I have a fear of heights. I am terrified of heights. I do not go over the 6′ height on a ladder, I do not go on my roof and I certainly did not look over the edge of the Hoover Dam on my Honeymoon. Ask my wife and she will tell you that I shouted at her to move away from the edge of the dam and scared the bejeebers out of her in the process.
I work in an industry with lots of ladders and heights and there are others with my phobia, I am not alone. Industries are very accommodating and from a safety perspective, they will not put you in a situation where you may freak out or freeze up and put yourself or others at risk.
Most people are understanding or really do not care but there is the occasional hotshot that says to “just climb up” or “it’s only another 10 feet”. It’s not an option. My hands get sweaty, my vision blurry, my heart beats faster, I don’t think straight and my irrational thinking makes me want to let go or climb down a different way. I must look like a crazed lunatic. But the absolute panic I feel is how I know that this is a phobia for me.
So what is the name of my phobia? It is called acrophobia, the extreme and or irrational fear of heights. The ones on the other end of the scale that like heights are said to have a “head for heights”. Perfect for ironworkers or tower crane operators. Think of the Mohawk men and others that built the Empire State Building in New York City with no safety lines and no fear of being that high up in the air walking on or eating lunch on narrow beams. It is thought that 2% of the population has acrophobia and it affects twice as many women as it does men.
The fear doesn’t necessarily come from a traumatic event, it can come from just living in a world where heights are all around us and a fall is always possible. The fear may also be instinctual. Tests have been done on infants on glass floors with perceived heights underneath and they would not go on the glass.
One treatment method is virtual reality therapy-subjecting the person to the phobia in small amounts in a safe environment until they are comfortable enough to try the actual situation. Prescription medication may also be used in treatment.
Please leave me a comment on this. Do you have this fear? Or a different one?
George Carlin once said “I don’t have a fear of heights. I do, however, have a fear of falling from heights”. George was such a wise man.