Elevator Phobia: Causes and Symptoms

26 September, 2020
Most people don't like being inside elevators. But did you know that some people have a phobia of elevators? Keep reading to learn more.

Fear is a natural human response that helps you avoid danger. As a result, people are often scared in new situations that are out of their control. However, mundane, everyday things can also be a source of fear for some people. They might have vicariously learned to be afraid or due to a traumatic personal experience. If you don’t properly process the experience, your fear can become irrational and turn into a full-blown phobia. One example of this is elevator phobia.

This commonplace, modern apparatus is a source of anxiety for a lot of people. The small, closed space of an elevator make most people feel at least a little claustrophobic but they truly terrify others. Their intense fear affects their daily life because they’re unable to get on one.

The inside of an elevator.

The symptoms of elevator phobia

The common symptoms of any phobia are sweating, shaking, headaches, nausea, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, hyperventilation, or even vomiting. For a psychologist to officially diagnose you with a phobia, you have to have experienced these symptoms for at least six months. You also have to have an overwhelming fear of the thing in question.

One unique aspect about elevator phobia is that, although it’s treated like a general phobia, it’s actually a combination of two types: claustrophobia and acrophobia. The first consists of the irrational fear of closed spaces and limited dimensions. Acrophobia, on the other hand, is the fear of heights.

Elevators happen to fit the bill for both phobias, though many people are more afraid of either one or the other. People with elevator phobia experience all of the symptoms of anxiety when they think about getting on an elevator or having to go to the highest floor of a building.

What causes elevator phobia?

In general, traumatic experiences related to elevators causes this phobia. Not surprisingly, an individual is more likely to develop an elevator phobia if they’ve ever been trapped in one for an extended period of time. It’s also possible to develop elevator phobia if someone close to you had a traumatic experience and you develop an intense fear as a result.

Just like with other phobias, you can also inherit your fears. In other words, you could have an elevator phobia because your parents told you your entire life that elevators were very dangerous. Another possibility is that there’s no clear reason for your phobia.

If you have an anxiety disorder and you happen to experience intense symptoms of anxiety in an elevator, you could develop a phobia. Anxiety, after all, works by association. The fact that you’ve had symptoms in an elevator would make you feel anxious about getting into one again.

A woman with anxiety.

Is there a cure?

If your phobia is mild, doing some breathing and relaxation exercises before getting into the elevator may be enough. It’s important not to avoid elevators entirely or try to escape once you’re on one. Sudden or compulsive behaviors in and around elevators could make your phobia worse.

To make you feel safer and more secure, try riding on the elevator with someone you trust. This person will also be there to help you if you start to feel bad or you need help. The other advantage of riding with a buddy is that they can distract you from your fear.

If you try these steps but they don’t work, you should seek professional help for appropriate psychological treatment. There are three common strategies for addressing phobias: cognitive restructuring, relaxation, and systematic desensitization.

The first tries to modify the beliefs or negative thoughts that make it impossible for you to have a normal relationship with the elevator. You can get information about how many serious accidents happen in elevators, for example. Looking up the probability of getting stuck in one might also be helpful.

Relaxation exercises focus on decreasing anxiety symptoms before and during exposure to elevators. Systematic desensitization involves gradually exposing the individual to what they fear.