Aerophobia is a type of phobia that includes fear of flying, fear of airplanes, and fear of air travel. Statistics show that air travel is safer than other types of travel, but it is still a very common fear. Read more about the fear of flying and how to deal with it.
How common is the fear of flying?
According to research, 40% of people suffer from flight anxiety each year, of which only 2.5% are diagnosed by psychologists.
Many people are somewhat afraid of flying, but only a few have symptoms of phobia. Fear of flying has become a phobia or not, it can have serious effects on the quality of life.
Symptoms of flight phobia
People with flight phobias experience persistent and severe anxiety when thinking about flying or traveling by plane. The symptoms of aerophobia are similar to those of other phobias. Physical symptoms of fear of flying may include the following:
- Thinking disorder;
- Gastrointestinal disorders;
- increase of heart rate;
- Body Trembling;
- Shortness of breath;
Sometimes people may even have a panic attack. A panic attack is a short period of intense fear that can have symptoms such as palpitations, feelings of detachment from reality, and fear of dying.
Some people with a flight phobia are comfortable at the airport, but experience symptoms of fear just before boarding a plane. Some people also experience fear of flying long before the flight time, which is called Anticipatory anxiety and is very common.
How is the fear of flying created?
The exact cause of the fear of flying is not known, but a number of different factors may be involved. According to one study, this fear varies greatly from person to person and comes from a set of physiological, psychological, and social factors that are unique to each individual.
1. Physical problems
Some physical problems can lead to fear of flying:
- Obstruction of the sinuses or middle ear may cause pain or dizziness during flight.
- Colds, chronic sinus problems, dizziness or ear disorders can cause a very strong fear of physical discomfort.
- Cardiovascular disease or other conditions that increase the risk of blood clots can also cause concern about deep vein thrombosis during flight.
Talk to your doctor before the flight about any physical problems to find a solution to minimize the risk and discomfort.
Phobias and other anxiety disorders may cause flight phobias. Some of these are:
- Claustrophobia: People with claustrophobia often have a fear of flying due to the limited space of the aircraft.
- Fear of heights: Fear of heights (acrophobia) can also lead to fear of flying.
- Social phobia or fear of germs: People with social anxiety disorder or fear of germs often also develop flight phobias because they have to spend a lot of time on the plane with strangers.
According to research, these stimuli also increase a person’s fear of flying:
- Bad weather;
- Aircraft take-off stage;
- In-flight air turbulence.
Travel delays may also make this fear worse.
3. Social Issues
- Experience troubled flight or plane crash: Even watching the news of airline accidents is enough to create fear of flying. For example, many people developed aerophobia after the 9/11 attacks.
- Environment: If parents are afraid of flying, their fear may spread to children. This is one of the most common causes of flight phobia in children. Of course, many adults are also affected by this factor. For example, a person may receive this fear from relatives or another friend, but parents seem to play the most important role in developing this phobia.
- Other related terms: Aerophobia may have its roots in a completely different problem. For example, when the fear of flying arises immediately after promotion to a job that requires travel, the person’s fear of flying may be due to concerns about the job itself or its impact on daily life, or children who have to fly regularly to visit divorced parents. Dealing with the harms of divorce They develop aerophobia.
Treat fear of flying
Fortunately, flight phobia can be treated, even if the cause is not known. Some common treatments for this phobia include:
Cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT for short, is usually the first treatment for a variety of phobias, including fear of flying. CBT is an approach that focuses on changing negative thoughts that lead to fear. Many specific treatments for phobias are based on CBT, but sometimes other treatment options are used. Some common approaches are:
- Being in a state of fear: Experts agree that the best way to overcome this fear is through controlled exposure, which may be done through virtual reality, flight simulation, or even real flight.
- Systematic desensitization: This treatment involves gradual and progressive exposure to the fear situation, which is often used to treat phobias such as flight phobia.
- Individual treatment: Individual CBT, hypnotherapy, and virtual reality techniques can also reduce a person’s fear of flying.
۲. Group classes
If the person does not have any other physical or mental disorders, one of the measures to overcome the flight phobia is to participate in flight classes. These classes usually last two or three days and are often held on weekends. Airlines sometimes offer these courses. During these classes, one may meet with several pilots, learn about airline safety, and even have the opportunity to board a real plane. Sometimes just knowing more about the process and the environment will help you feel more comfortable while flying.
Sometimes your doctor may prescribe medications to reduce your flight fear symptoms, such as nausea or anxiety. For example, your doctor may recommend taking a medicine that has been developed to reduce motion sickness or flight before flying. He or she may also prescribe an anti-anxiety drug such as Xanax (alprazolam) or Valium (diazepam).
Medications can be helpful, but they are usually a short-term solution to flight phobia. Medication may be combined with psychotherapy to be more effective.
Cope with the fear of flying
In addition to treating phobias, there are steps one can take to combat this fear.
- Learn about the flight process: Learning how airplanes work, why turbulence, and the meaning of different sounds and shocks can reduce fear.
- Identify irrational thoughts: Negative thinking about possible accidents can lead to fear of flying. Learn how to recognize these thoughts, then practice removing negative thoughts or replacing them with more realistic and useful thoughts.
- Identify stimuli: When you think about flying or you get anxious during the flight, pay attention to the thoughts or situations you experienced before the fear. If you know what specific aspects of your flight are bothering you, you can better plan how to deal with those situations.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Having a “relaxation toolbox” or a set of relaxation strategies can be helpful. You can use these techniques when you start to feel fear, techniques such as deep breathing, visualization and muscle relaxation. Over time, these techniques help reduce the fear of aircraft.
If you have a flight phobia, you should consult a specialist as soon as possible. The specialist diagnoses the phobia and can recommend an appropriate treatment plan. Flight phobia is one of the main causes of pre-travel anxiety.
Flying phobias can have many effects on quality of life and even disrupt daily life. With the right treatment, these conditions can be managed or the symptoms reduced.
Have you ever had this fear? What do you do to combat flight phobia? Please share your comments with us in the comments section.