How Common is the Fear of Elevators?

Erin J. Hill

Fear of elevators is actually one of the most common phobias experienced today. It may present itself in correlation with another fear or phobia, such as claustrophobia, or the fear of enclosed spaces. When combined with these other conditions, fear of elevators is highly common, and usually successfully treated.

Many people experience a fear of elevators.
Many people experience a fear of elevators.

There are many aspects to riding in an elevator that may induce fear in sufferers. Some may be afraid of the enclosed space. Others may be terrified of being up so high. Still others are afraid to being close to other people. Therefore, fear of elevators often has little to do with the elevator itself and much to do with aspects of the entire experience.

Part of therapy for a fear of elevators may involve climbing the steps of a step ladder repeatedly.
Part of therapy for a fear of elevators may involve climbing the steps of a step ladder repeatedly.

To combat a fear of elevators, sufferers generally must force themselves to face their fears. Depending on how strong the phobia is, a therapist may be needed and intensive counseling may be encouraged. The most common treatment for a fear of elevators is cognitive behavioral therapy. This combines training the thoughts patients have and forcing the learning of new responses to those thoughts in order to change the natural patterns of the brain.

Since so many people suffer from a fear of elevators, there may be support groups in some areas. These are most common in cities with lots of tall buildings where riding an elevator is almost impossible to avoid in day to day life. In these locations, a phobia of elevators can be a debilitating condition which inhibits everyday activities.

Therapy may include having patients visualize riding in an elevator and picture the aspects which they feel are frightening. They then may be required to immerse themselves in the part that scares them most, only on a smaller scale. For instance, someone who is afraid of the height the elevator reaches may start by climbing a step ladder over and over again until it is easy to accomplish and causes little to no anxiety. Next, they move on to a greater height, such as climbing a tree.

As patients experience greater and greater levels, their fear may become lessened. Finally, they will be able to enter an elevator. Sometimes just stepping into it is a start, and at other times they will be asked to ride up a few flights. This will likely still cause anxiety the first few times, but they can use tactics which worked when accomplishing the smaller goals. Finally, after many attempts, riding an elevator may not cause anxiety at all anymore.

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Discussion Comments


I'm not crazy about elevators myself -- mostly because I'm afraid they will get stuck. I ride them if I have to, but I do get a little antsy if I have to stay inside one for any length of time.

My aunt is terribly claustrophobic, and doesn't like elevators for that reason. She has a hard time riding them at all. She will, but she doesn't like it.

Some people don't like escalators, but I figure if an escalator stops, I'll just walk down. If an elevator gets stuck, I'm just there. Maybe I've seen too many movies with that scenario.

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