In this blog we will discuss the symptoms, causes and treatments of Bathmophobia.
An intense fear of stairs or slopes is called Bathmophobia. It is a type of specific phobia which comes under the category of anxiety disorders in the DSM-V.
Someone suffering from it feels extreme anxiety when exposed to stairs or slopes.
Not just the exposure, but the mere thought of encountering them can instigate unpleasant feelings.
One can also undergo panic attacks if the anxiety worsens.
Bathmophobia is linked to Climacophobia (the fear of climbing). One fears stairs/slopes because of the fact that they have to climb them to get to the other side.
Though, stairs and slopes can be dangerous because of the fact that one might fall or slip while ascending or descending, leading to injuries.
However, someone suffering from Bathmophobia will be extremely anxious or terrified only at the sight of stairs or slopes.
Their fear is irrational because of the excess anxiety it causes. To lessen these unpleasant feelings, sufferers avoid stairs or slopes.
Acts of avoidance are repeated and this repetition maintains one’s fear. Recurrent actions can turn into compulsions leading to one suffering from OCD.
According to the DSM-V, anxiety and avoidance affects one’s social and occupational functioning.
For example, a sufferer will avoid living in a house with stairs or living in an apartment without a lift.
They will prefer not meeting their family members who live in a place with stairs/slopes.
One will refuse to attend school if their classrooms are not on the ground floor. Adults will also leave their jobs if the offices have stairs/slopes.
Bathmophobia is an irrational fear of stairs or slopes. It is a type of specific phobia which is very closely associated with the fear of climbing.
Symptoms of Bathmophobia
Like in the case of all other specific phobias, Bathmophobia too has anxiety as its focal symptom.
Individuals suffering from an irrational fear of stairs/slopes suffer from extreme anxiety which, as mentioned earlier, can result in one having panic attacks.
When one undergoes extreme anxiety, the body experiences other physiological symptoms as well. Such as increased heart rate or palpitations.
When the sufferer thinks about stairs/slopes, he goes into flight or fight mode because of an adrenaline rush.
In this state, the body’s physiological responses help one make decisions when in fear causing situations.
They either decide to escape the situation (flight)-faint or suffer from panic attacks or stay and combat their fear (fight)-by taking counterproductive actions.
Sufferers of Bathmophobia experience symptoms in different ways. One might have more severe symptoms than the other, based on their past experiences and intensity of the phobia.
Though, as the DSM-5 suggests, one must experience anxiety lasting for at least 6-months.
Symptoms one experiences in Bathmophobia are:
- Excessive anxiety when exposed to stairs or slopes
- Excessive anxiety when thinking about stairs or slopes
- Inability to manage anxiety
- Full-blown panic attacks
- Avoiding situations where one fears he might encounter stairs or slopes
- Increased heart beat
- Muscle tension
- Feelings of dizziness/fainting
- Feeling depressed
- Fear of an impending doom
- Excessive sweating
- Hot/cold flashes
- Butterflies in the stomach
- Drying up of the mouth
For one to be diagnosed with Bathmophobia, a person should experience at least 3-5 of these symptoms (including anxiety).
Causes of Bathmophobia
Like every other specific phobia, Bathmophobia is a result of either genetics or a past traumatic experience.
Someone who has a family history of anxiety disorders or specific phobias has a higher chance of developing Bathmophobia than someone who doesn’t.
This is because they are genetically predisposed to develop it.
Genes and neurotransmitters also play a significant role in this genetic predisposition.
This genetic tendency to develop a mental disorder/specific phobia can also be referred to as a Diathesis-stress relationship.
According to this, one with a genetic predisposition will not develop symptoms of Bathmophobia until and unless there is some trigger event, instigating anxiety or fear of stairs or slopes.
A triggering event can be a childhood experience. One might have encountered injuries because of falling from stairs or slipping from a slope.
They may have seen/heard someone lose their life or get badly injured because of it. Maybe they developed Bathmophobia as a result of these negative experiences.
Aslo, one who has overprotective parents or whose parents are scared of stairs are more likely to develop Bathmophobia.
A child is warned by their parents of the consequences they will face if they climb stairs or run on slopes, therefore this leads to one developing this phobia.
News reports also showcase the cons of falling from stairs or slopes, such as death or a life long injury.
This is why it is assumed that fear of falling (Basophobia), fear of climbing (Climacophobia) and or fear of death can lead to one developing Bathmophobia.
Therefore, Bathmophobia is a result of both genetic predisposition and environmental factors.
Treatment of Bathmophobia
Bathmophobia, like all other specific phobias, has no exclusive type of treatment that is specifically designed to treat it.
Like all the other specific phobias, Bathmophobia is treated by a number of different therapies including, Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT) and or medications that lower downs the anxiety or other physical symptoms.
• Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
It is one of the most frequently used treatments for patients with almost all kinds of mental disorders.
Bathmophobia is defined as the irrational fear of stairs or slopes. Thus, the therapist helps the patient in replacing these irrational thoughts with more rational ones.
The patients are helped out in analyzing and justifying the way they feel about their fear stimuli.
Therapists assist them in uncovering the reasons behind their fear and later they provide them with alternate, pleasant thoughts.
The patient is told to maintain a thought diary (with ABCD column) which provides them a replacement for every irrational thought they have, when thinking about a particular situation.
The ABCD stands for:
i. A (antecedents) a situation or triggering event.
ii. B (belief) the thought that comes to one’s mind when in that triggering situation.
iii. C (consequences) the symptoms/feelings caused by that event/thought
iv. D (dispute) alternate, rational thoughts provided by the therapist in an attempt to dispute/challenge those irrational beliefs.
This last section of the thought diary is what really plays a role in helping the person feel good/less anxious.
• Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR)
MBSR is a meditation therapy, used to manage stress or anxiety. It is an 8-week program which includes group sessions.
Mindfulness meditation and Hatha yoga are practiced in these sessions. Lectures and group discussions are also done to talk about mental health and increase interactivity.
In mindfulness meditation the person is told to, for example, focus on the sensations felt while breathing or the rhythm of the chest rising and falling during the process.
This distracts the person’s attention from something stressful to something which is neutral and soothing.
For quick and effective treatment, patients are also given a set of home works, for example 45 minutes of yoga and meditation sessions for 6 days a week and to record their results/feelings in a book or diary for 15 minutes a day.
• Exposure Therapy
It is one of the most frequently used ways of treating patients with Bathmophobia (or any other kind of specific phobia).
In this therapy, the patient is exposed to the source of his fear over a certain span of time.
To begin with the therapy, the therapist exposes the patient to the least triggering stimuli, a picture of stairs/slopes for example.
As the therapy progresses and the patient is able to control his anxious feelings, imagery can be used to take the treatment a step further.
In this part of the treatment the patient is asked to visualize/imagine a situation in which he encounters stairs or slopes.
During this process of imagery, one actually feels that he’s in that particular situation or place, experiencing various senses.
Once the person successfully, without feeling anxious clears this step of the therapy, he is then exposed to real stairs or slopes.
While the patient is being exposed to different levels of fear during the various stages of therapy, the therapist simultaneously teaches them coping exercises.
These include, breathing techniques or muscle relaxation methods to lower their anxiety, when in an actual fear causing situation. This teaches them how to remain calm when exposed to their fear stimuli.
Before actually starting the exposure therapy, the therapist needs to figure out the intensity of the patient’s fear, as to deduce whether they will be able to undergo this treatment, without any physical or psychological harm caused to them during the exposure processes.
However, these steps desensitize one to their fear of stairs or slopes by exposing them to that stimuli repeatedly, until they learn to undergo the situation without anxiety/panic attacks.
This another form of treatment used with patients suffering from specific phobia or anxiety disorders. It is used with patients who know the cause of their phobia.
First, the therapist collects the patients’ history of different fears. They then identify the real cause of the particular fear/phobia the patient has.
They then discuss any new/latest event that triggered their anxiety and fear in the past few weeks.
People coming with specific phobias are told to imagine their distress causing stimuli.
The therapist then works with the individual in order for them to overcome their fear.
In the case of Bathmophobia, the patient will be advised on how to overcome his fear of stairs or slopes. They do this by creating a positive imagery for the patients’ feared stimuli.
• Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
This is another effective therapy used to treat Bathmophobia. It is more commonly used with people suffering from personality disorders, but is also useful with patients suffering from this type of specific phobia.
Coping skills are taught in the DBT group which lasts for about 6-months and can have a number of people (depending on how many join the group).
i.Half-smiling is the first module of DBT. It is a technique that is used with patients who are distressed because of their irrational thoughts.
The technique is known as ‘Half-smiling’ because the person is first advised to think about the stimuli that fears or upsets them, and while doing so they are told to lift the corners of their mouths by subtly smiling.
Smiling is not that will help one get rid of these unpleasant thoughts, it is the person’s ability to constrain itself from thinking about those thoughts while half smiling.
ii.Mindfulness, the second module, is another technique used in DBT groups which helps the individual in getting rid of those negative thoughts.
Individuals are told to focus on the present and be attentive to what is going on around them at the moment. This helps in breaking the link between their mind and any negative thought that might come to them then.
For example, a person is told to focus on his breath or on the sound of the wind around them, making use of their auditory sense.
iii.The third technique or module of the DBT is distress tolerance skills. This module teaches people to calm themselves down in healthy ways when they are distressed or emotionally overwhelmed.
Individuals are allowed to make wise, rational decisions and take immediate action, rather than being captured by emotionally destructive thoughts that might make the situation worse.
Reality acceptance skills are also learnt under this model so that people fully accept reality and later make plans on how to address the problem.
They are not just one of the many treatment therapies used for Bathmophobia, instead they are one of the most common ways of relaxation used by many people.
Yoga tends to stimulate the meditative state of one’s mind while the person is in a particular yoga posture.
Through yoga/meditation the mind is diverted towards something more productive and calm, allowing the person to escape the negative, distress causing thoughts.
Out of a number of yoga types, one can benefit from any yoga type/pose they like. Hatha yoga is one of the different types of yoga.
The breathing techniques or the imagery one creates while in a yoga posture are the real factors that makes the person feel less anxious and diverts their mind, away from the thoughts about their fear stimuli.
• Drug Therapy
Drugs are used to reduce the physical symptoms caused by Bathmophobia. Drugs are very quick in effectiveness, as they start showing progress in the patients’ health at least 2 weeks after the medicine is taken.
This type of biological treatment is usually more effective if the cause of the phobia is only genetic.
However, these drugs/medicines are not to be taken without a doctor’s prescription or consultation.
Two types of drugs are used in the treatment of this phobia:
i. Antidepressant Drugs
These drugs, as the name suggests don’t only treat depression but are also very effective in treating phobias.
Medicines like Paxil reduce the anxious feelings of a person and makes him feel calm. They need to be taken on a daily basis but not without a doctor’s advice.
Medicines like Klonopin are anti-anxiety drugs.
They are most commonly used with patients who experience panic attacks and also lowers their anxiety by binding to receptor cells of the brain that cause these unpleasant symptoms.
Whether the cause of Bathmophobia, or any other type of specific phobia is genetics, environmental or both, the best and the most effective way of treating them is by using a combination of both biological treatments (drugs) with cognitive treatment (for example CBT/exposure therapy).
Titles to read
- DBT Made Simple: A Step-by-Step Guide to Dialectical Behavior Therapy (The New Harbinger Made Simple Series)
by Sheri Van Dijk
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Made Simple: 10 Strategies for Managing Anxiety, Depression, Anger, Panic, and Worry
by Seth J Gillihan PhD
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Anxiety: How to Finally Break Free from Anxiety and Change Your Life Forever
by Jonathan Moran
- Panic & Anxiety Attacks CURED! Real Testimony with Real CURE!
by Blaine Anthony
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1) How common is Bathmophobia?
It is an irrational fear of stairs or slopes.
Around 12.5% of the people in the US suffer from a specific phobia in their lifetime.
Q2) What is the fear of falling down stairs called?
Climacophobia is the fear of climbing stairs and or falling down stairs.
Q3) Do I have Bathmophobbia?
To be diagnosed with Bathmophobia, one needs to have excessive anxiety lasting for at least 6-months, panic attacks, increased heart rate and other physiological symptoms.
Q4) How is Bathmophobia treated?
Like all other specific phobias, Bathmophobia is treated using CBT, DBT and or medicinal drugs.
Examples of other interesting phobias