We all know about the fear of heights or what’s also called acrophobia. We are all aware of this fear, but not everyone cares enough to understand it. Sometimes, all claim to have it. But how real is acrophobia? Are phobias hard to conquer?
“Everybody has little behavioural quirks; that’s what makes us unique and interesting. However, when these behaviours start to impact on our quality of life or affect our nearest and dearest, we need to reflect on what is really behind the actions and what we can do about it.” – Dr. Peter Finlay, Ph.D.
Acrophobia is an extreme fear of heights. An acrophobic doesn’t need to be way up high to feel the intense feeling of distress that causes panic and nervousness.
At first, I thought maybe acrophobic people are just exaggerating. It can’t be that bad! But when I met Jamie, I started to understand this condition a little deeper. I realized it was no joke. People with acrophobia are suffering!
Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. explained in an article that with phobias the threat is greatly magnified. “For example,” she said, “it is only natural to be afraid of a snarling Doberman, but it is irrational to be terrified of a friendly poodle on a leash, as you might be if you have a dog phobia.”
I met Jamie through work some years back. I’m a flight attendant myself, and she was just aspiring then. When I first saw her getting prepped for her training, I knew there was something off about her. She seemed anxious and lost. I wasn’t sure, but you can tell by the way she looked down, looked away then looked blank that she was feeling uncomfortable.
What Are The Symptoms Of Acrophobia?
- You feel anxious whenever you’re in an elevated place even though it’s not high.
- You lose control over your body and mind that you might get extremely confused.
- You panic and get hysterical.
- You develop a headache because the level of stress is too high.
- You feel dizzy and nauseated.
- You feel nervous and tense.
- You experience rapid heartbeat and palpitations.
Days passed, and I heard Jamie was struggling with her training. When I saw her in the cafeteria, I felt like talking to her, so I asked her how the training was going. Then I learned that she was acrophobic, but being a flight attendant was her ultimate dream. It made me wonder if she always had acrophobia. How could she want to be a flight attendant if she knew she’s afraid of heights?
What Causes Acrophobia?
The most accepted explanation of why people develop phobias is the fear of hurting oneself, the fear of falling and getting injured and dying. When we were a baby, we didn’t fear anything at all. We just responded when we felt hungry, sleepy, or uncomfortable, but nobody was immensely afraid of heights during infanthood. People develop fear because of the past experiences of being hurt and injured from a fall. It could also be from the knowledge of what could be the outcome of falling from a high place.
I learned that Jamie had a fall when she was a teen. She was a cheerleader and fell during a rehearsal which caused her to stop coming to practice, then finally quitting altogether. Right before that incident though, she always wanted to be a flight attendant, and it broke her heart when she realized she was starting to fear high places.
According to Dr. Peter Finlay, Ph.D., “While there can, of course, be latent reasons where past experiences are manifesting in bizarre and undesirable ways, in many cases the solution to the problem is much simpler and more readily addressed than one might think.”
She would have nightmares of falling from a mountaintop or an airplane, and she would wake up anxious. Ever since then, she avoided activities and places that will cause her to feel afraid. She admitted that there were so many opportunities she missed, but when she finally needed to make a decision, she knew she couldn’t give up her dreams. Her mom was a flight attendant, and there was no stopping her from becoming one.
What Are Ways To Overcome Acrophobia?
- Reflect on why you want and need to overcome your fear.
- Remember all the opportunities you missed because you couldn’t face your fear.
- Decide whether you still want to live in the shadows of acrophobia.
- If you’re finally decided to overcome your fear, prepare to face it.
- Don’t rush. You can’t deal with it with just one try.
- Focus on your goal. Think of it as a motivation.
- Relax and breathe. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
Today, Jamie is one of the senior flight attendants in our airline, and she’s doing pretty well. I can’t help but admire her whenever I think of how she started. Although according to her, there are still times it gets to her, but she won’t let it come between her and her dreams.
When you ask me if she overcame her acrophobia, I would answer yes! Overcoming our fear doesn’t necessarily imply it vanishes all at once. It just means we are brave enough not to let it stop us from living.