Causes of Acrophobia
There are several factors that are believed to come into play regarding the causes of acrophobia. One of the most popular explanations for the cause of the fear of heights is that it is an amplified reaction to the natural fear of injury or death that could occur when falling from a high place. This theory maintains that all humans have a natural fear of heights, but with some, this fear becomes exaggerated due to a past traumatic experience regarding heights. Perhaps a past fall or near slip from a high place has caused one to react with a fight or flight response as a method of protection from possible future falls.
Another theory regarding the cause of acrophobia is that the fear is completely non-associative, meaning that it does not stem from any previous traumatic experience. This theory states that certain fears are ingrained in the human psyche to protect us from danger. The danger of falling from great heights would have come into play with early nomadic man, exploring new and possibly treacherous terrain. This speculation does not fully explain why some develop a fully blown case of acrophobia while others are merely uncomfortable with heights.
One last factor that is commonly discussed when examining the root cause of acrophobia is the matter of a person’s ability to maintain balance. This theory is based on the dysfunction model, meaning that the fear is caused by a dysfunction of the equilibrium or balance center. In simple terms, this school of thought states that if a person has poor balance, it is more likely that they will fall. Falling from a place that is high up provides the potential for death or injury; therefore, being high up causes the body to react as if it is in danger.
Research on the causes of the fear of heights is ongoing. Like many anxiety disorders, the factors that come into play when discussing the root cause of a disorder are varied. Personal history and current medical condition should both be taken into consideration when examining the cause of this or any phobia.