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Last Updated on September 4, 2023

Sometimes, people have fears that are quite difficult to overcome. Most people are familiar with the fear of heights (acrophobia), the fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), and even the fear of spiders (arachnophobia). Like these other phobias, the fear of stairs and slopes is very real and is referred to as bathmophobia, the phobia of falling from heights. It can severely affect a person’s quality of life, particularly if they live in a home with stairs or steps and fear going down stairs.

The phobia of stairs is considered a specific phobia. These phobias are tied to specific things that pose no real threat to the person with the phobia. This is in contrast to a fear of spiders—some can bite and harm humans, so this phobia is a little different to treat than a specific phobia. Overcoming the fear of falling in the elderly can be a difficult task, particularly if a traumatic event has triggered a fear of stairs.

Read on to learn more about the phobia of falling, helping your loved one learn how to stop being scared of stairs, and solutions for those who have trouble walking down stairs, no matter the reason.

What Are Bathmophobia Symptoms and Why Does It Occur?

Someone could have a fear of stairs, but they don’t have bathmophobia. When someone has a phobia, it disrupts the daily course of their life. A person may not like taking the stairs, but they can take them anyway. A person with bathmophobia fears falling down stairs, which also means they have an extreme fear of walking down the stairs. In many cases, they cannot be prompted to use the stairs at all because the phobia of stairs is so great.

The fear of stairs can cause panic, which manifests as anxiety in many of the bathmophobia symptoms, which can include

  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • The feeling of being in extreme danger
  • Chest pain
  • Increased heart rate
  • Irrational fear of stairs
  • Legs shaking going down the stairs
  • Shortness of breath going up stairs

The phobia of stairs may also be specific to some slopes and stairs but not others. For instance, a person may be able to use concrete stairs but not hardwood, or they may fear regular, straight staircases but not spiral ones. How to get over the fear of falling may be difficult for some people, particularly when it comes to the fear of stairs in the elderly, but it can be overcome.

The cause of the phobia of stairs can be attributed to many different factors. A person may develop a fear of stairs if a close family member or relative also has bathmophobia. Not only can phobias be genetically passed down, but a child can also learn and then model this behavior as a child, which can develop into a phobia over time.

Image of the stairs for a post about how to overcome fear of falling down stairs.

A traumatic event can also cause a phobia of stairs. Perhaps the person fell down stairs as a child, or the elderly may develop bathmophobia after falling on the stairs while aging in place. This is why it can be a common phobia in the elderly—a traumatic experience with stairs later in life.

Bathmophobia can also be comorbid (coexisting diagnoses) with anxiety disorders and mood disorders, so in some cases, the mood disorder must be addressed first to treat the fear of climbing stairs. While assisting someone up and down stairs can be helpful, it can be tiring for the caregiver. If a person is suffering from bathmophobia, they should be treated by a mental health professional to combat the problem.

What Is the Treatment for the Fear of Stairs?

The most common treatment for fear and difficulty walking down stairs is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This therapy helps replace negative thoughts with positive ones during sessions with a therapist. Exposure therapy is also an option for fear of stairs. Exposure therapy is, as it sounds, a therapy that fully exposes the patient to fear. The therapist will walk them through going down the stairs until they are comfortable doing so on their own. Medication is also an option in certain cases.

Alternatively, you could consider purchasing a stair lift, especially if your loved one is struggling with mobility issues and a phobia of stairs. They offer a comfortable and safe ride up and down the stairs, are easy to install, and have a long lifespan. If your loved one is struggling with questions such as, “Why do I keep falling down the stairs?” and “Why can’t I walk up stairs normally?”, they may be experiencing mobility issues or pain in addition to the fear. In these cases, consider a stairlift.

To learn more about mobility products that can be life-changing and improve quality of life, such as stair lifts, wheelchair ramps, and power recliners, contact Williams Lift Co. today. We want both caregivers and their loved ones to live their best lives possible.