Meet our Face Your Fear Expert Gemma Cribb
Sydney Harbour is well renowned to be one of the most beautiful harbours in the world. The Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge have become international icons. So why wouldn’t you want to experience this magnificence from the prime position of its very own Harbour Bridge?!
Acrophobia or fear of heights is a disabling and often irrational fear that affects 2 – 5% of people. People with a fear of heights will experience uncomfortable sensations of anxiety and will generally avoid high places as a result of these feelings. This means that they may feel that they can’t have the amazing and potentially life changing experience of completing a BridgeClimb.
I am very excited to be a part of BridgeClimb’s Face your Fear initiative. As a clinical psychologist working for Equilibrium Psychology I have had the opportunity to help countless people recover from anxiety and phobias over the past nine years. I love this BridgeClimb initiative and the recent launch of the shorter BridgeClimb Sampler, great for nervous climbers who don’t want to go all the way to the top.
I have plenty of hints and tips I’d like to share to help anyone with height concerns to overcome their fear.
1. It’s all in your head
Although some wariness around heights is a natural thing, common to most mammals, most people with height phobia know their fear does not make sense. They know that they are actually safe. Yet, the difference between someone who is confident in high places and someone who is not lies in what they tell themselves.
Someone who is confident may still get the internal sensations of anxiety, yet like a kid on Christmas day, because they are thinking things like “This is so cool!”, “What an amazing opportunity!” they interpret those feelings as excitement. Someone who is scared will experience sensations of anxiety and be more likely to think things like “I’m going to fall”, “I won’t be able to get off”, “I’ll embarrass myself” and “I’ll feel awful”.
2. BridgeClimb is completely safe
BridgeClimb has been helping people conquer their fear of heights for more than 16 years. They have helped more than 3.2 million people to reach the summit, from 137 countries around the world. They have a 100% safety record.
BridgeClimb Climb Leaders are all very friendly and experienced with expertise in guiding people through their fear and helping them believe they can do it. Before you climb you will get to see just how safe it is, your Climb Leader will equip you with safety gear and you will get the opportunity to practice using it on a small model set of ladders and walkway. Your Climb Leader will be there to guide you step-by-step through your climb so you will never feel stuck.
3. Your physical sensations are completely normal and safe
People who experience anxiety will commonly experience sensations such as:
• heart pounding
• shallow and rapid breathing or feeling like you can’t catch your breath
• dizziness or light-headedness
• numbness, tingling or crawling sensations
• muscle tension or feelings of having a tight chest
• trembling or shakiness
• heavy legs, weak knees or feelings of instability
• sweating or hot and cold flushes
All of these sensations are completely normal and perfectly safe. They will go away by themselves if you give them time and try to distract yourself away from your unhelpful thoughts.
4. You will get better with practice!
One of the things I most love about the BridgeClimb Face your Fear initiative is it suggests people who are anxious try out the new BridgeClimb Sampler which is a shorter and less high Climb. It will offer you a taste of the full BridgeClimb experience while giving you an amazing view of Sydney Harbour and a great sense of accomplishment afterwards. It is the perfect challenge for someone who is anxious about heights.
When working with phobias, psychologists encourage a technique called ‘graded exposure’. We encourage people to begin to face their fear on smaller challenges such as climbing a ladder, or looking over a balcony. Doing this gives you confidence and practice so that your anxiety passes and you soon learn can do it. Once you have made these first steps the BridgeClimb Sampler would be the perfect way to reward yourself and also have a memorable ‘Bucket List’ experience!
I look forward to helping people overcome their fears, feel proud of themselves, and share this memorable experience with loved ones.
Gemma Cribb. B Psych (hons), M Psychol (Clin).
Clinical Psychologist, Equilibrium Psychology