A common thing you will hear amongst people that have a fear of heights is not a fear that they will fall, but a fear that they will have the compulsion to jump. This sort of fear that they will not be able to control themselves, like they absolutely have to know what the experience is like, even if it kills them.
Anxiety comes from fear, and almost always the fear of the same thing: not being in control of yourself or your surroundings.
Depending on who you talk to and what you are talking about (maybe someone with more education regarding this than I can clear that up for me) there are either 4 or 7 types of anxiety. When I was hospitalized a few years ago we talked about the four types of anxiety disorders:
Generalized Anxiety or Panic Disorder (this is what I have, this is what most people have)
Social Phobias, this does not include Acrophobia (the fear of heights), it is geared mainly towards agoraphobia – which is extremely common in other mental illness, including Bipolar
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Now, I have seen this list substitute Separation Anxiety with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. As far as I can tell, OCD is not and anxiety disorder, so I left the list this way, but I thought it was interesting to point out in case you have seen in differently somewhere else.
Now, the version with seven instead of four looks like this:
Generalized Anxiety Disorder
Now here, Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is still by far the most common. But they have separated out Panic Disorder. Under this treatment, I have both GAD and Panic, but Panic is much more obtrusive to my life and is the only one I treat.
You will also notice that they have teased out Agoraphobia from Social Phobia. They are not the same thing, exactly. But Agoraphobia is the big one. If OCD is the big boy on this list, like Schizophrenia is the big boy on the list of mood disorders, then agoraphobia is number two. Certainly PTSD and Panic can be more lethal and obstructive when in full bloom, but both of those have remissive states, agoraphobia is constant, and terrifying, and only growing in popularity with the advent of affordable home delivery and online shopping.
The two real big differences though are the inclusion of OCD (which I mentioned is sometimes included on the other) and the inclusion of general phobias.
If you get the medical definition of phobia, it is listed as an anxiety disorder. And as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, even the fear of jumping off of a tall height is very similar to anxiety. The fear of losing control is a common element at the root of a lot of things in mental health, especially anxiety related things.
That is to say that fear is a key component to most mental illness. I have danced around this topic a lot in the past but never direct sat on it until now. Fear is a motivating factor to increase anxiety, deepen depression, encourage negative moods, and more.
I am in near constant fear of my future mental state, so much so that it makes it hard to be happy even when I am. When will this end? How much will I pay for this happiness? Can I go there without getting anxious? Can I make it through this?
It is all fear, or worry, which is simply fear of the future.
Perfectly enough, there is Dementophobia, the fear of going insane (or its more PC brother Agateophobia, which has the exact same meaning) which underlies most people I have met with mental illness. I know that once my symptoms came rushing back to me in the fall of 2012, my biggest fear was that I was developing Schizophrenia. I was about the age that it often comes on (I’m frankly still at that age), and it was so radically different and happening much faster than anything I had ever dealt with before that it was a true fear.
When I had my breakdown at the end of February of the next year, my fear of going completely insane intensified. I felt my mind slipping away, and I was worried I would never recover. It was irrational in hindsight, but that constant fear and pressure escalated the situation beyond heights I had ever dreamed.
Heights I was then afraid I would be compelled to jump from.