In this article I will talk about hypnotherapy for fear of heights (Acrophobia). We will look at what a phobia of heights is, it’s causes, symptoms, diagnosis and different types of treatment. We will also discuss how a fear of heights is different from vertigo. If you are suffering from a fear of heights, please get in touch. Click here for more information about my hypnotherapy for fear of heights (hypnosis) treatment.
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights explained
Like many phobias, a fear of heights is really a type of anxiety and therefore a subtype of an anxiety disorder. However, don’t allow that to worry you. As you might imagine, experiencing a fear of heights is very common. Perhaps well over 5% of the population, at times, will have a fear of heights.
You can define a fear of heights as a slightly irrational but persistent and unwarranted intense fear or anxiety of a high height. That is often even though you may not actually be very high up or in a dangerous situation. For example, you may just go up a couple of steps of a ladder and begin to notice anxiety symptoms. You know on a rational level that you are perfectly safe since you are just a meter or two above the ground. However you already notice your heart beating faster or even your palms becoming sweaty.
It’s common to have a fear of height in tall buildings, on bridges, ferris wheels, roller coasters or other high places including balconies or even high hills. If you’ve noticed already, from just reading this article that your anxiety levels are raised, it might be that you have a fear of heights. If that’s the case, you may wish to get in touch to discuss more how my hypnotherapy based fear of heights treatment may be able to help you.
A fear of heights can affect your recreational activities. You may notice that you’re avoiding going places such as bridges or using glass elevators or escalators. In extreme cases you may experience panic attacks or very strong anxiety symptoms. If you live or work in a large city, you may avoid or find it difficult to attend meetings which are on high floors of office buildings or experience dizziness on escalators or staircases, especially if there isn’t a very strong railing. Compared with other phobias, a fear of heights is more commonly accompanied by panicky feelings and it can be exacerbated by a sense of open spaces or motion, for example a cable car or fairground ride.
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights: Are there any celebrities with a fear of heights?
Some famous people who have a phobia of heights include Woody Allen, Whoopi Goldberg, Matt Damon, Ben foster, Jesse J and Michelle Rodriguez.
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights: How common is a fear of heights?
As mentioned, according to statistical data it is estimated that at least 5% of the population have some form of Acrophobia or fear of heights. It affects twice as many women as it affects men. There is also a related condition called visual height intolerance (vHI). Though this may be connected, it is not a typical phobia, but more visually triggered. It is estimated that up to a third of people worldwide have some form of visual height intolerance. Visual height intolerance is experienced when a person sees something which causes an apprehension of losing control of balance and falling from some height.
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights: Is a fear of heights something we are born with or do we gain it through experience?
This is a very open question. We know that there are only two real phobias that humans seem to be born with. These are a fear of loud noises and a fear of falling over. However some studies have shown that small babies and certain animals are extremely reluctant to crawl on a floor made of glass that is a couple of meters above the ground. This may indicate that a phobia of heights is more innate rather than something learnt.
What we do know is that underpinning a fear of heights are certain unhelpful thoughts. It is these unhelpful thoughts that I often spend time helping many clients with at my London clinic. In general our anxieties and fears are created by our thoughts. These thoughts will be about our safety in our current situation or how what is happening now may negatively impact our future.
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights: What are common fear of heights thoughts?
Well, let us start by mentioning some of the places that may trigger these thoughts. Thoughts can come in many forms. Most people with a fear of heights will be fearful of tall buildings, balconies, standing near a window, travelling in a glass elevator, cable cars, bridges, standing on a chair, ladders, cleaning windows, or standing on a roof.
The thoughts that come up can be wide and varied. The thoughts might be related to personal safety, related to losing balance or the weakness of the structure on which they are standing. For example, when in a lift (elevator) there may be a concern that the strong thick ropes holding the lift up may break. This is, of course, somewhat irrational. There may be also a fear of dizziness or having a heart attack. This is especially true if the physical anxiety symptoms are very strong. To use the lift (elevator) example again, other fears can come into play as well. For example a fear of enclosed spaces or of being trapped (claustrophobia). This added phobia can therefore make the whole situation more stressful.
If you have a fear of heights, you may experience very rapid thoughts but though the thoughts appear at the outset, it’s often the physical symptoms which are noticed first. However, the actual order is that the thoughts come first and the physical symptoms only later.
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights: Acrophobia – some fear of heights symptoms
The most common symptoms that people will experience with a fear of heights can be nausea, sweating, agitation, rapid breathing, increased heartbeat, dizziness, blurred vision, fogginess, feeling sick, shaking, a sense of mental collapse, stomach distress, palpitations, feeling faint.
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights: What is the difference between vertigo and fear of heights?
A fear of heights and vertigo are not to the same. A fear of heights is literally being afraid of being at a significant height and what might happen. However, vertigo is a specific type of dizzy feeling. You feel as if the room is tilting, or your head is spinning or that things around you are moving.
There are two forms of vertigo. Both of which might be increased by heights or the fear of heights, for example, if someone is looking over a ledge of a tall building. One form of vertigo is more subjective. In this vertigo experience, the sufferer feels as if they are moving or they are swaying. The second form of vertigo is a more objective feeling of vertigo. In this vertigo experience, the sufferer feels like the objects around them are moving around him or her. In other words, they are stationary and the surroundings are moving.
Some idea about how vertigo can be caused
There are certain conditions which can cause vertigo. These might include inner ear abnormalities or infections, brain functioning, or certain medications, for example antidepressants.
Some suggest that vertigo can be caused by a negative experience with heights. This may have been directly experienced by you or you saw it happen to someone else. For example, as a child, you may have fallen off a couch or watched somebody fall over, either in person or even on television. Some evolutionary psychologists believe that vertigo can be considered as an extreme form of a normal evolutionary survival mechanism.
It can be difficult to do some jobs if you have vertigo or a fear of heights. Suffering with vertigo or a fear of heights may even affect where you live. You may choose to not live in a flat or apartment on a high floor. Vertigo can be triggered by almost any sort of physical movement including walking, sitting down or by the visual stimulus in your environment changing, such as when you squat down or looking out of the window at a moving object.
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights: Vertigo and fear of heights in the movies
In popular culture, vertigo and fear of heights features in many films such as Mission Impossible II or Die Hard. Alfred Hitchcock, of course, entered vertigo into popular culture with his 1958 film called Vertigo. In that movie, a police detective develops a feeling of vertigo after seeing a fellow officer die during a rooftop chase. During the film, the detective’s vertigo is shown to be a psychological condition. He is however able to overcome his vertigo at the film’s conclusion, although at a terrible price.
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights: What causes a fear of heights?
Just like any other phobia, a fear of heights is probably caused by unconscious (and sometimes actually quite obvious and visible!) unhelpful thoughts which themselves are trying to create a self defence mechanism to protect you. These thoughts may be rooted in traumatic experiences in the past. For example, if you saw or were involved in a dangerous situation related to heights, your mind will then now attempt to protect you from future danger by allowing these thoughts to pop up when in a situation which looks or feels similar to the earlier dangerous situation. The subconscious mind does that automatically and can’t recognise that, on a rational evaluation, you may be bigger and older now and could cope with the new ‘danger’. The subconscious brings these thoughts up anyways. That’s why an intervention such as hypnotherapy can be so affective. Hypnotherapy for fear of heights looks directly at this subconscious response and tries to change that to something more helpful.
As is clear, a fear of heights is not an anxiety which is present all the time every day. It only appears when you come across a situation that feels or looks to the subconscious to be similar to that previous fear inducing heights experience. When the mind thinks you’re in a similar situation, it creates fearful thoughts and these fearful thoughts create the anxiety symptoms associated with a fear of heights.
Researchers have argued that a fear of heights is possibly an instinct found in many mammals. However, as mentioned before, it’s unclear whether humans are born with an innate fear of heights or not. We, of course are often naturally wary of heights but that might be something we pick up or copy from our parents during childhood.
A related cause has been suggested to do with maintaining balance. That the human balance system, which is of course connected to the ears and hearing may shift and move. There may be a signal when there is a danger and therefore through sight and sound a fear of heights is triggered when we are concerned about our balance or falling over.
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights: Diagnosing a fear of heights
It may not be necessary to go to a psychiatrist or even a doctor to diagnose a fear of heights. Intuitively, you know, if you do have a fear of heights and you know because you’ve been exposed to a high place and during that exposure you felt symptoms. However it may be beneficial to seek medical advise to determine if you are suffering from a fear of heights or vertigo or visual height intolerance (vHI).
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights: Fear of heights treatment
I will mention a few treatments which are available for fear of heights. You might wish to discuss your anxiety with a hypnotherapist, therapist or psychologist. There are different treatments available. For example, behavioural therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), hypnotherapy, medication, or virtual reality exposure therapy.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for acrophobia, fear of heights. Today visiting a CBT therapist is viewed by the NHS to be a standard treatment for fear of heights. However, hypnotherapy can also treat a fear of heights and is often much quicker and more effective than CBT. Together with your CBT therapist, you will look at your thoughts and attempt to change them to become more positive and helpful. CBT therapy can often involve directly facing your fear. For example, going to a tall building or going in an elevator or walking over a bridge. However, this will be done slowly and the exposure to your fear will be done in a measured way.
Behavioural therapy for a fear of heights. During behavioural therapy, your therapist will expose you to the primary source of your anxiety, doing this gradually to therefore remove the phobia. They may give you exercises, which will be used to reduce your anxiety.
Hypnotherapy for fear of heights. At my London clinic I use hypnotherapy for fear of heights. Hypnotherapy (hypnosis) harnesses the power of your subconscious mind to bring change at a deep level in a relatively short timeframe. Together, we help you face, using your imagination, the feared situation. This form of therapy is very effective. Not only can you use it to reduce your reaction to the feared situation, you will gain extra tools and skills to increase your confidence and to give you more resources. Hypnotherapy can also decrease your overall feelings of anxiety and deal with the original traumatic situation as well, if relevant.
Virtual reality (VR) exposure therapy for fear of heights. This intervention may often use hypnotherapy. A virtual reality therapist may use goggles and software to help you imagine and see yourself in the triggering heights anxiety situation. Virtual reality therapy has become more popular in the past few years. However, it may be a gimmick, since your mind and imagination is really the most powerful way that you can imagine any situation. In other words a part of you will always know that you’re simply watching a movie and it’s not true.
Medication for fear of heights. Sometimes anxiety can be so strong that medication can be helpful. A visit to your GP will be useful to discuss this option. There are several medication or drug options for a fear of heights. For example anti anxiety drugs, beta blockers, or anti depression drugs might be prescribed. As a short term intervention, medication may be helpful. The use of Beta blockers can help reduce your immediate, on the spot, anxiety symptoms. For example, when you feel a racing heartbeat, nervousness or feelings of panic, beta-blockers can reduce that.
If you or somebody that you care about has a strong fear of heights and it’s affecting their daily life, get in touch today. Let’s discuss how hypnotherapy for fear of heights can help you reduce anxiety and live life with more calm.