Why are some people afraid of heights? It turned out that the world in their eyes is like this!

In the past few years, glass trestle roads across the country have become a mess. The director also went to a glass plank road with his friends and wanted to challenge himself, but the result…

Well, don’t say what the director experienced, just say what the director saw——

Aunt Sauce (big sister, get up)

Someone like (Uncle, is your heart okay?)

And a dog…

(The above animations are all from soogif)

What an unforgettable sight!

Why are some people so afraid of heights?

Death anxiety from ancestors

People who are afraid of heights stand in high places, and the changes in their inner world and brain are generally like this:

When you look down from a high place, the scene is completely different, the house becomes a matchbox, the pedestrian looks like an ant, the brain exaggerates the height, or the balance system collapses, A sense of fear arises in the heart, followed by a series of discomfort-

Anxiety, helplessness, fear of something terrible happening,

Rapid heartbeat, dizziness, chest tightness,

Stomach upset, nausea,

Children and weakness, trembling hands and feet, weak limbs, etc.

(Image source: Internet)

The greater the deviation of distance judgment, the stronger the fear of heights[1].

Fear of heights is innate. Fear is self-protective. why would you say so?

Dating back hundreds of millions of years, our ancestors encountered threats from various carnivores, which triggered a structure in the brain called the “amygdala.” It is the place where fear is created, and it is the oldest part of the brain.

The amygdala is here

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When people are in danger, the amygdala activates violently.

It will create a sense of tension and anxiety, making you aware of danger, beware!

It makes your heart beat faster, pumping a lot of blood to support you on the run.

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And when you stand on a cliffOn the side, there will be a sense of fear of falling into the abyss at any time, thus reminding yourself to stop and step back.

Image source: Tencent Medical Dictionary

Because the amygdala is so dedicated, even if you are standing on the glass plank road, it is obviously safe, but it will still judge the “danger ahead” and amplify the fear infinitely.

Going further, everyone has a “death anxiety.” Standing at a height, you are “death threatened” deep inside, and it is inevitable that anxiety will arise.

At this point, hundreds of images may have flashed through your mind:

I haven’t been able to live the life I really want!

No girlfriend yet!

Or, there are wives and children at home…

The more you feel that your life is not yet complete, and that there are still many things to do, the higher the death anxiety will be [2-3].

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Looking directly at death is as uncomfortable as looking directly at the sun, which is one of the reasons why some people have a serious fear of heights.

Fear of climbing ≠ “acrophobia”

People often equate “fear of climbing” with “fear of heights”, but there are essential differences between the two.

Fear of climbing is more of a normal physiological response of the body and a self-protection signal from the brain’s defense system.

This fear is legitimate and helps us survive.

Further, fears, reactions, etc. are not as strong.

Image source: Zhanku Hailuo

“Acrophobia” is classified as an anxiety disorder in psychiatry. People with “fear of heights” often have an excessive and unreasonable fear of heights, and will show a series of physical manifestations, such as the blushing, rapid heartbeat, sweating, Shortness of breath, etc.

There are also some patients with obsessive intentions, for example, when standing at a high place, they are worried that they will jump off, and there is a real urge to jump!

This fear goes far beyond the “fear of climbing” self-defense mechanism.

An An, the “flying girl in wingsuit” who passed away tragically some time ago, was interviewed by an outdoor media last October and revealed that she was a fear of heights, but she enjoyed “overcoming her fear” the process of”. From a psychological point of view, she is trying to break through the psychological defense mechanism of her own, and she has indeed defeated her psychological instinct in the end. But the ending is still sad.

As for many other people with a fear of heights, they know their fears are irrational, but they still can’t control their emotions. They will try to avoid contact with things that cause fear, and thus bring many obstacles in their lives, such as-

Don’t dare to go up to more than 3 floors,

Even if I go up, I always feel in danger;

Afraid to live in tall buildings,

Afraid to work in high-rise office buildings,

Afraid to go shopping in high-rise malls;

Would rather drive around 10 kilometers,

Also avoid crossing a high bridge;

Inadvertently see a steep staircase,

All will suddenly have a rapid heartbeat, sweating, flushing, chest tightness

Image source: Zhanku Hailuo

Is acrophobia curable?

It affects life so much, what can I do!

Fear of heights is not insurmountable. The best way to deal with demons is to challenge them.

You can consciously go for exercise at ordinary times, starting from a height that you can accept, such as: climbing 3 flights of stairs, climbing a hill, looking down from a high place, etc., and gradually increase Height, feel the stimulation of the high environment on yourself, and try to accept this stimulation.

Image source: Zhanku Hailuo

Don’t look down on this method, this is a formal psychotherapy method, and there is a scientific name “system desensitization”.

If you need to improve the performance of your fear of heights, you can turn to a formal counselor or therapist. They also have other techniques to help you, such as exposure therapy, hypnotherapy, etc. If necessary, you may also need to take some antidepressants.

Reviewer: Shi Yingying| Psychotherapist, Hainan Branch, PLA General Hospital


[1]Menzies R G,Clarke J C. The etiology of fear of heights and its relationship to severity and individual response patterns.[J]. Behaviour research and therapy,1993,31(4 ).

[2] Bai Fubao. On the nature of death anxiety[J]. Medicine and Philosophy (A), 2015, 36(10): 40-49.

[3]Harmon-Jones E,Simon L,Greenberg J,et al.Terror management theory and self-esteem:Evidence that increased self-esteem reduces morality salience effects[J].J Per Soc psychol, 1997, 72:24-36.

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