Understanding Acrophobia (Fear Of Heights)

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A kid covering his eyes with city backgroundWhen talking about phobia, perhaps few would rival the prevalence of acrophobia, otherwise known as a fear of heights. People with this phobia will feel queasy whenever they stand at a height they deem unsafe. Be it on top of a long, winding staircase, a cliff, or the observation deck of an 80-metre tall tower; it doesn’t matter. They are mortified at the thought of not standing at street level.

Some may think this fear is known to only select individuals. But science may have a contradiction. Maybe even those who work on top of platform lifts/cherry pickers, like the ones from Premier Platforms and similar companies, or even those who clean the windows of skyscrapers, also fear heights. They might just be good at coping with their fears or hiding them.

An Inborn Fear?

Researchers from New York University and Rutgers University aimed to test the hypothesis that a fear of heights is inborn. Upon observing crawling infants instinctively avoid a glass-covered precipice, the academics came up with an observation: all humans might have been born with a fear of heights. The difference is that many eventually learn to cope with it.

According to their calculations, the little ones seemingly have an ‘innate’ understanding of their limbs not being able to withstand a possible sheer drop. As a result, they quickly avoid crawling over a glass-covered surface which they ‘fear’ is ripe for breaking. The researchers also note how daredevil tightrope walkers (those who often perform with extreme risks, like wearing blindfolds or going without a harness), may develop a fearlessness of heights due to nurture as they’re often from a family of career tightrope performers.

A Potentially Dangerous Spot

Unless people learn to cope with an ‘innate’ fear, it can present dangers to those whose jobs require verticality. It can be impossible for skyscraper window washers to do their jobs, not to mention those who work on power lines using platform lifts. And fear does a lot of things that can impair judgement.

When fear manifests, people have to deal with what they perceive is impending danger. This worrying takes more than enough energy. As a result, individuals with significant fearful responses barely have enough energy to process other tasks, thus impairing their performance. Whether this involves athletic competitions or a job, it doesn’t matter for them.

Fear is innate, it seems. Now, it’s a person’s responsibility to train in overcoming it, or risk suffering from impaired social or professional interactions.