Specifically, I seem to have developed a fear of heights and a rather severe claustrophobia. The thing that seems so strange is when I was younger, I used to fly all sorts of places with my dad in our small plane, I routinely hiked on mountain trails, I stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon and happily looked down, etc. I crawled through caves and under houses (for my work) and it never bothered me. Now, I have severe problems with looking down from a height, and cannot stand to be in any kind of confined space. I first found this out when I went on a cave tour at Oregon Caves–I found myself starting to freak out. Fortunately, there was a side exit that the guide led me to.
I have been frustrated by the fact that these fears are utterly irrational, yet I cannot control them. I also wonder what has changed, that two things that had never bothered me in the slightest now cause me great distress. This isn’t transitory, in that these fears started up about five years ago and haven’t gone away since. My sister, who has some medical training, says that as some people grow older, they develop these kinds of fears; in other words, it’s sort of normal. I wonder, if that’s true, why it’s true. I’m not that old, and I’m still active. I can see the development of such fears as the body realizing that as it ages, it is more fragile and susceptible to injury, and that the sense organs have deteriorated, so the reptile brain may become risk-averse.
I wonder if anyone else has experienced this, and if so, have you been able to overcome the newly-developed fears? One thing I would like to be able to do again is hike trails that have steep dropoffs on one side, but the anxiety attacks have forced me to turn back. I know that I’m very unlikely to stumble off the trail and go crashing to the rocks below, but tell that to my reptile brain. It’s very frustrating.