Aerophobia: The well-known “fear of flying”, and how to overcome it

Traveling by plane can turn into a nightmare for those who suffer from aerophobia, causing anxiety, sweating, dizziness, fatigue or rapid heartbeat.

Overcoming it is the way to be able to travel in this environment with tranquility  and enjoying a most pleasant experience

This disorder affects the ability to take advantage of the progress in the field of interconnection and globalization that allows crossing the planet in a matter of hours or, for example, making work and family life compatible in two different countries, thanks to air passenger transport.

A priori, this fear may seem harmless. However, it can limit the lives of people who have it. Well, they stop enjoying traveling because they never catch a plane.

What is Aerophobia

The one that concerns us is a type of specific phobia that appears when the individual faces a plane trip.

Depending on the severity of the case, the fear of flying can appear from the moment of boarding the plane up to several days before carrying out the planned flight and even from the moment the person becomes aware that they are going to make the trip.

Fear is associated with the idea of ​​a possible air accident  that leads the subject to be in a permanent state of alert regarding the indicative signs that such a disaster occurs, such as turbulence, the sound of the engine or the behavior of the crew.

The truth is that, by identifying the situation as dangerous, the aerophobic achieves the sharpening of the senses to the point that signals that in any other circumstance would go unnoticed, will tend to intensify and perceive themselves as such a threat, dramatically increasing the levels of anxiety.

What are the causes of fear of flying

One of the factors that is usually at the root of aerophobia is the fact of having experienced a traumatic event related to airplanes, which translates into having felt the effects of a plane crash on your own skin, or having met someone who I would have suffered its consequences.

At other times, aerophobia is the  product of certain personality traits that interfere with the way the situation is managed.

Thus, those people with the need to control accumulate an impressive level of stress in the face of circumstances that are not at all in their hands, contexts among which is the flight on board an airplane.

Likewise, the general propensity to anxiety provokes the detailed analysis of everything that happens around until finding many clues that could be interpreted as indications of a close accident.

All this causes stress levels to skyrocket, which in turn will lead to the search for false signs of danger.

What symptoms does an Aerophobic have?

Often, emotions take control of this phobia and spread fear even to those planes that are not going to fly, because they do not have a scheduled flight or, for a more curious reason, because they are simple models of airplanes incapable of raising the flight. It is then when we speak of a generalization.

As with other types of phobias,  the fear of flying is not based on reasonable fears , but is basically irrational and psychological.

This means that, despite the awareness on the part of the aerphobic that the flight safety measures are optimal, they will continue to feel fear.

From what has been said it follows that although reason fully assimilates that the safety of the plane is guaranteed, emotions run their own way and sometimes exert an enormous influence on the first, distorting it and promoting the appearance of thoughts that border on delirium.

The symptoms of fear of flying are similar to those shown in other types of phobias such as general malaise, nausea, excessive sweating, headache, increased breathing and heart rate , dry mouth, anxiety, tiredness or fatigue, dizziness, etc …

How to overcome this phobia

The first question is to accurately identify the condition, which can be a phobia but also a simple fear of flying.

Those people who do not like it at all and are even scared to take a plane but still do, feel a fear of the flight that will improve with the advice that follows.

On the contrary, those others for whom the fear of flying makes it impossible to get on a plane or who manage to do so but suffering from tremendous panic attacks, in addition to following the advice, will have to seek professional help.

  1. Attendance to specialized courses on the subject.  Lasting for a few days, there are effective courses to control the fear of flying. They are taught by multidisciplinary teams made up of psychologists and aviation technicians who explain all the technical aspects of flight.
  2. Imaginary exposure.  In the exposure technique, the subject is actually exposed first to simple situations (such as getting on a plane without flying) and then to situations that produce more anxiety (traveling several meters without flying to do so in the following days). It is easy to think that this exposure is not feasible in practice , so the subject is exposed to exposure in imagination. This technique consists of recreating the flight situation from boarding to landing.
  3. Use of relaxation techniques . Yoga is one of the most useful relaxation or meditation techniques for the treatment of this type of phobias, thanks to the breathing methods that are worked on it.
  4. Flight assistance request if it is not possible to travel accompanied.  Until the phobia completely disappears, the ideal is to travel in company but, if this possibility does not exist, the subject should not hesitate to discuss their phobia with the flight personnel or with their unknown seat companion.
  5. Provision of entertainment for the trip.  Books or electronic devices are a great way to distract yourself during the flight.
  6. Consideration of pharmacological treatment.  An option that is not ruled out, given that there are many drugs on the market to calm anxiety that can always be taken under a medical prescription.
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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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