The high place phenomenon, that is, a sudden urge to jump when in a high place, is an experience known to many people, that has rarely been studied. The present study aimed to assess the prevalence of the high place phenomenon in a non-clinical and a clinical German sample. Furthermore, clinical correlates of the experience were assessed.
The study sample comprised 276 participants (67% female; Mage = 32.08, SDage = 10.73) who took part in an online assessment and 94 patients (73.4% female; Mage = 49.26, SDage = 13.32) suffering from clinically relevant fear of flying. Participants filled out questionnaires on experiences with the high place phenomenon, depression, anxiety, suicide ideation and anxiety sensitivity.
The high place phenomenon was known to nearly 60% of the online sample and to 45% of the patient sample. Suicide ideation as well as anxiety sensitivity were positively associated with experiences with the high place phenomenon in the online sample. Depression, anxiety and suicide ideation were unrelated to experiences with the phenomenon in the patient sample.
The high place phenomenon is commonly reported by (lifetime/current) suicide ideators. However, it is also a common experience in individuals who have never suffered from suicide ideation. It is therefore cautioned not to interpret such experiences as an expression of a hidden death wish.