What is Acrophobia? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment 

Some people are fearful of heights. Today, we’ll discuss what is acrophobia; its symptoms, causes, and treatment.

What is Acrophobia? 

Acrophobia falls under the category of specific phobia comprising of intense fear of heights and causes panic and anxiety attacks. It’s one of the most common types of fear. According to a statistical study, roundabout 1 in 20 people experience this type of phobia in their lifetime. DSM-5 (diagnostic and statistical manual of mental health disorders) has put height phobia under the category of “natural environment type.”

It’s absolutely normal to have a little fear of heights. But people with the acrophobic condition would experience irrational and intense fear of heights. However, the person doesn’t have to go up to high places in order to experience anxiety. In fact, the thought of high up places would trigger the panic attack.

A person with an acrophobic condition would avoid all types of situations and circumstances that require climbing and going up high. For instance, they would refuse to go up on the balcony, bridge, plane, and ladder. The fear would have a great impact on a person’s life.

Symptoms of Acrophobia 

The top symptoms of the acrophobic condition are anxiety and panic attacks. Extreme height could trigger such fear among some people, and others would fear any type of small height like a stool or ladder. Some of the main physical symptoms of the acrophobic condition are as follows;

  • Living a routine life becomes difficult and the person would avoid any type of height
  • Fizzy feelings like losing balance or failing when you look down from a height or looking up
  • Trembling and shaking while facing heights
  • Lightheadedness or sick feelings while thinking about heights
  • Tightness, chest pain, speedy heart rate, or sweating while seeing of thinking about heights

Some of the psychological symptoms are as follows;

  • Extreme worrisome feelings that you have to face heights in the future
  • Experiencing intense fear and anxiety while driving along the overpass, looking out of the window, or climbing up the stairs
  • Intense fearful feelings of being trapped in the high places
  • Experiencing panic attack while seeing or thinking about the heights, or you have to go up top

Causes of Acrophobia 

The traumatic experiences that may cause the development of the acrophobic condition are as follows;

  • Negative and bad experiences or having panic attacks in high up places
  • Watching someone else falling from high places
  • Falling from the height

A specific type of phobia like acrophobia could develop without any particular cause. The environmental and genetic factors could play their part in its development. For instance, you’re more vulnerable to developing this condition if someone in your family has acrophobia. While growing up, your parents or caregivers have taught you the fear of heights with their behavior.

Evolved Navigation Theory

Evolved navigation theory explains that certain types of human processes like the height perception came down to us through natural selection. When you perceive something as taller than it actually is, then it decreases the riskiness of dangerous falls, it amplifies the probability that you would live to reproduce.

Diagnosis of Acrophobia 

The psychologist or any mental health professional would diagnose the acrophobia. If you want the diagnosis, you should request your healthcare provider for referrals. Your therapist would ask you to describe your feelings when you’re facing or thinking of heights. Don’t forget to mention other types of symptoms that you’re experiencing and how long you have to experience them. Diagnosis of acrophobic condition comprises of following conditions;

  • Experiencing height fearful symptoms for the past 6 months or more
  • When facing heights, immediately react to them with anxiety and fear
  • The worrisome feelings would start impacting your life
  • Worry about the heights all the time
  • Avoiding all types of heights actively

Treatment of Acrophobia 

Any type of specific phobia doesn’t have a proper treatment. For some people, avoiding fearful objects and things don’t impact their lives in a big way. If the height fear is impacting your life and holding you back from performing various types of activities, then you should follow any type of treatment.

Virtual Reality

Many experts are recommending VR (virtual reality) as the main treatment method for dealing with any type of specific phobia. VR works like exposure therapy where you’ll get exposure to fearful objects and things in a controlled and safe environment. Your therapist would stop the exposure right away by using a computer application if it makes you feel overwhelmed.

A study conducted in 2018 showed that the impact of VR is highly effective and helpful, and participants in the VR session experienced only a limited discomfort. VR is an affordable and easily accessible treatment method, and you can do it at any time and in any place


The medicines don’t treat any type of specific phobia. They help you to decrease the symptoms of stress and anxiety. Some of them are as follows;

  • DCS (D-cycloserine): DCS medicines amplify the impact of exposure therapy
  • Benzodiazepine: it’s a sedative drug helping you decrease the symptoms of anxiety and fear, it can be addictive, use it when it’s necessary
  • Beta-Blockers: they help you to stabilize your heart rate and blood pressure

Conclusion: What is Acrophobia? Symptoms, Causes, Treatment 

After an in-depth study of what is acrophobia; its symptoms, causes, and treatment; we’ve realized that acrophobic conditions would badly impact your life. If you’re experiencing its symptoms, then you should discuss it with the therapist in your area.