Acrophobia (fear of height)

In this brief article, we will be talking about acrophobia, the fear of heights, vertigo associated with the fear of heights, and the various information surrounding agoraphobia.

Acrophobia: fear of height – What is it?

Acrophobia is literally the fear of heights in psychological literature.

Affected people who suffer from this kind of phobia are less likely to go with friends and loved ones to places where they have to go to a high place such as the rides in an amusement park. 

Due to these affected people’s acrophobia, they are hesitant to go to a hill or ride glass elevators of a tall building.

These affected people are also afraid of riding or driving their car to the bridge since the perspective that they are high above the ground will cause dizziness. 

These kinds of situations can trigger the symptoms of fear of heights in these affected people which makes them avoid these situations altogether.

This kind of avoidance can affect the patient’s quality of life. 

This is not great information for women who are likely to have acrophobia than men.

These affected people are more likely to delay house repairs because they are afraid of climbing on ladders. 

These affected people will feel distressed when they are designated in a hotel room high above the ground floor.

These affected people will also prevent going to patios or hiking trips with loved ones. 

In this case, the fear of heights will severely affect your way of life.

Signs and symptoms of a fear of heights

Some people would use the word vertigo to associate it with acrophobia but vertigo is merely one symptom of this kind of fear.

Other signs and symptoms of this kind of fear are the following:

  • Feeling the necessity to crawl on all fours, kneel, or descend immediately when you are high off the ground
  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Feeling terrified or stiff
  • Feeling heart palpitations
  • Crying or screaming
  • A full-blown panic attack combined with breathlessness
  • Headaches and dizziness when you are far away from the ground

You can learn more about the experience of acrophobia by buying this book on this website.

Causes that make people have acrophobia

Studies have found that most living creatures are reluctant about going on heights which imply that this is a normal fear.

Some psychologists have tested acrophobia in infants which they have found to be hesitant about climbing the bridge where they can see a huge drop-off. 

Even the presence of the mother didn’t ensure the infant’ safety and confidence to cross the bridge.

In this case, acrophobia is already in our minds as a survival tactic. 

This doesn’t stop children to be careful about going to high places but they aren’t all inherited.

Acrophobia is similar to other specific phobias where there is the appearance of an extreme fear response. 

Other psychologists believe that the fear of heights might also be a cause of a learned response.

Are we genetically inclined to have a fear of heights?

The evolutionary perspective in psychology states that our fears are inherited by our ancestors.

This implies that acrophobia can be elicited with or without the experience of falling from heights. 

The fear of heights is already within our bodies even before we have contact or know this kind of fear.

Evolutionary psychologists believe that people who have this fear are more likely to prevent situations where they have to go to a high place as much as possible. 

When doing this behaviour, they have the capacity to survive more and be able to generate more offsprings.

Because of this, acrophobia is passed to the later generations as a survival mechanism.

However, this mechanism shouldn’t generalize to all phobias.

Inherited phobias should be passed down a lot of times and have shown survival prowess when having this fear. 

Getting away from the feared objects or situations must also reinforce the opportunity for the person to reproduce.

The evolutionary perspective might be a great explanation to the fear of heights but it hasn’t clearly explained other fears such as the fear of going to the dentist.

You can learn more about this kind of perspective in psychology by buying this book on this website.

Do we learn to have a fear of heights?

In the behavioural perspective in psychology, phobias are learned from associations of past experiences which is known as classical conditioning.

Here is a demonstration of this explanation of phobias.

Imagine you were climbing a tree for the first time in your life.

In the behavioural perspective, you are not afraid when you are still climbing the tree for the first time. 

But when you fall off from the tree, you will feel great distress and excruciating fear.

The behavioural perspective believes that when you were enjoying the climb and then this was followed by the fall, you are more likely to develop acrophobia.

In this experience, you will learn that the tree which is a neutral stimulus which become the unconditioned stimulus since you generalize your fear of falling down from that tree.

This is why you feel great fear when you see another tree in sight.

With these learned associations and traumatic experiences, the behavioural perspective believes that phobias are learned responses from these associations.

The fear of heights has stemmed from the overwhelming fear associated with the traumatic experience.

However, the behavioural perspective also has some limitations.

This perspective doesn’t give answers to why some people develop some phobias without learned associations. 

For instance, there are no presence of snakes in New Zealand but some people in the country are terrified of snakes.

The behavioural perspective also suggests that phobias can also be learned by observing someone who has a phobia. 

In this case, the behavioural perspective would explain that people in New Zealand may have seen someone who was afraid of snakes and learned to be afraid of these creatures.

In the realm of psychology, it is better to integrate each perspective to get an explanation for any phobia.

Evolved navigation theory causes fear of heights

Evolved navigation theory has also been used to explain the cause of the fear of heights.

In this theory, the perception of height may have been the result of natural selection. 

Having this perception of height, you are less likely to fall since you will be avoiding the high place as much as possible and you are more likely to procreate.

You can learn more about this theory to explain your acrophobia by buying this book on this website.

Several specific phobias have also been associated with acrophobia and these phobias are the following:

  • Vertigo: vertigo is considered as a medical condition where there is the appearance of confusion and dizziness
  • Illyngophobia is a kind of phobia where there is the anticipated fear of vertigo which leads to symptoms of this kind of medical condition. Acrophobia can elicit these kinds of feelings but these three disorders are not the same. You need to have a check-up with the doctor if you may have vertigo symptoms. Medical examination of this condition may include tests such as computed tomography (CT) scans, blood work, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which can also rule out a range of neurological disorders.
  • Bathmophobia: this is the phobia of stairs and slopes which is related to acrophobia. In this kind of phobia, you may fear even before you climb up a slope. There are many who have bathmophobia with acrophobia but not all people with the fear of heights have bathmophobia.
  • Climacophobia: this kind of phobia is associated with bathmophobia but this is more generalized where you are already panicking even when you are still thinking about taking a climb. If you have this kind of phobia, you might not fear about climbing a set of stairs if it means you have the tendency to land safely on the bottom. This kind of phobia can be comorbid with acrophobia.
  • Aerophobia: this kind of phobia is the fear of flying. Based on the severity of fear symptoms, you may be afraid of the idea of flying or seeing aeroplanes in general. This kind of phobia can be comorbid with the fear of heights.

How is acrophobia or the fear of heights diagnosed?

Like all specific phobias, acrophobia needs to be diagnosed by a certified mental health professional.

You can ask your general practitioner to be referred to a psychologist or psychiatrist. 

These mental health professionals can help with the diagnosis of the fear of heights.

These kinds of professionals will start by asking how you feel when you are in a high place.

You also need to mention some fear symptoms you feel when having acrophobia.

This kind of phobia is diagnosed with affected people if they show the following symptoms:

  • actively withdrawing from heights
  • spend a lot of time anxious about getting exposed to heights
  • find that this time spent anxious about starts to impact your everyday life
  • react with immediate fear and anxiety when getting exposed to heights
  • have these fear symptoms for more than six months

You can learn more about how the fear of heights is diagnosed by buying this book on this website.

Treatment for people with acrophobia or fear of heights

Acrophobia tends to be diagnosed alongside other phobias as mentioned before.

Because of this, you need to immediately seek professional help if you have this kind of phobia by checking out the symptoms above.

Proposed and used psychological interventions for people with acrophobia are the following:

  • Psychotherapy: cognitive-behavioural therapy is the most popular choice of treatment in treating people with some form of specific phobia. Behavioural strategies may include systematic desensitization where you are gradually exposed to your feared object or situation and flooding where you are immediately exposed to your feared stimuli. In this kind of therapy, you will be taught how to minimize fear reactions to your feared stimuli.​
  • Exposure: in traditional methods, exposure is the most common treatment for people with fears. Nowadays, virtual reality has been used as exposure therapy for fears which have always proven its effectiveness in a study. The benefit of this kind of therapy is that they are no need for many expenses since there is no need for a therapist to assist the client. This kind of treatment is not always available but with ongoing technology, it will become accessible soon.
  • Medication: anti-anxiety medications such as sedative medications can be used to treat specific phobias. The drug D-cycloserine has been studied on its effectiveness towards anxiety disorders. Research has found that this kind of medication is effective when used alongside cognitive-behavioural therapy. But the study didn’t consider the amount of dosage for this kind of medication when used alongside this kind of therapy.
  • Relaxation: you can do yoga, meditation, deep breathing exercises or progressive muscle relaxation to help you deal with your stressful responses when exposed to feared stimuli. Daily exercises are also part of this kind of treatment as well.

You can get some meditation tips to get you started by buying this book here.


In this brief article, we will be talking about acrophobia, the fear of heights, vertigo associated with the fear of heights, and the various information surrounding agoraphobia.

If you have any questions about agoraphobia, please let us know and the team will be willing to answer your queries.

FAQs: Acrophobia: fear of height

Are you born with a fear of heights?

You may be born with a fear of heights.

This is because this might be a survival tactic for your ancestors before you.

Since you find this as a survival tactic, you might find yourself incapable of leaving this fear.

Does fear of heights get worse with age?

The fear of heights can get worse when you are in your later years.

This only happens if you don’t get treated right away.

You might have friends who want to spend time with you in high places and you are just going to miss it.

What are the two fears you’re born with?

The two fear you are born with are loud noises and falling.

This is because we tend to do this a lot in the prehistoric times.

This allows us to survive and not suffer gruesome deaths.

Falling can make people think about being brutally killed due to falling.

How do I stop panic attacks when driving?

You can stop panic attacks when driving by making your senses focus on the present moment, do breathing exercises, concentrate on the symptoms and not your thoughts about these symptoms, and keep driving once you can calm down.

Why do some brains enjoy fear?

Some human brains enjoy fear because dopamine is the neurotransmitter that can create this kind of kick in the brain.

This allows psychopaths who tend to love fear to bring a fear upon other people or risk themselves by going to fearful situations such as fighting a bear to impress a girl.


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Psycom. (2019, September). Acrophobia Fear Of Heights. Retrieved from here

Raypole, C. (2019, March). Understanding Acrophobia, Fear Of Heights. Healthline. Retrieved from here.

Simon, A. (2019, June). What are the UK’s most common phobias?. Pushdoctor. Retrieved from here.