A video titled “Dad faces some demons” received hundreds of thousands of views this weekend, depicting a middle-aged man doing an extreme version of the “military crawl.”
He was crawling on the edge of Dun Aonghasa, a clifftop in Ireland that was a prehistoric stone fort used by the ancient Irish to protect part of the western edge of the country, from more than a 3,000 years ago. Today, it’s a wildly popular tourist attraction, heralded as one of the world’s most breathtaking views. The rocky cliffs span eight miles and are more than 700 feet above the cold waters of the north Atlantic, resulting in certain death for anybody who jumps or falls from the extreme heights. This is not a place for people with a fear of heights, known in the psychiatry world as acrophobia.
“I can’t look,” he says, laughing at his phobia.
“Yeah, you can, you got this,” says his wife.
“I’m afraid,” he says.
“It’s OK, if you throw up it can go right over the side,” she jokes, adding, “you got to hold it for five seconds, uninterrupted eye contact with the Atlantic Ocean.”
Two studies released in 2009 suggest that people with acrophobia have difficulty perceiving vertical dimensions, which means they overestimate a vertical distance to an extreme degree; the more intense the phobia, the more they overestimate the distance. Basically, this dad may be looking some 700 feet down but to him, it may feel like 7,000 feet:
What makes people afraid of heights, especially those who develop the phobia later in life?
“As you get older, your organ of balance tends to deteriorate and you’re likely to feel more physically vulnerable,” Kevin Gournay, emeritus professor at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London, and author of The Sheldon Short Guide to Phobias and Panic, told the Daily Mail last year. The Mail also puts forth the idea that “older adults also tend to have people who depend on them, and this can make them more troubled by the possibility of falling,” which would line up with the fact that this man is only identified as a “dad.”
It should be noted that a fear of heights is different from just recognizing that falling could result in injury, though. A 2013 study published in Psychological Science, found that when babies learn to crawl, they don’t appear afraid of falling at all. Around the age of nine months, a fear of falling develops as they have gained experience moving around their worlds.
Watch the full video: