“If you’re afraid of heights, just stay away from high places.” Avoiding your fears seems like a straightforward way to overcome fear of heights, right? Just keep away from the things you’re afraid of and your fear will never bother you! Simple!
For some people with Acrophobia, this might be an option. If you only fear heights in very specific circumstances like skiing down mountains or climbing vertical cliffs, then your fear is unlikely to have much of an impact on your life, and avoiding the feared situations is probably the easiest solution.
Most people with Acrophobia aren’t so lucky. Heights are everywhere. Getting in the elevator up to the top floor of your office or going shopping on the third floor of a shopping mall are normal parts of daily life for most people, and many situations involving heights would be very inconvenient to cut out of your life.
And yet many Acrophobia sufferers still do it. They go to great lengths to cut heights from their life, whether that’s driving for miles out of their way to avoid that one high suspension bridge they can’t drive over, refusing to go above a certain floor in tall buildings or never travelling by aeroplane. And yet, for all the effort you put into avoiding your fears, it actually ends up making them worse.
In psychology, we call this tendency to stay away from things that frighten us avoidance. Avoidance is a very common behaviour for people with fear of heights but it actually ends up contributing to the fear and keeping it in place.
Let’s look at how this works in a bit more detail. Why do you fear heights? On some level it must be because you think something bad will happen to you if in situations involving heights. You might think you’ll be in danger of falling and injuring yourself, or that you’ll be so afraid you’ll lose balance, or that you’ll start to feel nauseous or pass out, or that you’ll have a heart attack, or even that other people will notice your fear and make fun of you for it.
Now, let’s imagine two scenarios involving a man called Peter, who has Acrophobia. Peter has just been invited to a party which will take place on the rooftop garden of his friend’s apartment block. Peter firmly believes he will fall over the edge of the balcony if he gets too close and so is very nervous about the prospect of going.
In the first situation, Peter’s fear proves too great and he finds some excuse not to go. He feels rather bad about not spending time with his friends, feels like he chickened out and his belief that he will fall off the balcony remains unchanged.
Now, imagine a second scenario where Peter decides that he wants to conquer his fear of heights and so works up the courage to go to the rooftop party. He feels nervous beforehand but once he’s there, he actually has a great time with his friends. He doesn’t get too close to the edge but by the end of the night, he is starting to think that maybe the changes of him falling aren’t as high as he imagined.
Next time Peter is invited to this rooftop for some drinks after work, he comes along and feels confident getting a little closer to the edge, and still he does not fall off. The next few times, the same thing happens. And slowly, bit by bit, Peter learns that his reasons for fearing heights don’t add up. How can he think that falling off the edge is a certainty when he now has five or six direct experiences to contradict this prediction? His decision to face his fear has demonstrated that in the end, there wasn’t anything to fear.
This principle of exposing yourself to the things you fear is the key to how to get over fear of heights. By slowly and safely encountering the situations you fear, you get to challenge your predictions of what will happen and gradually teach yourself that there is nothing to fear. This might sound stressful but you don’t ever have to confront your biggest fears. Research shows that just facing a moderate or “five out of ten” level of fear is enough to reduce and eventually eliminate your fears. It’s this technique that forms the basis of our innovative new Acrophobia treatment.
Ready to stop avoiding the issue and get started with eliminating your fear? Get your copy of the My Fear of Heights program today!