The Fear Of Escalators(Escalaphobia): Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Fear of escalators – Escalaphobia is a common specific phobia that affects hundreds of thousands worldwide. Escalaphobia comes from the Greek scale, which means “to ascend/climb,” and dread, “deep aversion, fear or fear.”

There are several thousand escalators in Canada and the United States, which move millions of people up and down daily. However, some people still prefer to go upstairs due to their intense fear of escalators. The intensity and the reasons for this fear depend on the individual experience that the phobic has had with the escalators.

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Causes of fear of escalator phobia

  • Most cases of Escalaphobia come from the fear of heights (or Acrophobia).
  • Also, some people are not afraid to go up the escalators but freeze when they are going down.
  • The fear of heights is evolutionary since humanity has always used the fear of falling as a survival mechanism.
  • While most of us enjoy some height, a creep doesn’t like the extreme heights associated with most escalators present in airports, stadiums, shopping malls, etc.
  • Some negative past experiences (whether direct or indirect) related to escalators are the main trigger for the phobia.
  • A child or adult may have tripped or fallen while using it.
  • Shoelaces can easily catch on escalators and cause accidents, although these are extremely rare.
  • This results in an exaggerated response each time, as the phobia brain learns to develop the same reaction repeatedly.
  • Many movies, news reports, and myths have shown escalators in a bad light.
  • Consumers have sued some department stores because a child’s hand got caught in the bottom rail of the escalator.
  • Most of these cases have been dismissed as the problems were almost always the drivers’ fault.

Escalators are generally giant and centrally located. Its moving parts are visible, but the machinery is not.

  • A child scared of escalators may believe that the parts (or a monster lurking below) can grab people from below or flatten their steps and blow people up.
  • This fear could continue well into adulthood, causing phobics to avoid escalators for life.

Some myths regarding escalators claim that they move much faster than the average speed of walking or climbing.

  • This is not true, but it could make the phobic feel like they are going up / down too fast and crash or be thrown.
  • The phobias may also develop as a learned response.
  • A child may see their parent/grandparent freaking out due to an escalator, which they associate escalators as dangerous.
  • Certain medical conditions could also lead to this phobia. These include vertigo, poor balance, poor depth perception, visual or hearing problems, or other sensory problems.

Apart from the fear of heights (Acrophobia), other phobias and disorders of anxiety preexisting could also trigger fear of escalators. These include fear of climbing (climacophobia), fear of stairs (Bathmophobia), or fear of feeling dizzy or experiencing vertigo (illyngophobia).

Symptoms of Escalaphobia

Like other phobias, the fear of escalators also gives rise to a plethora of mental and physical symptoms, including:

  • Tremors,
  • Feel nauseous,
  • Dizziness
  • I was experiencing shortness of breath, heart palpitations, etc.
  • You are feeling like you’re running away.
  • Avoid escalators at any cost and cry or scream when forced to climb one of them.
  • Have a complete panic attack

Treatment to overcome the fear of escalators

  • Once you are aware of the underlying cause of your escalator fear, you will be in a better position to overcome it forever.
  • If, for example, an underlying medical condition is causing your phobia, then treating it could solve the problem.
  • People lacking a sense of balance or depth perception may hold someone’s hand while going up the escalator.
  • An eye care professional can also prescribe visual aids to overcome eye problems causing Escalaphobia.
  • Looking ahead or at the side rails while going up / down can help reduce dizziness.
  • Phobics can also take extra precautions, such as wearing the proper clothing or footwear to minimize the risk of becoming entangled in the escalator.
  • It is essential to desensitize yourself to fear in all these cases gradually.
  • Facing the dreaded object slowly and in a controlled environment can be of great help to overcome Escalaphobia.

In extreme cases, a professional psychotherapist can also help overcome the anxiety associated with escalators.

  • Some examples of this therapy are hypnotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, NLP, etc.
  • Lastly, read as much as you can about the escalator-related statistics.
  • This can help put the phobia in a better position to overcome Scalaphobia by helping her understand that escalators are generally safe when used correctly.

Georgia Tarrant
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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.