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Fear of Elevators

Abhijit Naik
Do you, or anybody around you for that matter, have the fear of elevators? A fear of getting inside an elevator may seem quite irrational, but then the word phobia itself means irrational fear of simple things. Continue reading...
Does the idea of stepping into an elevator cause a lump in your throat? Do you get anxious when the elevator begins to move upwards (or when it comes down)? Do you prefer taking stairs rather than taking the elevator? If your answer to any of these questions is 'yes', the chances are that you are one of those millions of people who have a fear of elevators.

What is the Fear of Elevators?

Basically, the fear of using an elevator is not an individual phobia in itself, but is instead a part of two most common phobias―claustrophobia and acrophobia. While 'claustrophobia' refers to the fear of closed spaces, 'acrophobia' refers to the fear of heights.
A person's fear of stepping inside an elevator is most often associated with claustrophobia as the person begins to feel anxious as soon as he steps into the elevator. Other than the cramped space, this irrational fear can also be attributed to the belief that there is no escape from this place.
While some people are scared to step into an empty elevator, for others it is an overcrowded elevator which is the reason to worry. Similarly, the sensation of being physically elevated or lowered can also strike fear in minds of people, and therefore it is associated with acrophobia.
As we mentioned earlier, claustrophobia is the fear of enclosed spaces wherein the person without any reason feels that there is no means of escape. It is considered to be a severe anxiety disorder with the tendency to trigger anxiety attacks.
An individual who is claustrophobic doesn't just feel anxious in the elevator, but also experiences claustrophobia symptoms in rooms with closed doors and windows, small rooms, basements, crowded places, or even cars and tunnels at times.
Of the various causes of this irrational fear, the size of amygdala and classical conditioning are perhaps the most prominent causes. Even though somewhere around 5-7 percent of the world population suffers from claustrophobia only a 1-2 percent of them opt for its treatment.
Vertigo is often used to refer to the fear of heights, it is technically incorrect. A person's irrational fear of heights is referred as acrophobia. (Vertigo is the feeling of spinning sensation that one tends to experience when he is not spinning.) People suffering from acrophobia experience a panic attack when they are at a considerable height.
The most prominent causes of acrophobia are conditioning and traumatic experience involving heights. Those who suffer from acrophobia can have a tough time using an elevator - especially when it is a glass elevator, as the sensation of being elevated in a machine on which they have no control makes them go weak.

How to Get Rid of this Fear?

Cognitive therapy - which happens to be one of the most widely used treatment options for anxiety disorder, does come handy when the person's fear of elevators is associated with claustrophobia. At the same time, 'in vivo exposure' - wherein the person gets rid of his fears by facing them, also helps in getting rid of such fear.
Modern methods which are considered helpful in this case include virtual reality therapy, Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), etc. While all these methods of overcoming this fear are helpful, the easiest of them happens to be in vivo exposure wherein you just have to get rid of your fear by facing it.
You can start by getting into the elevator with whom you trust or keep yourself occupied with something which will make sure that you don't get scared unnecessarily. Once you are convinced that elevators mean no harm to you and using them is a necessity, things will fall in place on their own.
There is no doubt about the fact that fear is an important mechanism which helps us stay away from several hazards in life, but irrational fear, such as the fear of closed spaces or wide open spaces, is something which can handicap day-to-day life.
Climbing 20 flights of stairs just because you think that you will get trapped in the elevator is not at all amusing, and the sooner you get rid of this fear - the better it is for you.