Fear of heights

Fear of heights

Do you have acrophobia?

Are you afraid of heights? Watch this video and see what you think (but remember - don't try this at home - even if you have access to a 1000 foot tall tower!):

How does it make you feel? Queasy? Butterflies in your tummy? Some people can't watch it - it makes them feel sick, they get sweaty palms and they start to hyperventilate.

A fear of heights is called acrophobia. Acrophobia can range from fear when on the top floor of a tall building, to fear of standing on a chair. People with acrophobia feel a sense of panic when they're at a certain height and often become unable to trust their sense of balance. Other symptoms can include shaking, dizziness and nausea. That's a pretty extreme reaction to standing on a chair!

Man on cliff edge_93115599

Acrophobics feel a sense of panic at certain heights and don't trust their sense of balance

But, if you're afraid of heights, maybe you should be happy. You're evolutionarily successful! Some scientists think that acrophobia is an inborn or innate phobia.

Why is acrophobia an evolutionary advantage?

Scientists think that a fear of heights is a successful adaptation to our world, where falls from height are dangerous.  Experiments have shown that infants and young children are naturally cautious around heights. This suggests that people are born with a dislike of heights. However, most children and adults are a bit nervous around heights, but they don't have a phobia. Many scientists think that a phobia is a learned response to either a parent's fear of heights or a traumatic experience in childhood, like a fall.

Show the video to your parents and friends. How does it make them feel? Are people more likely to be afraid of heights if their parents are?

Sign up for the newsletter
Sign Up For The Newsletter
Want to get the latest science news from Planet Science straight to your inbox? Sign up now!