How to overcome your fear of heights

Since it is the new year, we thought we would share this informative article that will show you how to overcome your fear of heights, if you have any

Have you ever felt dizzy when you looked down from a tall building? Or had butterflies in your stomach when you stood on a high balcony? Known as acrophobia, the fear of heights is quite a common condition.

What is acrophobia?
In Greek, “acron” means heights and “phobos” means fear. Acrophobia affects 1 out of every 20 people. Most people have it in a mild form – they get scared of roller coasters and ferris wheels, and tend to avoid going to the edge of tall buildings, cliffs and ski slopes. However, some people have a more extreme form of this phobia, where they cannot drive on bridges, feel dizzy when they ride elevators or escalators and refuse to enter tall buildings altogether.

Researchers believe that acrophobia is an evolutionary trait, whereby people instinctively get scared of heights and steep drops because it helps ensure their survival. Most people are born with a natural dislike of heights – infants and children included – however, a few people experience this fear to a greater degree.

The symptoms of acrophobia
• Physical symptoms: Breathlessness, dizziness, light-headedness, vertigo, excessive sweating, muscle tension, tremors, heart palpitations, stomach cramps, nausea and headaches.
• Psychological symptoms: Panic, anxiety, fear, and even thoughts of dying.

In severe acrophobics, even standing on a chair can trigger these symptoms!

Overcoming your fear of heights
People who have severe acrophobia, where it interferes with their ability to function on a daily basis, must get psychological treatment for it. There are several therapies and drugs that can help treat this phobia.

For mild acrophobics, here are some tips to help you get over your fear:

Prepare yourself:
If you know that you are going to be dealing with heights, try to prepare yourself in advance. Close your eyes and visualise the situation, understand that it does not pose any threat to your safety and go over all the safety precautions that will be around you to ensure that you do not fall (barriers, railings, harnesses, etc). In the panic of the moment it can be hard to start thinking rationally, so going over these things beforehand could give you a head start.

Go slow:
Earlier, psychologists used to use a technique called flooding to help treat phobias. So, if a person was scared of water for example, they would get thrown into the deep end of the pool so that they were forced to either face their fear or drown. However, it has been found that this technique can not only cause severe trauma but also make the phobia considerably worse. Psychologists now recommend that people confront their fear, but slowly, at their own pace, doing only whatever they are comfortable doing. Try to set small goals for yourself; if you want to make it to the edge of the balcony, start by getting on to the balcony and then slowly moving a little closer to the edge every day.

When faced with anxiety-inducing situations, people often forget to breathe, and this just worsens the symptoms of the fear. Whether you are trying to muster the courage to bungee jump or riding in a really high elevator, focus on taking deep breaths in and out. It will calm you, and take your mind off your fear as well.

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