is triggered by an actual experience in which they felt very frightened. This can include riding a roller coaster, climbing up a ladder or rope swing, or walking on narrow walkways over water. The treatment for acrophobia is similar to the treatment for claustrophobia, which is a fear of enclosed and small spaces. This treatment usually involves psychotherapy and medications, such as antidepressants. 

What is the prognosis for people with Acrophobia? 

Acrophobia is a fear of heights. People with acrophobia often have difficulty going to places where they might see a height, such as on a tall building or bridge. Symptoms can include sweating, feeling lightheaded or short of breath, and having a rapid heart rate. 

The prognosis for people with acrophobia is good. Most people are able to overcome their fear with treatment. Acrophobia is a fear of heights. People with acrophobia often have difficulty going to places where they might see a height, such as on a tall building or bridge.

How can you prevent Acrophobia from developing? 

Acrophobia is the fear of heights. Heights can be anything from climbing a ladder to looking out a window on the 20th floor of a building. For some people, heights may not bother them at all, but for others, even being in close proximity to something high can cause extreme anxiety

If you are someone who struggles with Acrophobia, there are ways that you can prevent it from developing any further. One way is to gradually expose yourself to heights. This means starting with lower heights and working your way up slowly. Another way is to practice deep breathing exercises when you are near heights. 

This will help keep your heart rate and blood pressure down, which will help minimize your anxiety. Finally, try to stay positive and focus on the positives that come with being at height (such as great views). Acrophobia is usually just a minor anxiety disorder and it can be treated with simple lifestyle changes. Make sure that you seek out the help of a professional if you are experiencing Acrophobia consistently.

Can you cure acrophobia?

The good news is that with time and dedication, acrophobia can be overcome. One of the main treatments for acrophobia is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). With this form of therapy, behavioral techniques that expose the individual to the feared situation—in this case, heights and high places—are employed.

How do you cure fear of heights?

Treatments for acrophobia include: Psychotherapy: Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is the main treatment of choice for specific phobias. Behavioral techniques that expose you to the feared situation either gradually (systematic desensitization) or rapidly (flooding) are frequently used.

Are you born with a fear of heights?

According to the evolutionary psychology perspective, fears and phobias are innate. That is, people can experience a fear of heights without direct (or indirect) contact with heights. Instead, acrophobia is somehow hardwired so people have this fear before they first come into contact with heights.

Does acrophobia get worse with age?

Older Adults

However, as professor Kevin Gourney points out acrophobia , a fear of heights may develop in later life whereas before it was absent. Gourney attributes this, in part, to a deteriorating sense of balance as we age.

How do you know if you have acrophobia?

Acrophobia is an intense fear of heights. If a person has acrophobia, being high up or thinking about heights may cause them to have a panic attack. For this reason, a person with acrophobia will actively avoid situations that involve being high up off the ground.

How common is acrophobia?

Acrophobia is a pervasive mental disorder, also known as an irrational fear of heights, affecting approximately five percent of the world’s population1. It is a disproportional reaction to a common, rational fear, and can be characterized as apprehension, triggered by elevated spaces or anticipation of them.

What kind of heights are people with acrophobia afraid of?

Types of heights or situations that people with acrophobia may fear include:

  1. Walking up a flight of stairs
  2. Being on a ladder
  3. Using a multi-level parking garage
  4. Being on or crossing over a bridge
  5. Being on a rollercoaster
  6. Standing near a balcony or at the top of a building
  7. Looking out a window of a tall building

Since there are many kinds of phobias, they can be a little challenging to diagnose. People who have acrophobia generally fear more than one kind of height or high place. There are other phobias that are characterized by a fear of a situation that happens to involve a significant height, but the height isn’t the main aspect of the fear. 

As an example, if you have an intense fear of flying on airplanes (which happens at a significant height) specifically, you may have aerophobia, the fear of flying, and not acrophobia. If you’re experiencing intense fear that limits your life and experiences, it’s important to see your healthcare provider so you can get a proper diagnosis and treatment.


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