I went to the Skydeck on the Eureka Tower yesterday, which is on the 88th floor. As soon as I saw the view from the windows I nearly fell into a heap. My friend was understanding.
So is there an effective therapy for fear of heights? I could almost swear it was like my legs were telling me the floor under my feet was about to topple over. What made it worse was the lack of room up there. Plus the floor did actually have a slightly angled gradient in some spots. I did manage to find an area that had more floor space and some chairs and tables so I survived OK.
About the only self-therapy that exists for that sort of thing is just trying to keep exposing yourself to heights until you (hopefully) become desensitised to them. Or until you suffer a complete breakdown and spend the rest of your life in a padded room. Either way, I suppose that your problem is no longer an issue. The whole “face your fears” notion is probably about the oldest and most well-known treatment for phobias, and does apparently have some success. It can also mess you up even worse if done the wrong way, however.
Other than that, there’s going to a specialist who can also do such things as psychotherapy to work out just why you have a particular phobia, or to prescribe medications to help you face your phobia, or some combination of all of the above treatments.
The first thing to do, though, is to decide whether or not it is even worth trying to do anything about the problem. If it’s not really messing up your quality of life or limiting you in some significant way, then leaving things be still works fine as an option. If you really want to change your lifestyle and start skydiving or repairing bridges or changing the lightbulbs at the top of radio towers, then you’d probably want to try overcoming your phobia. Just how much do you feel that you’re missing out on?
I’m quite comfortable with heights myself, so I can’t really give you any personal anecdotes on how to cope with that particular problem.
Yeah, like Sharruma, I’m scared of heights, but fine with being on a plane, and love having a window seat!
I think it also depends on the structure, and how I’m feeling that day as to how severely affected I am by the height. For example, there are footbridges I have to use to go over the freeway to get to the various train stations I use. The station I get on in the morning, I’m fine with the bridge - it feels nice and wide and sturdy, and I’m fine to keeping to one side of the bridge. The one I go over in the evening feels narrower and I have to walk down the centre of the bridge, and still can feel a tad nauseous at going over it. It’s probably a case that both bridges are the same width, and the second bridge has been around for a lot longer than the first, so I know logically that it’s perfectly sound. And it’s not as if I’m any higher off the ground with one bridge than the other, either.
I also went up Sky Tower in Auckland years ago. I was fine up there, provided I stayed away from the parts of the floor where they had glass inserts so you could see straight down…I also wasn’t too keen on the glass-fronted lifts going up there, either, but I didn’t have any choice about that, and by the time I found out that there were glass-fronted lifts, it was a tad late for me to do anything about it.
Let’s face it Peter, this is the intended effect of the deck in the first place. Nearly all will feel some sense of vertigo walking on air and it’s the ‘thrill’ of that feeling that the designers meant to cause visitors to experience.
Phobias come in all sorts of packages though that are alarming more often than one that is intended to cause it. When I went to Luray Caverns which are large and spacious, it never occurred to me that being inside the caves would in any way bother me especially since I had looked forward to the event. Once I was deep inside I began to experience a lot of what you were along with panic, difficulty breathing etc.
That was my first experience with claustrophobia which is bad enough actually that when some medical tests are being performed I can either barely get through them or refuse to have them done. MRIs are especially problematic unless they are in open units which are nearly impossible to find.
So you see, some phobias are daily experiences in what should be ordinary circumstances, yours was one that, like Acci has pointed out, can typically just be avoided without cost.
We went to Sea Life Aquarium just last weekend and they have a couple of glass floors, one through the tunnel. I found myself starting to worry that they hadn’t taken really fat guys into account when they stress tested these things. I had to force myself to walk more naturally on them instead of slowly shuffling along or walking on the steel edges. While I’m not afraid of heights exactly, I am afraid of falling. I would love to stand and look out those windows, but that glass floor would almost certainly be too much for me. It’s much like the Skywalk at the Grand Canyon - I can walk to the edge and look down, but I still need at least the illusion of solid ground beneath me.
And Huli, I absolutely love spelunking. Our family used to hit all the caves around here when I was a kid.
I generally don’t have a problem with heights and can stand on the edge of a precipice looking down without a problem. I’ve never understood why some people can’t do that but I accept that they can’t. One of my army buddies would freak every time he was told we were going on a chopper ride for some rappelling. It’s one thing to be sitting in a seat looking out the window but another to be sitting on the floor with your legs hanging out the door and a bag of rope between your legs as the chopper is flying along at 100 knots. Try as he might he never could get used to that while I loved it and would be leaning forward looking out and around the whole time. We had some good conversations about it but could never really figure out why he was like that.
My mom has said many times that she would some day love to jump out of a perfectly good airplane, while I think that’s completely insane. However, I’d love to go hang gliding, which she thinks is nuts!