What Is Climacophobia?

All About the Fear of Climbing

Outdoor sports and adventure tree climbing
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Climacophobia, or the fear of the act of climbing, is a relatively unusual phobia. It is known as a specific phobia, just like acrophobia, a fear of heights, as well as bathmophobia, a fear of stairs and slopes.

Causes of Climacophobia

A wide variety of factors may cause this anxiety disorder, but the primary impetus is a previous negative experience.

You may be more prone to developing climacophobia if you:

  • have fallen down a flight of stairs
  • had difficulty completing a climb
  • had a panic attack while climbing

This negative experience doesn't have to directly happen to you.  If you witness an accident on stairs or a have a loved one who is afraid of climbing, you may be more likely to develop this fear. Some people develop climacophobia after watching someone on television or in a film have an accident while climbing.

It's not possible to trace many cases of climacophobia back to a specific past event. Fortunately, understanding the root cause of the phobia is not necessary to treat it.

When Your Fear of Climbing is Not Climacophobia

By definition, a reasonable fear caused by a medical condition cannot be diagnosed as a phobia. Here are some scenarios that indicate you don't have climacophobia:

  • If you have an illnesses or injury that's causing difficulties with balance or endurance, you might be afraid to go climbing, but you don't have a phobia.
  • If you are apprehensive about going climbing because you have a pre-existing medical condition that impairs the muscles, ligaments or tendons involved in climbing, that is not a phobia. 

It Might Be Vertigo

Sometimes climacophobia causes symptoms that resemble vertigo, such as dizziness when you climb up a ladder and then look down.

True vertigo is a medical condition while illyngophobia is the fear of vertigo. It can be difficult to tell exactly which disorder is causing your symptoms, and some people suffer from more than one. See a mental health professional to determine the precise cause of your phobia symptoms.

Complications of Climacophobia

Phobias that interfere with your daily life and ability to work require treatment. Since climbing stairs or going uphill is common in everyday life, if left untreated climacophobia can cause you to limit your activities.

In daily life, it can feel awkward to wait for an elevator when only going one floor up or to choose disability access ramps rather than stairs. Some patients may suffer emotionally because they worry their fear makes them appear lazy or unhealthy. 

Climacophobia, like other height-related phobias, can also cause you to panic while at height. This could lead you to make sudden, unsafe movements in an effort to relieve your fear.

Treating Climacophobia

Climacophobia, like most specific phobias, responds well to cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).

In this form of treatment, you will learn to stop your own negative thoughts about climbing and replace them with more rational self-talk. You will also learn to change your behaviors.

CBT may be used alone or in tandem with other treatment options. Medications and relaxation techniques can help you get control of your fear. Different forms of talk therapy are also common, particularly if a known event triggers your fears. See "Treatment Options" for an overview of common phobia treatments.

Untreated climacophobia may worsen over time.


American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (4th Ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

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