Can I overcome fear of heights?

Anyone who witnessed my panic attack at the top of the 40ft high Tiger Trap (how apt) at Tough Guy last week will realise I suffer from vertigo.

Something Angelis said at Wokingham half today made me think - he said to overcome a fear you should keep on facing it.

Is this true? Is it possible to at least control vertigo? I get classic symptoms of feeling sick & dizzy & wanting to jump off.

Any advice welcomed. Perhaps I should practise by getting on a ladder & cleaning the upstairs windows at home, they certainly could do with it!


  • to an extent, Tiger, yes, though with something like heights it's as well to do it in a very well controlled atmosphere!

    Have you been on the London Eye?
    Then perhaps a Big Wheel at a fair, look out of a very high window at a castle or something...

    Or just close your eyes and think "Apache"...
  • Hee hee!

    Yes, I've been on the London Eye, although I didn't feel very comfortable.

    Closing my eyes now, ahhhh ...... :-)
  • Hey Tiger, you are not alone and yes you can get better and get through things that you think are impossible.

    I remember going to Bristol a few years ago and litterally not being able to walk onto the suspension bridge there. My Dad just couldn't work out what the problem was when I suddenly paniced and it took a good half an hour to calm me down enough for me to explain what the problem was.
    That was about 6 years ago but I can walk over although I'm not exactly relaxed at times but can control it.

    I eventually decided not to let it stop me doing anything but always tell someone I'm with if I think we might be going somewhere where it could be a problem - I find if I trust the people round me to get me down then I'm generally ok, although sometimes have to hold someones hand!
    I've managed to sucessfullly go paraglyding, absailing, climbing, ridge walking - I just refuse to let it be a problem. However I really can't do ladders.

    The more times you experience and conquer the fear the better you will be able to cope with it.
    i expect the Tough Guy was a particularly bad situation cause you felt you had to rush and didn't have a chance to decide for yourself that you wanted to go on.
    It's about being in control and taking time to have a deep breath and weigh up the risks.

    Well done for getting through the Tough Guy - you are much braver than me :-)

  • Wow Lindi, I think you're really brave doing things like paragliding, I couldn't begin to imagine doing something like that.

    I think you're right about the being in control bit. I try hard not to make it stop me doing things like going on the London Eye with the family for example, and I think the problem with a couple of the obstacles at Tough Guy was that there really was a risk of falling off (albeit into safety nets - don't want to put anyone else off doing it!).

    I think an outing to the top of the tower at Leith Hill might be in order soon ...

  • I know the feeling. We had a room with a balcony when I went on hols to Palma a year or so ago. I could only sit on the floor of the balcony on a blanket - couldn't sit on a chair as I could see too far over the edge. Brrr.

    I regularly run over a dual carriageway - the bridge on the island over the top. This too gives me the willies; I have to run as far away from the edge as I can. I also hate driving over flyovers - eek to Spaghetti Junction & a bit of Nottingham. But yes, regular exposure makes it better, in my opinion. Focus, deep breaths.

    Strangely, being up high on a hill or mountain doesn't scare me as much as the urban stuff. No idea why. I went up Mam Tor in the Peak District a couple of days ago, windy enough to launch you off the top if you put a foot wrong. I was only mildly worried compared to going over a relatively safe flyover in the car. How does the mind work? I don't know...
  • Several people did question why I had suddenly decided to throw myself off a mountain.

    It is probablly the posibility of falling that is more of a factor than the height itself. I ususally find it much better if I have something to hold onto.

    Lets run to Leith Hill one weekend soon - I've never been up the tower but I have had the great cake they make!
  • I did have something to hold onto - an Apache! (Jj will understand ...)

    Good idea about running to Leith Hill Lindi, I was going to post on the Ashtead Running Group thread about a long run on Sat 21st Feb if I can ever find the thread again!
  • Hi Lindi! Just wanted to congratulate you on even entering Tough Guy with your phobia, never mind actually completing it. It was my phobia that held me back from entering - I have an enormous fear of going underwater, so the tunnels/logs bit was the part that stopped me. I feel very proud for you that you went out there and faced your fear - there's no way I could even imagine myself ever putting myself into a position where I had to face my fear.

    Well done you!!
  • UKaitch - you mean to congratulate Tiger - I didn't and wouldn't go. I'm with you on the not putting my head under water under any circumstances.
  • My apolgies! You're right I did mean Tiger! Well done, Tiger!!
  • I cured myself of a fear of heights a few years ago. What you do is stand on top of the eiffel tower, feel the wave of panic and nausea sweep over you, grab the armrail and face through the symptoms. Then go up the following day and do the same again. You'll find the main fear has gone, though it's still a shaky experience. At the third attempt, the fear had gone and I actually enjoyed the view. It's as much a fear of the panic as it is the height itself. Just dont do it somewhere where you could actually fall off. Worked for me!
  • I had two phobias, water and horses (not in the same place at the same time, you understand!). Like Wellington, I just faced them out. Took riding lessons (for the first one, for which I paid £10 for half an hour, I just stood by the horse, shaking and refusing to get on) which, after some weeks, enabled me to get to the stage where I could actually do jumps! The swimming was much harder: I taught myself in the baby pool, where I could touch the bottom. I'm still very unhappy around water, but I know that, if necessary, I could jump in to save a child, which is what I wanted to be sure I could do.

    You CAN do it Tiger!
  • Thanks ever so much for all your comments and suggestions, most helpful.

    At least I know I'm not the only one.

    So, looks like a trip to Paris is in order ...
  • I found the Eiffel tower a bit strange. Ont he middle level I was absolutely terrified but up the top was fine - I tihhnk it was cause it is closed in at the top so I knew I couldn't fall off.

    I went up the Empire State buliding recently and even lent over the side to take photos - I was a bit shakey but ok really.
    But I really struggled to stand on a chair to change a light bulb on the landing last week.

    Tiger - I think you need to do a round the world trip touring tall buildings, adn I'd better come along too!
  • Tiger - I also suffer from heights but if I'm doing something like climbing, abseiling whatever I'm fine. But PLEASE do not ask me to stand on high ledge without support and look down - I feel ill!!

    think Angelis and LH are right to an extent - confront your fears gradually and in safety and you'd be amazed what you can overcome

    never worked for me with celery though
  • I had a fear of heights, all be it not reduced to a quivering wreck but to the point of refusing to step onto things like piers and bridges. I got a job as an aerial rigger and never looked back, I still get a trembling in my legs at height sometimes (packed in aerial rigging many years ago) but was once told that it is that sensation that reminds you of where you are before you get complacent.

    Like most phobias, facing them is the first step, there just there to keep you safe.
  • Tiger - good work on getting through the course - I think that's the first step.

    As you confront your fears, you'll find it does get easier.

    Went to a climbing wall with work a few years ago - first climb I only could get up to about 15 feet before feeling very unhappy (and fully harnessed). After a bit more practice I was happily scurrying round the top of the wall. It's a fun activity, and you are in complete control of how far you go up. Maybe that would be worth doing ?
  • Hi Cougie, I was considering a climbing wall as an option. My son went to one a little while ago and I've sent him to school today to find out from his friend where it was. I can take the children along too, they're all enthusiastic!
  • Oh yeah - I would really recommend that. You'll be in safe hands and they can also get you climbing round the walls rather than up, so you get the fun of climbing, but only ever a few feet off the ground.

    That Tiger will hold no fears for you next year !
  • Tiger - there is a big climbing wall in Redhill. Lots of differnt routes of different diffuculties and I have hear it is very good.

  • I have sweaty palms just reading this thread...yep, I don't like heights AT ALL!

    I agree that it is possible to become desensitised to your fear- several years ago, Dad was repointing the chimney (scaffolding up the side of the house etc) During the course of the fortnight I went from not being able to climb more than 6' off the ground to running around the roof at will...unfortunately that was about 25 years ago and I've lost my nerve again now!
  • I've just looked at the website for the Redhill wall and my son's reported back that's the one he's been to. They've got a beginners course and a Tiger Club, looks promising! I'm (sort of) looking forward to giving it a go, probably wait until the marathon training's over, not enough hours in the day as it is!

    Thanks for all your feedback everyone.
  • Is the one in Redhill the one on the sort of trading estate in Salfords? If not, can you let me know whereabouts in Redhill as I'd like to try to overcome my fears too (also reduced to quivering wreck at Tough Guy in 1999!). Or give me the website address. Ta.
  • Yes that's the one I was thinking of.

    Good luck - maybe I should join you!
  • Here's the website:

    This is going to be a laugh - a bunch of quivering wrecks clinging 3ft off the ground on a wall!
  • Hi Tiger

    I think there are lots of different types of fears of heights, I'm happy as Larry on a knife edge ridge, but hate looking off high man-made things. For what it's worth, I've got a completely unfounded theory about one type of fear of heights. I spent quite a lot of time walking in the alps and although I could be on a wide enough path, if I looked down a steep slope into a big valley I felt really dizzy. I think it was because my brain just wasn't used to looking down and seeing something 3 miles away, rather than 3 feet away. Anyway, I found if I just sat down and spent 15 minutes or so looking at the view and getting my brain used to it then I was fine after that.

    Quite fancy one of those Ironman things, is it horrible though?

  • I've never had a problem with hieghts, only water, or rather when I can no longer touch the bottom and still breathe, it's an irrational fear as I can easily swim (not stroingly however) if I had to. I'm no expert on these matters so I'm not going into the whys, but a couple of mates of mine are afraid of heights and overcame their fears by coming Rock Climbing with me. There are a large number of indoor rock walls springing up all over the place, usually run beginners' courses and the folk there are always very freindly.

    My friends are now better climbers than me, in Oz we scaled sheer-180 meter sandstone rock outcrops in 4 pitches (to those in the know...) and abseiled down again!

    Try it - it's great fun!
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