The fear of falling, also known as basophobia, is natural and is typical of most humans and mammals in varying degrees of the limb. It differs from acrophobia ( fear of heights ), although the two fears are closely related. Fear encompasses the anxieties accompanying the sensation and the potentially dangerous effects of falls instead of the flowers themselves. It can be said that those who have little fear of falling have a head for heights. Basophobia is sometimes associated with astasia-abasia, the fear of walking or standing upright.
Studies by psychologists Eleanor J. Gibson and Richard D. Walk have further explained the nature of this fear. One of his most famous studies is the “visual cliff.” Below is his description of the cliff:
- A board is laid through a large sheet of heavy glass held a foot or more above the floor. On one side of the board, a sheet of stamped material is placed flush with the bottom surface of the glass, giving the glass the appearance and substance of solidity. On the other side, a sheet of the same material is placed on the ground; this side of the board thus becomes the visual cliff.
- Thirty-six babies were tested in their experiments, ranging from six to fourteen months. Gibson and Walk found that when placed on the board, 27 of the babies crawled on the shallow side when their mothers called; only three ventured over the “edge” of the cliff.
- Many children crawled away from their mothers who called out to them from deep within, and some cried because they could not reach their mothers without crossing an apparent abyss. Some would hit the crystal at the deep end, but they would not crawl on the crystal even with this assurance. While unable to prove that this fear is innate, these results indicate that most human infants have well-developed depth perception and are capable of connecting depth and the danger that accompanies falling.
- For a long time, it was believed that the fear of falling was simply the result of the psychological trauma of a fall, also called “post-fall syndrome.”
- This syndrome was first mentioned in 1982 by Murphy and Isaacs, who noted that after a fall, ambulatory people develop intense fear and walking disorders.
- Fear of falls has been identified as one of the critical symptoms of this syndrome.
- Since then, FOF has recognized a specific health problem among older adults.
- However, FOF was also commonly found among older people who had not yet experienced a fall.
- The prevalence of FOF appears to increase with age and to be higher in women.
- Age is still significant in multiple logistic regression analyzes.
- Different studies have reported gender as a somewhat significant risk factor for fear of falling.
- Other risk factors for fear of falling in the elderly include dizziness, self-reported health, depression, and problems with gait and balance.
- Studies of non-human subjects support the theory that falling is an innate fear. Gibson and Walk conducted identical experiments with chicks, turtles, rats, children, lambs, kittens, and puppies.
- The results were similar to those of human babies, although each animal behaved slightly differently based on the characteristics of its species.
- The chicks were examined less than 24 hours after hatching. He suggested that depth perception develops rapidly in chickens, as chickens never made the “mistake” of walking on the “deep” side of the cliff.
- The kids and lambs were also tested as soon as they could fend for themselves.
- During the experiment, no goat or lamb stepped on the deep-side glass.
- When placed there, the animals displayed typical behavior by adopting a defensive posture, with their front legs stiff and their hind legs limping.
- In this state of immobility, the animals were pushed forward through the glass until their head and field of vision crossed the solid edge on the opposite side of the cliff; the goats and lambs relaxed and proceeded to leap forward on its surface.
- Based on animal tests, the danger and fear of falls are instilled in animals at a very young age.
Factors influencing fear of falling
- The postural control system has two functions: to ensure that balance is maintained by supporting the body against gravity and to fix the orientation and position of the features that serve as a frame of reference for perception and action concerning the outside world.
- Postural control relies on multisensory processing and motor responses that appear to be automatic and occur inadvertently.
- Studies have shown that people with a fear of heights or falls have poor postural control, especially in the absence of strong visual cues.
- These individuals rely heavily on vision to regulate their posture and balance.
- Faced with high or unstable terrain, the vestibular system of these individuals perceives instability and tries to correct it by increasing postural oscillation to reactivate the feedback of visual balance (postural change refers to the phenomenon of constant displacement and correction of the position of the center of gravity within the support base).
- However, this often fails, resulting in a feeling of increased instability and anxiety, which is often interpreted as fear.
Closely related to postural control is the sensation of vertigo: a warning sign created by the loss of postural control when the distance between the observer and visible stationary objects becomes too great and is caused by dysfunction of the vestibular system in the ear. Internal.
- In short, it is the sensation of movement when one is still.
- Symptoms of vertigo include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath, and the inability to walk or stand.
- Some individuals rely more on visual cues to control posture than others.
- Vestibular sensations can arise when misinformation is detected along sensory channels (this happens even in those with normal vestibular function), and feelings of vertigo can result in people with postural control problems.
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The discomfort of space and movement
- Studies have shown that people with acrophobia and extreme fear of falling have higher SMD scores or space and movement discomfort.
- These are physical symptoms caused by visual or kinesthetic information inappropriate for normal spatial orientation.
- The discomfort of space and movement arises when conflicting information is detected between the visual, kinesthetic, and vestibular sensory channels.
- Evidence has supported the claim that patients with anxiety and MDS are more dependent on visual cues for postural changes.
Fear of falling into dreams
- Close-up of sleeping boy’s face
- The sleeping child – falls are a common occurrence in dreams
- According to Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams, fallen dreams fall into the category of “typical dreams,” that is, “dreams that almost everyone has dreamed the same and that we are used to assuming must have the same meaning for everybody.”
- These include loss of temper, loss of self-control, surrender, a decline of accepted moral standards, or loss of conscience.
- Studies carried out in recent years on the sleep patterns of a group of 685 students attending secondary schools in Milan have concluded that, in dreams, fear is more often associated with falls. At the same time, happiness is related to flight and surprised by the content of the suspension and vertical movement (ascent, descent, ladder).
- Specialists recommend doing regression therapies to treat the fear in depth.
- If you suffer from this fear and feel unsafe going outside and risking falling, take a deep breath and walk without fear.
- The most advisable thing is to visit the specialist and undergo the indicated treatment, depending on the case.
Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.