Height phobia (acrophobia) is a common condition which affects a large proportion of the population, particularly when individuals become older (Marks & Gelder, 1966). A great deal of people complain about feeling uncomfortable in potentially dangerous situations; however, a diagnosis can only be made if the individual experiences an irrational fear in association with heights. Normally, height phobics feel anxious in places which are comparatively low and this causes a great deal of avoidance behaviour. Individuals suffering from this condition are often unable to take lifts or spend any length of time on a balcony; others find it difficult taking the stairs or having to go above the second or third floor of a block of flats.
As with many phobic conditions, the anxiety is selective. For example, a patient with height phobia might be unable to have a meal on the top floor of a restaurant, but might be able to go skiing at the top of an extremely high mountain.
If the phobia becomes intolerable, and it is beginning to affect the person’s well being, it is important to see a psychologist or psychotherapist as soon as you can. The most effective treatment approach for height phobia is systematic desensitization, and this is done using hypnotherapy. Treatment programmes are normally 6-12 sessions.
David Kraft, PhD
UKCP Accredited Psychotherapist and Hypnotherapist