How Is Acrophobia Diagnosed?

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Does the thought of standing at the window of a high rise office building make you sweat? Have you gone out of your way to avoid driving over bridges, or climbing up hills? Is it a challenge to stand on a ladder? If you’re nodding along, there’s a chance that you might have a fear of heights, also known as acrophobia.

In this article, we’re going to explain how acrophobia is diagnosed and highlight the main symptoms so that you can perform an accurate self-diagnosis as well. Let’s get started!

How is acrophobia diagnosed?

Unlike other medical conditions, phobias like acrophobia aren’t usually formally diagnosed. The reason behind this is that people with phobias tend to be completely aware of their condition. These people know that when they’re in a certain situation or are doing a particular activity, they end up feeling intense fear and anxiety, along with a range of physical symptoms.

You can generally self-diagnose acrophobia by focusing on the symptoms that you experience when facing the object of your fear. These may include…

Emotional symptoms

  • Anger
  • Confusion
  • Panic
  • Distress
  • General turmoil

Physical symptoms

  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness
  • Light-headedness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Shaking
  • Intense sweating
  • Paralysis
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth

Psychological symptoms

  • Intense anxiety
  • Intense fear
  • Avoidance of heights

Now, most people will experience a degree of fear when they’re exposed to extreme heights. When you’re on a rollercoaster, for example, it’s natural to feel panic just before a sudden drop occurs. Similarly, when you look out of the window of a particularly tall building, you may get vertigo (a false sensation of spinning), or feel like you’re going to fall for a brief moment.

Individuals with acrophobia, however, tend to experience higher levels of panic and distress for a prolonged period of time, that can be triggered by a wide range of scenarios, such as:

  • Climbing a ladder to change a lightbulb
  • Standing on an escalator
  • Walking up a hill or mountain
  • Standing in a glass elevator
  • Driving over a bridge or in a mountainous area
  • Ascending to a higher floor in a building
  • Taking an aeroplane

Even when an acrophobe knows that there are safety features in place, like barriers, they can’t help but give into their body’s natural response to the object of their fear.

In severe cases, the above symptoms can be triggered when an individual is thinking about high places, or remembering a particularly traumatic experience.

If you’re looking for a way to determine whether you have a phobia of heights, you may wish to consider taking a self-report questionnaire. All you need to do is to answer a few questions. You can then share your results with your GP or another medical professional. To learn more, read our guide to self-reporting for acrophobia.

Getting help without a diagnosis

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If you’ve ticked off most of the symptoms on the above list, it’s likely that you do indeed have acrophobia. Now, just because acrophobia doesn’t require a formal diagnosis doesn’t mean that you have to deal with it alone.

Some people with acrophobia live with their condition by avoiding the object of their fear in an attempt to prevent their acrophobia symptoms from being triggered. However, this behaviour can have a big impact on your professional and social life.

If you want to learn how to manage your fear, you need to get help. You can do this by getting in touch with your GP or finding a specialist.

Heading to a GP

Though there’s no formal diagnosis for acrophobia, your GP can classify your fear as an actual phobia if you’ve been experiencing symptoms for at least 6 months. They will then be able to refer you to a specialist who can offer you the right treatment options to manage your condition.

If you’re already confident in your acrophobia self-diagnosis, you might find it pointless to wait around for your GP to confirm that your fear is indeed a phobia. And, given that they won’t be able to treat your phobia themselves, you might find it more efficient to simply cut out the middleman and head straight to the specialist yourself.

Heading to a specialist

If you’re determined to live a life without fear, your best course of action is to find a therapist who specialises in acrophobia. Most will offer a free phone consultation. This enables them to gather information about the severity of your condition so that they can accurately determine the right treatment for you.

Depending on the severity of your acrophobia, and the specialist you’ve chosen, you may be offered treatments such as:

  • Exposure therapy
  • Virtual reality exposure therapy
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
  • Hypnotherapy

Regardless of which treatment you opt for, you will gradually learn how to cope with your acrophobia. The aim is to enable you to get on with your life without worrying about accidentally encountering the object of your fear. You will be taught how to free yourself from your phobia using valuable strategies that will continue to help you long after your treatment is complete.

For an in-depth look at what these treatments entail and which one might be best for you, check out our ‘What’s the Best Treatment for Acrophobia?’ article.

Treating acrophobia

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If you have a fear of heights and are ready to start treatment, you might be wondering where you should start your search for an acrophobia specialist. Look no further! Climb Above Fear has an entire team of experienced therapists who are dedicated to helping people just like you regain control of their life.

You can get started today with a free consultation! All you have to do is fill out our form and we’ll get one of our therapists to reach out to you when you’re available. During this 30-minute assessment, you will discuss how acrophobia is affecting your life. Your Climb Above Fear therapist will then match you up with your ideal package so you can start your journey towards overcoming your fear.

Stop letting your fear of heights discourage you from living your life to the fullest—take the first step in climbing above your fear today.