When this anxiety reaches a level that significantly interferes with a person’s ability to travel by air, it becomes the phobia known as the “Fear of Flying”.
What is a Phobia?
According to the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary a phobia is an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation.
What are some the other phobias that could be in combination with the fear of flying. Well let’s see, there are:
1. Being in an enclosed or crowded space
2. Fear of heights
3. A feeling of not being in control
4. Fear of vomiting, motion sickness can make the person vomit, thus making flying hard.
5. Fear of having panic attacks in certain places, where escape would be difficult and/or embarrassing
6. Fear of hijacking or terrorism
7. Fear of turbulence and other weather conditions
8. Fear of being over water
9. Fear of the dark (flying at night)
10. Fear of the unknown
11. The result of hormone release during pregnancy
12. The result of difficulty with the regulation of emotion when not in control due to developmental issues
13. Being idle for long periods of time
14. Loss of personal freedom
15. The security screening process
16. Not understanding the reasons for all the strange actions, sounds, and sensations occurring around you
17. Underlying issues from past psychological or physical trauma
18. Sitting in hot, stale air
19. Being dependent on unknown mechanical things to maintain your safety
20. Being dependent on an unknown pilot’s judgment
21. Not feeling in “control”
Now that you are totally panic stricken is there anything that can be done to help alleviate or prevent this fear. Here are a few ideas that may help.
Fear of Flight is a learned behaviour.
Did you know, that fear is a learned behaviour? When we were born, we had no fears so there had to be something that triggered this fear. The first thing you have to do if you wish to overcome your fear of flying is to…
Admit you are a fearful flyer.
You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge and rest assured that you are not alone in your fear.
Then you can try to remember what the circumstances were that may have caused your fear of flying symptoms to first appear?
• Why were you flying?
• What happened just before the flight?
• What happened during the flight?
• What happened just after the flight?
(Try to recall the facts, as well as the exact words of anything that was said.)
What was happening in your life before the fear of flying symptoms developed?
• Did you experience any major life changes before the fear of flying symptoms developed?
• Did anything happen that left you feeling uncertain or conflicted before the fear of flying symptoms developed?
• Had anyone done anything to you that had left you feeling emotionally hurt and angry before the fear of flying symptoms developed?
What exactly might a fear of flying prevent you from doing?
• How do you really feel about not doing it?
• Maybe you don’t really want to do it.
• Or maybe you feel guilty about doing it.
Who knows by going to this exercise you might end up in treatment for something other than fear of flying, or you might be able to solve the problem yourself without professional help.
The next thing you have to do is educate yourself.
Did you know statistics compiled by the US Department of Transportation have led to the conclusion that airline travel is 29 times safer than driving an automobile?
The problem with the above statistics is that knowing this will not stop they do not stop people from being afraid of flying.
Statistics do not help because the fear of flying actually has little to do with risk as such. If the fear of flying were actually caused by the potential for an accident, then everyone who fears to fly would be even more afraid—29 times more afraid, to be statistically exact—to drive or ride in an automobile. But that is clearly not the case.
What else can you do?
In many cases, overcoming fear or phobias can be done by overcoming the fear of the unknown.
As far as overcoming the fear of flying examples of some of the things that can work include.
• Learning how aircraft fly.
• Many people have overcome their fear of flying by learning to fly or skydive.
• Understanding what a certain sound is or that an encounter with turbulence will not destroy the aircraft is beneficial to easing the fear of the unknown.
A fear of flying may be treated by the use of psychoactive medications. This should never be self prescribed, always discuss with your doctor before taking any medication.
Keep in mind that psychiatrists are sometimes reluctant to prescribe any medication for the treatment of fear of flying due to the need for patients to medicate irregularly. Though benzodiazepines effectively reduced anxiety on the ground, research indicates higher anxiety and sharply increased panic when flying versus placebo.
Another form of self-medicating is alcohol, which is served in many commercial airline cabins and is how some deal with their anxiety. Most mental health professionals would advise against consuming alcohol as a medication both due to the strong risk of dependency (alcoholism) and due to the particular physiological effects on the body of air travel.
On the other hand, some professionals believe that if an individual is capable of controlling his or her drinking—i.e. is not an alcoholic—and consumes only a small amount at a time, that an alcoholic beverage before or during a flight may be beneficial as a short-term treatment of mild fear of flying. Most would still advise a more long-term strategy of therapy.
Children and Fear of Flying
Sometimes children develop a fear of flying. But unless the fear can be traced directly to a trauma or accident, before seeking treatment specific to the child, it would be advisable to think of the child as just one part of a larger family system.
Consider whether the child’s anxiety relates in some way to family conflicts. The child’s fear of flying may not be about flying at all.
Is this all there is?
Over my two decades in the travel industry I’ve experienced many want to be travelers who want to see the world but their fear of flying keep them home. This information tid bit may not be enough to get them on an airplane but hopefully will be enough to motivate them to look at possible solutions for help.
I have been asked if I could recommend a program or an option that I like. I did find a program a couple years ago that I have recommended in the past and the results of the wonderful.
It was put together by a 40-year aviation veteran and fear of flying expert. Captain Ron Nielsen has been widely consulted and quoted in the media since he began working with fearful flyers 20 years ago. In addition to his aviation and fear of flying expertise, he holds a Master’s Degree in Professional Counseling.
If you have any stories, questions or events about fear of flying and would like to share or for that matter any travel related themes you would like discussed; send them off to us. We will read the all and post our favorites.
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Until then, have a wonderful day and safe travels!