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How can you tackle a fear of escalators?

In department stores, large offices, railway stations and airports, you will find escalators. An escalator makes it easier for the user, so that walking upstairs does not have to be tiring. For most people, using an escalator is no problem at all. Yet there are people who are very reluctant to get on an escalator. They have a certain fear of the escalator. Is there anything that can be done about this fear and what treatment can be given?

What is escalator phobia?

There is, of course, a difference between finding an escalator a bit scary and feeling anxious. For example, many people find an escalator scary when they step on it because you want to avoid stepping on the edge of two steps and falling as the steps unfold. This is a healthy tension and does not prevent you from ignoring the escalator. On the contrary, the tension you feel encourages you to be extra careful.

In case of great fear, you really don't dare step on an escalator and all sorts of anxiety symptoms may arise and you will panic. You will never step on an escalator and do everything you can to avoid it. This is called a phobia. Although a phobia often has a major impact on people's daily lives, this will be less the case with escalator phobia, because you don't encounter escalators everywhere and all the time. However, there is an official name for this phobia: escalaphobia.

fear of escalators

What are the symptoms of escalaphobia?

At the sight of an escalator or when actually using it, your body will emit certain symptoms due to the fear that you normally see in other fears and phobias. Your heart rate will increase, you might have to gasp for breath and you will tremble out of fear. It is also possible that you will have a panic attack or that your body will completely freeze or that you will hyperventilate. These symptoms let you know that you're not just excited about using an escalator, but that you actually suffer from escalator phobia.

Is there a cause?

It is not always possible to give a clear-cut cause for a fear of escalators. What is certain is that such a phobia arises mainly after you have had a bad experience with it or it has happened to a close family member. So you can develop escalator phobia just from being told by others that an escalator is dangerous. Hereditary predisposition for phobias can also play a role. You are then extra sensitive for a phobia and you only need to experience something on an escalator to have escalator phobia.

Tools for escalator fear

Is escalator phobia treatable?

If you find that your fear of the escalator is getting the better of you, you can seek treatment for it. There are several treatment methods that can help. An intake with a therapist will give you more clarity about which treatment method is best for you.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

When you encounter an escalator, you can no longer think clearly and rationally. You can only think negatively about the escalator and everything that could possibly happen. During behavioural therapy you learn another way of thinking. This way you don't have to see the escalator as a fearful and dangerous problem at all. If you can be convinced of this, it will be much easier to walk down an escalator.

Exposure therapy

A very effective way to get rid of your escalator phobia is to be confronted with your fears. This happens under supervision in exposure therapy. Together with your therapist, you actually use an escalator. It may be a little daunting, but it is the best way to face your fears. After several sessions you will get used to it and you will see that nothing serious needs to happen.


Have you had a traumatic experience with an escalator? Or is there another trauma involved, which has led to escalator phobia? Then EMDR is an effective therapy. During the session you think back to the trauma and at the same time you have to follow the hand movements or sound signals of the therapist. This is a distraction method. This will make processing the trauma easier. At a certain point you recall the trauma in your mind, without feeling strong emotions, such as fear of an escalator.

Tools from Psylaris to combat escalator anxiety

With Psylaris' mostly digital tools for the mental healthcare, it is even easier to combat escalator phobia. For example, exposure therapy can take place entirely through virtual reality. This is time-saving and less labour-intensive. The client can simply be confronted with an escalator in the treatment room or at home wearing VR glasses. Psylaris has developed special modules for the VR glasses for this purpose.

With EMDR-Remote, developed by Psylaris, clients can be treated from home by means of online EMDR for their escalator trauma. This is an online platform that can be accessed easily and safely through a web browser. Here, the therapist can video call the client and use various distraction tasks. This saves time for both the therapist and the client.


Exposure in virtual reality

The goal of Psylaris is to support therapists even better with innovative techniques and tools. Virtual reality plays a leading role in this. With EMDR-VR and EMDR-plus an EMDR treatment is possible using virtual reality. The practitioner can use distraction tasks even better and the client can also be treated remotely. Virtual reality is ideally suited for exposure therapy. The client is confronted with his/her fears. It is no longer necessary to visit a physical location, such as an elevator in case of elevator fear or a shopping mall in case of agoraphobia. With the VR glasses on, the client is confronted with the fear in the safe environment of the treatment room or his/her home. Psylaris has developed modules for various types of fears that require exposure therapy. This saves costs and time, and the client can be treated more frequently, which results in a faster recovery.

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