Fear of Heights - Acrophobia - Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, FAQs


The fear of heights is the most popular phobia in the world. It’s called acrophobia and is the excessive fear of heights characterized by panic and anxiety. Almost everybody in their life will suffer from a fear of heights, but some of them can’t be near a window or on a ladder. Most often this fear is triggered by experience from falling or sustaining an injury from a fall. 

The fear of heights is an instinct of a person to prevent him from falling and the feeling to protect himself from injury. This is a normal protection effect from our brain. This fear is mild in most persons but some others who have developed extreme fear have already acquired acrophobia.

The sight of tall buildings, climbing over a high bridge, and climbing steep ladders cause extreme fear to some people, making them uncomfortable even at just the idea to go near those places.

What are the symptoms of acrophobia?

  1. Physical symptoms

  • Excessive sweating, breathlessness, and dizziness are experienced when the person stays or thinks to be in high places.
  • Trembling and shaking when staying in places with extreme height.
  • Chest pain, high heart beating, feeling of tightness when faced with the dilemma to stay in a high place.
  • Doing everything to escape the need to be in a place with extreme height.
  • Feeling sick and having a headache when forced to stay in high places.
  • Feeling the need for crawling on all fours when high places can’t be avoided.
  1. Psychological symptoms

  • Panic attacks when he thinks about going to a high place, looking over a window like a very tall building, crossing a high bridge, or climbing steep stairs.
  • Extreme worrying, anxiety, and stress about having to go to high places.
  • The mere thought of going to high places makes the person tremble.
  • Even the sight or pictures only of views of skyscrapers, high mountains, and extremely tall buildings give the person panic and anxiety.

What are the causes of Acrophobia?

  1. Having been traumatized from an injury, dreams, or falling from a high place.
  2. Watching somebody fall from a ladder, a tall building, or any other high place.
  3. Genetic cause – If somebody in the family has a history of having acrophobia, then the trait might have been inherited from his family. Many people with any kind of phobia will be genetic. This is common for trypophobia and other popular phobias as well.

Diagnosis and Treatment of Acrophobia

Diagnosis – A person is diagnosed with acrophobia when he:

  • He persistently avoids heights.
  • He worries a lot about going to high places.
  • His life is affected already by his intense fear of heights.
  • Manifests panic and anxiety when he experiences staying at extreme heights.
  • The fear of heights continuously persists for more than six months or whole life when this person has acrophobia.

Treatment of Acrophobia

  • A person with acrophobia can seek the help of a professional medical person or a psychiatrist.
  • Mild cases of acrophobia don’t need to have professional treatment. The person can avoid going to high places to escape the manifestation of such fears. It is easy to do other things to escape that fear.
  • A person can heal himself psychologically by thinking about the brighter side of life, being optimistic about getting a solution to his problems, and making the solution to his problems. He can plan to spend his time on a wholesome hobby like taking up tennis lessons or starting to play a word or a game on his cell phone or his computer. He can think of doing other worthwhile things to divert this fear to activities that would take off his mind from that line of thought.
  • Exposure Therapy. This therapy is conducted by a professional therapist. The mechanics of this therapy is to examine and make a diagnosis of the patient. Then he will slowly expose the patient to what he fears until such time that he will cease to have that fear. For example, his patient has acrophobia. His brother lives on the 10th floor of the building.
  • A person with acrophobia could not avoid visiting his sick brother. The first thing the therapist will do is to expose him near a window on the 5th floor only. When he noticed that he has gotten over that fear on the 3rd floor, he will next expose him to the window of the 5th The goal here is to eliminate that fear slowly until such time that he can already bear looking out to on the 10th floor. This may sound absurd but anything that ends with a good result is worth trying. Some methods though won’t work while others may not. But everything is worth the risk to heal the patient.

FAQs about Acrophobia

What is Acrophobia?

Acrophobia is a pathological fear of extreme heights.

What are the symptoms of Acrophobia?

  • Excessive sweating when staying in high places
  • Breathlessness and dizziness when faced with extreme heights
  • Tightness and chest pains when staying in high places
  • Feeling sick and having a headache when forced to stay in a high place
  • Panic attacks at the thought of going to places of extreme heights
  • Passing out or losing consciousness

Causes of Acrophobia

  • A traumatized experience from falling
  • Having watched an experience of someone falling from a high place
  • Someone in the family has a history of acrophobia

Treatment of Acrophobia

  • Professional treatment from a medical professional or psychiatrist
  • The free will of the person to escape the fear of heights
  • The psychological frame of mind of the person with acrophobia

How common is acrophobia?

According to studies, 3 to 5 percent of all people suffer from acrophobia or fear of heights. Some of them are mild cases. If a person has one or two fears, it is natural to the person. He can have a fear of spiders or lizards. He can have a fear of cockroaches.

Out of the most common fears of people, the fear of the dentist is number one. The experience of a painful extraction or a painful injection trigger people’s fear of the dentist. Next is the fear of dogs. Most dogs tend to bite strangers and their bites are feared because of rabies. Third, in rank is the fear of heights. Most people develop acrophobia by having a previous accident from a fall.

Can acrophobia be cured?

Yes, acrophobia can be cured. Extreme cases can be cured by seeking the help of a medical professional or by a psychiatrist.

What does the fear of heights mean?

The fear of heights means a person is afraid to stay in places situated at an extreme height like a room on top of a building. He also fears climbing steep stairs, crossing over a very high bridge, or riding escalators with extreme heights.

He would also fear riding glass elevators where one can see the whole height of the building the elevator has traversed. Some persons fear riding tall Ferris wheels and other carnival rides with extreme heights

Does the fear of heights get worse with age?

Yes, the fear of heights gets worse with age. Usually, young people don’t have problems with the fear of heights. Most often they can easily overcome stress and anxiety. Older people tend to be more cautious about their health and body conditions. Sometimes being over-cautious develop in them over time and becomes acrophobia.

They fear falling and having injuries, they fear going to high places. Sometimes the reason is they are already old and their sense of balance is deteriorating. This is also the reason why older people’s fear of heights gets worse with age.

Does age affect fear?

This depends upon the frame of mind of a person. If the person is extra careful this influences his fear of something. If a person has a happy-go-lucky attitude, then he doesn’t hold that fear for anything.

Older people usually accept the reality that mortality is inevitable and life has to be lived to the fullest. This eliminates the idea that age affects fear.

Does everyone have a phobia?

Yes, everyone has a phobia. According to psychiatrists for a person to have one or two fears is natural. Having more than one needs professional help. More than often these fears are instincts of our bodies to act to stress and various stimuli.


Acrophobia is one of the most common phobias. A minimal fraction of all people suffer from this pathological disorder. Severe cases can be brought to a health professional while mild cases can be overcome by the person himself.

While it is natural to possess one or two fears, it is advised that people should not worry about the feeling that he is having acrophobia. Chances are he will get over this fear and live a happy life thereafter.

People should have this generalization that life is full of challenges and fears but there are also solutions to all of these. You can find the solution to your problem on your own.

If you have more questions about acrophobia, ask them in the comment section below.



Categories: HealthPhobia

Nicolas Desjardins

Hello everyone, I am the main writer for SIND Canada. I've been writing articles for more than 12 years and I like sharing my knowledge. I'm currently writing for many websites and newspapers. I always keep myself very informed to give you the best information. All my years as a computer scientist made me become an incredible researcher. You can contact me on our forum or by email at [email protected].