The degree to which discomfort, apprehension, anxiety or fear can manifest and impact varies between individuals and in relation to different types of struggles or scenarios. Additionally, having certain fears and phobias may also be more prevalent in those who suffer from generalized anxiety or chronic stress and who tend to be more panicky in nature.
While there are many types of phobias (with “phobia” indicating that there is a deeply rooted fear with exposure to a certain experience or thing), the fear of heights, or acrophobia, is at the top of the list, and people who struggle with it they can feel fear in situations that force them to be above the ground.
“Heights can be scary because, from an evolutionary point of view, they threaten survival, which is why it’s a more common fear in the general population,” says Kassondra Glenn, LMSW, licensed social worker and therapeutic consultant at Diamond Rehab. .
Just thinking about it, through visualization or virtual means, the heart can also speed up. Your hands may feel clammy and hot, and you may feel dizzy or dizzy, with a rapid heartbeat, excessive production of cortisol (the “stress” hormone), and lots and lots of nervousness.
How to know if you are afraid of heights
The degree to which you are afraid and its influence on your everyday life and well-being will determine whether or not you have a phobia and how to overcome your fear of heights with the help of a professional.
For example, if you get sweaty and anxious looking at the ground when you’re on top of a mountain or sitting in preparation to “jump” on a zipline or stunt course, you probably have no fear of heights and just a case of butterflies, which are common and usually pass quickly.
On the contrary, those who are particularly sensitive and fearful of heights (with a level of severity that would be classified as a phobia) find that it gets in the way of their daily lives. For some, learning to overcome a fear of heights can be life changing, opening the door to new opportunities and lowering chronic stress and anxiety levels.
What might this look like? Apprehension can come with small mundane things like getting on the elevator. Likewise, you may be particularly scared of roller coasters or balconies, and you may not be able to board a plane for a flight if your fear of heights is too extreme and difficult to overcome.
“It may be easier to avoid heights or try to suppress fear rather than face fear of heights; however, many people miss out on or struggle with other aspects of mental health due to fear of heights and want to make a change,” she says.
Fortunately, therapy can help, and with dedication, patience, and practice, it will get easier. Certain therapies and techniques are quite beneficial and most popularly used as a treatment to help decrease anxiety and fear and learn to overcome fear of heights for a more flexible and capable lifestyle.
How to overcome fear of heights
The biggest challenge with treatment is that to heal and reduce fear and discomfort, direct exposure to what exactly is causing all the nerves (in this case, heights).
Facing your fears is not easy and requires courage and the ability to let go so that you can be open to positive change and experience new and different things – and far outside your comfort zone.
There are two types of therapies that are most effective for treatment and can speed up the process of overcoming fear of heights. “Exposure therapy is gradual exposure to the source of fear, which helps people adapt to the situation and feel more comfortable in it,” she says.
“With the fear of heights, this can feel like working with a therapist trained in creating situations where the fear of heights is present,” she explains. In these situations, you will overcome fear together, facing real-life challenges like riding a roller coaster, climbing or riding a trapeze, for example.
You will directly face your fears and experience what it is like to be higher and above the ground. Another useful therapy is CBT therapy, especially as an initial treatment or first step, before using exposure therapy. (You probably need both to learn to overcome your fear of heights.)
“CBT therapy focuses on thoughts, feelings and behaviors,” she says. So it’s more of a “virtual reality” exhibit, with an emphasis on changing old thought patterns and breaking through mental blocks.
CBT therapy also uses visualization, imagination, and the senses to change the way the mind and body see and feel about the fearful situation, with the goal of reducing apprehension and making it less automatic in response. to the stimuli. Over time, you will notice progress in training your brain in new ways of thinking so that it no longer has that jerk reaction and fear feeling in the future.
Tips to remember when dealing with your fear of heights
For starters, don’t repress your emotions and keep everything. Find some confidants to share your experience and struggles with, and let them be a supportive help along your journey. “I would suggest that someone struggling with a fear of heights talk to supportive people about their experience, such as trusted friends or loved ones,” she suggests.
“Group therapy can also be helpful as it provides a community united by shared experiences,” she adds. It’s easier to process fear and overcome it when you don’t feel alone in your fear, as if you are the only one working with it and you are alone.
Group therapy means that fear is not unique, and there are people who feel just as scared and are also overcoming obstacles. And together, you can hold each other accountable.
You also don’t want to be impatient and give up out of frustration. Overcoming your fear will take time and a lot of work, so don’t mistakenly expect immediate results.
“It’s important not to set a rigid timeline for overcoming fear of heights, and also to remember that everyone is unique in both the intensity of their fear and the time it can take to process and mitigate fear,” she explains.
“In general, exposure therapy consists of five to twenty sessions, while the duration of CBT is often adjusted based on need and on a case-by-case basis,” she says.
Avoid pushing yourself to the extreme. Instead, gauge your pace based on how your body is feeling and responding, without comparing yourself to anyone else or having too high expectations and standards.
“Therapy and overcoming the fear should bring discomfort, but it shouldn’t be completely disruptive, and going too fast can be re-traumatizing and/or worsening the fear,” she says. Remember, the “right” pace is one that brings sustainable progress to lasting change.