Why isn’t everyone afraid of heights?
Suffering from a little vertigo? While you might not have full-blown acrophobia, you might still suffer from height intolerance.
Asked by: Minnette Chambers, Andover
When we’re up high, the lack of nearby visual anchors makes our bodies sway automatically – this contributes to the dizzying sensation of vertigo. But most people aren’t afraid of heights, not in the sense of having ‘acrophobia’, which is when the mere thought of falling can bring on a panic attack. The rest of us are either height intolerant, height tolerant or height enjoying. Members of the last group have got used to, or even find pleasure in, the sensations brought on by heights, and many also get a thrill from the associated risks.
Dr Christian Jarrett is a cognitive neuroscientist, science writer and author. He is the Deputy Editor of Psyche, the sister magazine to Aeon that illuminates the human condition through psychology, philosophy and the arts. Jarrett also created the British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog and was the first ever staff journalist on the Society's magazine, The Psychologist. He is author of Great Myths of The Brain and Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change.