• Kate Maxwell

Aerophobia – A fear of flying.

Updated: Oct 7

Flying can cause a variety of reactions in across a range of people. For some it fuels feelings of excitement and anticipation, but for others it can trigger fear, panic and anxiety. If you fall into the latter category, then you may have aerophobia – a fear of flying.

Aerophobia – What is it?

Aerophobia is defined as an extreme fear or panic brought on in some people when flying or anticipating an upcoming flight. While some may enjoy travelling by air, for others the turbulence, crowded space, take-off/ landing sensations and the lack of control can be enough to trigger intense anxiety symptoms or panic attacks when faced with this mode of transport.

Often brought on by a combination of factors, aerophobia can actually be the result of an accumulation of other phobias – such as acrophobia (fear of heights) and/ or claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces). These phobias are then often linked with potential learned behaviours and fears from parents or guardians, along with an increased access to media such as news, movies and images showing plane crashes and other linked incidents. Together these factors can paint a devastating vision of a mode of transport that we cannot control, which ultimately may result in aerophobia; a fear of flying.

What are the symptoms of aerophobia?

Aerophobia, similar to a lot of phobias or fears, delves into the flight or flight response of our sympathetic nervous system. As our body prepares to face the oncoming threat, our body readies itself by increasing our breathing and heart rates in order to pump more blood and oxygen to our muscles. Depending on the severity of the phobia, people who suffer from aerophobia have also experienced symptoms of nausea, trembling, and a feeling of choking when thinking about flying, whilst boarding, or during a flight.

For some this may be an easy phobia to avoid. If you are not required to travel long distances or have other readily available means of transport then the fear of flying may be something you can put to the wayside. However for others, flying may be a necessary or integral part of life – for work, family or other important events. Aerophobia can cause extreme anxiety or panic attacks in those who have to face up to this fear, and for some may affect their day-to-day functioning as they aim to actively avoid flying.

Ways to deal with or treat aerophobia:

The most common treatment options for aerophobia are through medication and/ or therapy. If you find you are suffering from intense anxiety or panic before taking a flight, then prescribed anti-anxiety medication may help you to relax and feel more at ease before and during your flight. Seeking out the help and advice of a therapist or mental health expert may also be of benefit as they can help you to better understand and work through where your fear comes from and how to move forward from there. However there are some simple actions that you can put in place that may help you deal with and manage aerophobia. Check these out below:

Talk to others and acknowledge your fear: Aerophobia is a very common fear, but because flying has become such a usual mode of transport, many people feel too embarrassed to admit or acknowledge that they are afraid of getting on a flight. Talk to trusted friends and family about what you are feeling – you may just be surprised to hear that others suffer from the same phobia. By hearing success stories of how others overcame their fear, this can help to encourage you to also keep working on this phobia. Remember that should you need further help or assistance there are a number of mental health professionals and therapists who have been trained to deal with phobias such as aerophobia.

Set goals to work on overcoming your fear: Fears often originate due to negative experiences or connotations. In order to overcome these, it can often be helpful to set positive goals or associations to the action instead. If flying is something you cannot avoid, try focusing on the person, place or event that you want to visit and set the date you are planning to travel into your calendar. Try writing down what it is you want to see or do here, or even read travel books and articles to help turn those negative thought patterns into more positive ones.

Learn what you can about the things that fuel your fear: For a lot of people, a fear of flying comes down to the simple fact that we have no control or knowledge over what might happen. Make note if there is any particular aspect of flying that affects you the most, and then take the time to learn the science and facts surrounding this (such as turbulence or how the take-off/ landing stages work). Educating ourselves on what the correct procedures and safety processes are can help to challenge any irrational thoughts or fears with hard facts – leaving less room for doubt and speculation.

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