Acrophobia - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Contributed by : Asha Lalwani, Ravina Sewani   
Acrophobia - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment

Acrophobia is the fear of heights that can cause anxiety and panic among children.

Acrophobia is the fear of heights that can cause anxiety and panic among children.


  • Acrophobia is sometimes developed due to a traumatic experience in early years of a child’s life. Like falling from a great height, or closely watching someone from high place.
  • Acrophobia, can also develop without a known cause. In these cases, genetics or environmental factors may play a role.

Physical symptoms:

  • Increased sweating
  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Increased heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Shaking and trembling
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Numbness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Upset stomach

Psychological symptoms:

  • Experiencing panic when the child sees high places
  • Child experiencing extreme fear of being trapped somewhere high up
  • Experiencing extreme anxiety and fear when the child has to climb stairs, look out a window, or drive along an overpass
  • Worrying excessively about encountering heights in the future


  • A mental health expert can diagnose phobia; keep a regular track of your child’s behaviour/health in particular situations and with objects.
  • Phobia diagnosis is based on diagnostic guidelines and a thorough clinical interview. If you feel that your child has a phobia, take him/her to a healthcare expert. Your child's doctor will either ask you or your child about the symptoms. The doctor might also take a medical, psychiatric, and family history.
  • Your child's doctor might also use the diagnostic criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).


  • Exposure therapy: In this type of therapy, your child will work with a therapist to slowly expose himself/herself to what (s)he is afraid of. For acrophobia, your child might start by looking at the pictures from the point of view of someone inside a tall building. The therapist might make your child watch video clips of people crossing tightropes, climbing, or crossing narrow bridges. Eventually, your child will progress and might go out onto a balcony or use a stepladder.
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): In CBT, you child will work with a therapist to challenge and reframe negative thoughts about heights. This approach may still include a bit of exposure to heights, but this is generally only done within the safe setting of a therapy session.
  • Virtual reality (VR): It is a treatment where your child will be exposed to computer simulations of heights. Getting the experience of a heighted place in the virtual world can help your child get over his/her fear in a setting that feels safe.
  • Modelling: In this method, the child sees other person facing the situation without fear and panic.
  • Medicines like tranquillisers and antidepressants (prescribed by a doctor) can be helpful along with the above treatments.

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