Friday, March 19, 2010


The relation rock climbing = dangerous = possible psychiatric disorder does get mention in the DSM-IV (masochism is one diagnosis). But this is a pretty tenuous relationship even within the DSM.

Climbing, indoor or outdoor, isn’t nearly as dangerous as it is scary, and it’s not terribly frightening either.

But where it is either of those things, there is a wonderful opportunity to develop self-confidence, risk-taking (the good kind – where fear would otherwise hold you back from achieving a goal), trust (in the person belaying you), and to overcome anxieties such as may be associated with heights (after you fall a couple of times you realise it’s perfectly safe. You can then train yourself to take bigger falls).

Besides the above, climbing has many other advantages in aiding with mental health.

• It is a very supportive social outlet. Climbers, sometimes even ones who don’t like each other, tend to support and encourage each other.
• It’s exercise - with all of the associated mental health goodness.
• It can help with problem solving skills as you need to assess the route both before and during climbing in order to choose your next move.
• It brings greater awareness to the body and what it, and you, are capable of. You might need to train to do a specific move or you might just try something and be amazed at the efficiency and pliability of the human body.

There isn’t much climbing specific research in relation to psychiatry, but this article found that climbers, regardless of their skill level, had “internal motivational orientation and positive physical self-perception.”

This is an article with some interesting details in its study design (participants had to pay in order to participate), but it supports my opinion, so I’m going to cite it. The study (which included five days of rock climbing) found an “increase in formal and informal social interactions, motivation to learn, and optimism to learn, and [a] decrease in symptoms…”

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