How to overcome your fear of heights

METERMillions of people share a struggle to overcome the fear of heights. In fact, up to 6 percent of all people suffer from some form of acrophobia, according to the Cleveland Clinic. It’s important to remember that everyone feels vulnerable at times and in their own way.

The degree to which discomfort, apprehension, anxiety or fear can manifest and impact will vary between individuals and in relation to different types of fights or scenarios. Additionally, having certain fears and phobias may also be more prevalent in those who suffer from generalized anxiety or chronic stress and who tend to be more naturally panicky.

While there are many types of phobias (with “phobia” indicating a deep-seated fear of exposure to a certain experience or thing), fear of heights, or acrophobia, is at the top of the list, and people Those who fight with him can feel fear in situations that require them to be above the ground.

“Heights can be scary because, from an evolutionary standpoint, they threaten survival, so it’s a more common fear in the general population,” says Kassondra Glenn, LMSW, a licensed social worker and therapeutic consultant at Diamond Rehab.

Even just thinking about it, through visualization or virtual means, can also make your heart race. Your hands can get clammy and warm, and you may feel dizzy or light-headed, with a fast heart rate, excessive production of cortisol (the “stress” hormone), and lots and lots of nervousness.

How to know if you are afraid of heights

The degree of fear you have and its influence on your day-to-day life and well-being will determine whether or not you have a phobia and how to overcome your fear of heights with the help of a professional.

For example, if you get sweaty and anxious looking down at the ground when you’re standing on top of a mountain or sitting down getting ready to “jump” on a zip line or stunt course, you probably don’t have a fear of heights and just a case of butterflies, which are common and tend to pass quickly.

Conversely, those who are particularly sensitive and fearful of heights (with a level of severity that would be classified as a phobia) find them disturbing in their daily lives. For some, learning to overcome a fear of heights could be life-changing, opening doors to new opportunities and lowering chronic levels of stress and anxiety.

What could this look like? Apprehension can come with little mundane things, like getting on the elevator. Likewise, you may be especially scared of roller coasters or balconies, and you may not be able to board a plane to catch a flight, if your fear of heights is too extreme and difficult to overcome.

“It may be easier to avoid heights or try to suppress the fear, rather than face the fear of heights; however, many people miss out on experiences or struggle with other aspects of mental health due to fear of heights and want to make a change,” she says.

Fortunately, therapy can help, and with dedication, patience, and practice, it will get easier. Certain therapies and techniques are quite beneficial and are most popularly used as a treatment to help reduce anxiety and fear and learn to overcome fear of heights in order to have a more flexible and capable lifestyle.

How to overcome fear of heights

The biggest challenge with treatment is that in order to heal and reduce fear and restlessness, direct exposure to what exactly is causing all the nerves (in this case, heights).

Facing your fears is not easy and requires courage and the ability to let go so that you can be open to positive changes and experience new and different things, and far outside of your comfort zone.

There are two types of therapies that are more efficient for treatment and can speed up the process of overcoming fear of heights. “Exposure therapy is gradual exposure to the source of the fear, which helps people adjust to the situation and feel more comfortable in it,” he says.

“In fear of heights, this can feel like working with a trained therapist to create situations where the fear of heights is present,” he explains. In these situations, you will work together to overcome your fear by taking on real-life challenges, like riding a roller coaster, rock climbing, or walking on a trapeze, for example.

You will face your fears directly and experience what it is like to be higher and above the ground. Another useful therapy is CBT therapy, especially as an initial treatment or first step, before using exposure therapy. (You probably need both to learn how to overcome your fear of heights.)

“CBT therapy focuses on thoughts, feelings, and behaviors,” she says. Therefore, it is more of a “virtual reality” exhibit, with an emphasis on changing old thought patterns and breaking through mental blocks.

CBT therapy also uses visualization, imagination, and the senses to change the way the mind and body see and feel the frightening situation, with the goal of reducing apprehension and making it less automatic in response to stimuli. Over time, you will notice progress in training your brain in new ways of thinking so that you no longer have that knee-jerk reaction and sense of fear in the future.

Tips to Remember When Addressing Your Fear of Heights

For starters, don’t bottle up your emotions and keep everything inside. Find a few confidants with whom to share your experience and struggles, and allow them to be a supportive help throughout your journey. “I would suggest that someone struggling with a fear of heights talk to supportive people about their experience, like trusted friends or loved ones,” he suggests.

“Group therapy can also be helpful because it provides a close-knit community through shared experiences,” she adds. It is easier to process fear and overcome it when you do not feel alone in your fear, as if you are the only one there and you are alone.

Group therapy means that fear is not unique, and there are people who feel just as scared and are also overcoming obstacles. And together, you can hold each other accountable.

You also don’t want to be impatient and give up out of frustration. Overcoming your fear will take time and hard work, so don’t mistakenly expect immediate results.

“It’s important not to set a strict timeline for overcoming fear of heights, and also to remember that each person is unique in both the intensity of their fear and the time it can take to process and mitigate it,” she explains.

“In general, exposure therapy consists of five to twenty sessions, while the duration of CBT is often adjusted based on need and on a case-by-case basis,” she says.

Avoid pushing yourself to the extreme. Instead, pace yourself based on how your body feels and responds, without comparing yourself to anyone else or setting your expectations and standards too high.

“Therapy and overcoming the fear should create discomfort, however, they shouldn’t completely dysregulate, and going too far too quickly can re-traumatize and/or make the fear worse,” she says. Remember, the “right” pace is one that creates sustainable progress for lasting change.

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