Fear of heights is a psychological phenomenon that, in most cases, is useful. Thanks to it, we avoid putting ourselves in dangerous situations that involve being on the edge of a cliff. In this way, without the need to stop and think about whether it is a good idea to stand on a balcony without a railing or next to a very deep ravine, we simply obey the feeling of fear and greatly reduce our chances of dying.
However, in some cases the fear of heights becomes so intense that it manifests itself strongly in contexts where there is no real danger of dying or being injured by a fall . In these cases it becomes a problem, even more so if it is so serious that it becomes a phobia. When this happens, it is necessary to intervene.
In this article we’ll look at various tips on how to make the fear of heights disappear , or at least mitigate its effects so that it ceases to be a problem.
First question: should I go to the psychologist?
To begin with, it is important to consider that, like many other psychological phenomena and traits, fear of heights can present itself in different intensities. When its level is relatively low or moderate, it is possible to make progress on one’s own, without help from others. However, if the fear becomes too extreme and the level of anxiety is so high that you lose control completely, it is necessary to see a mental health professional for psychotherapy.
Fortunately, phobias are disorders that in most cases can remit until their effects are so low that they no longer interfere with a person’s quality of life.
Of course, the line between fears and phobias (pathological fears) is blurred, and that is why it is necessary for a professional to make the diagnosis, and not for one’s self .
Having said that, let’s move on to see what the tips are for overcoming fear of heights in the event that the level of anxiety and fear manifested is not too extreme.
Overcoming Fear of Heights
Follow these steps by adapting them to the characteristics of your life and your day-to-day life.
1. Speak freely about your problem
This is a first step in dealing with the fear of heights. Doing this allows you to get rid of the extra worry of giving a bad image if there is someone around you when you enter a crisis of this kind. It also has the obvious benefit that other people can help you, for example, so that you can have support when you feel bad about it.
2. Establish a reasonable distance
In this step, you must imagine places where there is a cliff and establish, also in your imagination, which is the threshold that separates the really dangerous zone from the one that is not.
Doing this repeatedly will help you solve the uncertainty that comes from not being clear about when fear is justified and when it is not, and you will generalize this spatial criterion to many other real or imagined situations where there is a cliff.
3. Assume that emotions do not obey logic
If you read and learn about how mental processes are relatively independent from rational ones, you will not feel guilty about feeling anxiety when you are near a rich person, a big window, etc. Overcoming fear of heights is therefore a task in which you have to tame part of your nervous system , in order to adjust to rationality; it is, in a sense, a challenge.
4. Display images that convey safety
It’s good to start getting used to the idea that most of the time when people approach cliffs and the like, nothing bad happens. To do this, use visualization and imagine many people calmly approaching a cliff , maintaining a safe distance and trusting the railings (if any).
Then, imagine that you imitate those people. The good thing about these scenes is that they’re realistic, because they fit in with what we usually see in real life, even though we’re normally anxious in those contexts.
5. Expose yourself to the heights
This is the decisive step to definitely beat the heights, but you must do it with help. In your first attempt, propose to go a little beyond the limit you usually respect so as not to suffer too much from fear, and stay there for a few minutes.
In the second one, go a little further. In this way you will progress little by little, assuming an upward curve of difficulty and ending in a degree of proximity to the cliff that can be considered a reasonable margin from the criterion of safety.
On the other hand, if you have access to virtual reality technologies, such as the VR system in video games, you can also use it to expose yourself to cliffs that are not real, even though they are very realistic.