Read below about fear of heights, including causes, treatment options and remedies. Or get a personalized analysis of your fear of heights from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having fear of heights

Take a quiz

Fear of Heights Symptoms

Wariness of dangerous situations is natural for most of us, so fear of heights, or acrophobia (not the similar sounding agoraphobia which is fear of outdoors), is not always something that requires medical attention or treatment. In fact, a healthy desire to stay away from a cliff's edge, for instance, could help save your life. However, if anxiety gets in the way of your everyday activities or prevents you from doing necessary activities, such as flying, then seek out professional help. Some common symptoms caused by fear of heights may include:

Fear of Heights Causes Overview

Fear is a complex emotion that may have deep-rooted psychological causes. Our brains are naturally wired to avoid dangerous situations in order to best preserve our safety. Though it may be uncomfortable, fear is one way that our bodies protect us. However, in certain circumstances, fear may become so severe or debilitating that it interferes with our daily functioning. Some people may have fears that are based on past experiences, while others may have no specific cause. After a thorough evaluation, your doctor may attribute your fear of heights to:

  • Normal (physiological) response. This is sometimes known as the fight or flight response to danger. If you can work through the fear or it occurs only occasionally, then it's more likely your body is trying to warn you away from dangerous situations, even if that's not how you interpret your fearful emotions.

  • Phobia. Even those without underlying anxiety problems can develop a specific phobia (or fear) of heights that may not have an underlying cause. Your doctor is more likely to treat your phobia if it interferes with your daily life or causes distress to you or those around you.

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder. Previous negative experiences, whether or not related to heights specifically, can make people more vulnerable to anxiety in frightening situations. Certain populations like soldiers or crime victims are more likely to have this disorder.

  • Generalized anxiety disorder. This condition causes people to feel anxious in multiple aspects of their lives, such as in personal and professional tasks, and may also contribute to fearfulness.

10 Potential Fear of Heights Causes

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.

  1. 1.Mitral Valve Prolapse

    Mitral valve prolapse (MVP) occurs when the valve between the heart's left upper chamber (left atrium) and the left lower chamber (left ventricle) doesn't close properly because the flaps of the valve are "floppy." Most people who have the condition are born with it.

    Without surgery, this is a lifelong condition.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, anxiety, rib pain, shortness of breath, racing heart beat
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  2. 2.Depression

    Depression is a mental disorder in which a person feels constantly sad, hopeless, discouraged, and loses interest in activities and life on more days than not. These symptoms interfere with daily life, work, and friendships.

    Depression's course is highly variable, and it may last weeks, months, or years.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, depressed mood, headache, anxiety, irritability
    Symptoms that always occur with depression:
    depressed mood
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  3. 3.Panic Disorder

    Panic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder. It causes panic attacks, which are sudden feelings of terror without true danger. One may feel as if they are losing control or have physical symptoms like sweating or a racing heart.

    Chronic with relapses

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, depressed mood
    Symptoms that always occur with panic disorder:
    anxiety
    Symptoms that never occur with panic disorder:
    agoraphobia
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Symptoms of Menopause

    Menopause is the point in life where your period stops. This happens when the ovaries stop making hormones that keep your cycle going. The transition into menopause is called peri-menopause and can include symptoms like hot flashes, shortening of menstrual cycle and mood fluctuations.

    Hot flashes typically peak approximately 1 year after the final period and last 4-10 years. Most women stop having hot flashes 4 years after they start, but 10% of women may have hot flashes up to 12 years after their last period.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, delay in or irregular periods, vaginal discharge, anxiety, trouble sleeping
    Symptoms that always occur with symptoms of menopause:
    delay in or irregular periods
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  5. 5.Normal Amount of Anxiety

    You are suffering from a normal level of anxiety.

    None

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    anxiety, mild anxiety, trouble sleeping
    Symptoms that always occur with normal amount of anxiety:
    anxiety
    Symptoms that never occur with normal amount of anxiety:
    worsening anxiety, severe anxiety, thoughts of suicide
    Urgency:
    Wait and watch

    Fear of Heights Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having fear of heights.

    Take a quiz
  6. 6.Overactive Thyroid

    The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, just above your collarbone. It is one of your endocrine glands, which make hormones. Thyroid glands control how fast one burns calories and how fast the heart beats. If the thyroid is too active, it makes more thyroid hormones than the body needs. This is called hyperthyroidism.

    Great prognosis with high remission rates

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, anxiety, depressed mood, irritability, trouble sleeping
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Premature Ovarian Failure

    "Premature ovarian failure" (POF), also called "primary ovarian insufficiency" and "early menopause" happens when the ovaries stop working well too early in life. Naturally menopause occurs between the ages 45 and 55. Symptoms of menopause are changes in menstrual period, missing periods, hot flashes, mood changes and vaginal dryness.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, anxiety, irritability, vaginal itch or burning, muscle aches
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Condition Causing Abnormal, High - Pitched Breathing

    High-pitched inhaling is called stridor, and requires urgent referral to the ER to see why it's happening

    MISSING

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    high-pitched breathing, severe pelvis pain, arm weakness, chest pain, loss of vision
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  10. 10.Agoraphobia

    Agoraphobia is an intense fear and anxiety of being in places where it is hard to escape, or where help might not be available. Agoraphobia usually involves fear of crowds, bridges, or of being outside alone.

    Chronic but easily controlled.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, stomach bloating, diarrhea, constipation
    Symptoms that always occur with agoraphobia:
    agoraphobia, impaired social or occupational functioning
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

Fear of Heights Treatments and Relief

If your fear is new or mild, there are some techniques you can try at home to reduce or even eliminate the fear of heights symptoms. It's helpful to have a trusted friend or family member help you through the process. Some people also find it useful to discuss their emotions with people who have similar fears and even swap techniques. If the fear is severe and persistent, then it's time to seek professional help from your doctor.

At-home fear of heights remedies

  • Anticipate anxiety-provoking situations. Half the battle is knowing your triggers. If you're about to hike in the mountains or fly on a plane, anticipate your emotions and plan out your coping mechanisms.
  • Be open about your fear. Don't try to tough it out due to embarrassment or stubbornness as you'll likely put yourself in a difficult situation and won't be able to get the help that you need.
  • Take it slow. Don't rush things when you're fearful and don't be afraid to back away when necessary. Baby steps are much more productive and sustainable than giant leaps forward.
  • Deep breathing. When your fear has reached its peak, pause for a moment, close your eyes and take some slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Some find it helpful to count while doing this.
  • Mindfulness. This practice involves paying close attention to your fear and making note of the physical and emotional impact it has on you. This makes you better prepared to address the problem step by step in a more manageable way.

Professional fear of heights treatments

  • Exposure therapy. A trained mental health professional may help you face your fear in small, controlled increments with the goal of reducing or eliminating the fear over time.
  • Psychotherapy. Therapy sessions help determine the underlying cause of your fear and allow for more targeted treatments. They can be conducted by a counselor, psychologist, psychiatrist or other clinician.
  • Anxiety medication. Sometimes a doctor may decide to prescribe anti-anxiety medication that you take on an as-needed basis during periods of particularly intense fear. Other medications may be taken on a daily basis to reduce your underlying fears and anxieties.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Fear of Heights

  • Q.Have you been feeling more tired than usual, lethargic or fatigued despite sleeping a normal amount?
  • Q.Are you feeling irritable (easily made upset)?
  • Q.Are your symptoms causing difficulty at work, socializing, or spending time with friends & family?
  • Q.Do you notice your heart beating hard, rapidly, or irregularly (also called palpitations)?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our fear of heights symptom checker to find out more.

Take a quiz

Fear of Heights Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced fear of heights have also experienced:

    • 13% Anxiety When Doing Something in Front of a Group
    • 7% General Anxiety (Stress)
    • 5% Fear of Needles
  • People who have experienced fear of heights had symptoms persist for:

    • 53% Over a Month
    • 22% Less Than a Day
    • 11% Less Than a Week
  • People who have experienced fear of heights were most often matched with:

    • 20% Mitral Valve Prolapse
    • 18% Depression
    • 15% Panic Disorder
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having fear of heights

Take a quiz