Flying can be a nerve-wracking experience for many people, but it can be downright terrifying for those with aerophobia or the fear of flying.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to overcoming this fear, there are several steps you can take, to make your next flight less anxiety-inducing.
In this post, we'll outline eleven simple tips that should help make your next trip in the air a bit more manageable.
But first, let's understand what aerophobia is.
What is Aerophobia or Fear of Flying?
Aerophobia, or the fear of flying, is a relatively common phobia that can cause significant anxiety and distress.
People with aerophobia may experience rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, and dizziness when they think about flying or when in an aircraft. In severe cases, aerophobia can lead to panic attacks. (National Library of Medicine)
Several different factors can contribute to the development of aerophobia, including a fear of heights, a fear of enclosed spaces, or a previous bad experience while flying.
Some people may also be more prone to developing anxiety disorders in general. Treatment for aerophobia typically involves exposure therapy, which gradually helps the person become more comfortable with flying.
Medication may also be used in some cases to help reduce anxiety levels.
Risks of not getting over the fear of flying:
While the fear of flying may seem minor, it can have severe consequences if left untreated.
Missing out on important life events, such as weddings, funerals, and family holidays:
Many people fear flying, and while it may seem like a minor inconvenience, it can significantly impact your life.
If you let your fear of flying prevent you from traveling, you may miss out on important life events, such as weddings or funerals.
You may miss out on amazing experiences like visiting new places or seeing iconic landmarks. In addition, your fear of flying can also lead to high financial costs.
If you regularly have to cancel or change travel plans due to your fear, you will likely incur high fees from airlines or hotels.
This travel anxiety can hamper not only your personal life but also incur heavy damages on the financial front.
As you can see, many risks are associated with not getting over your fear of flying. To live a whole and enriching life, facing your fears, and taking to the skies is essential so you don’t miss out.
Avoidance of flying can lead to agoraphobia or the fear of leaving home:
One risk of not getting over the fear of flying is that avoiding flights can lead to agoraphobia. (Pubmed) When people are afraid to fly, they may start to avoid other activities and places that involve flying, such as traveling to see family, for work conferences, or going on vacation.
It can lead to social isolation and a decrease in quality of life. In severe cases, people with a fear of flying may become housebound and unable to leave their homes.
While treatments are available for agoraphobia, it is often a debilitating condition that can profoundly impact a person's life. Therefore, addressing the fear of flying is crucial before it leads to further complications.
Increased anxiety and stress levels:
One of the risks of not getting over the fear of flying is increased anxiety and stress levels.
Anxiety can be caused by several factors, including a phobia of enclosed spaces, a fear of heights, or a general sense of unease about being in an airplane.
If left unchecked, these feelings can lead to a spiral of anxiety that can make it difficult to function in day-to-day life and affect your mental health. In extreme cases, it can even lead to a panic attack.
If you feel anxious about flying, it is important to seek professional help. With the proper treatment, it is possible to overcome your fear and love flying like others have.
How to Overcome Fear of Flying?
Here are some tips for all of you wondering how to get over fear of flying:
1. Educate yourself about flying
One of the best ways to overcome the fear of flying is to educate yourself about the process and what happens during takeoff, flight, and landing.
Airplanes are designed to be safe and efficient, and pilots are highly trained professionals. In short, commercial air travel is safer than ever.
Understanding how planes work can help dispel myths and misconceptions feeding your fear.
Watching informational videos or reading articles about flying can also be helpful. If you know what to expect, you'll be less likely to feel anxious about the unknown.
It's important to remember that everyone experiences fear at times. Accepting that feeling scared is expected will make you more likely to face your fears head-on. Flying doesn't have to be perfect or free of discomfort for it to be safe.
2. Talk to someone who has experience flying
It's perfectly normal to feel some apprehension about flying, especially if you have never done it before. One of the best ways to overcome your fear is by talking to someone with experience flying.
They can help you understand how an airplane works and what to expect during a flight.
Once you understand what goes into flying a plane, you will be less likely to feel anxious about it.
Also, relax and take some deep breaths before boarding the plane. Remember that millions of people fly every day without incident, so there is no need to worry.
With a little bit of knowledge and some deep breathing, you may be able to overcome your fear of flying.
3. Choose the perfect seat for you
If you're a fearful flyer, the first step to overcoming your fear of flying is choosing the perfect seat. If you feel anxious in small spaces, it might be best to choose a window seat.
That way, you'll have the added security of being able to see outside and not feel trapped.
If you tend to get motion sickness, avoid an aisle seat where you'll likely feel jostled.
And if you're worried about turbulence, ask the flight attendant if there's a seat near the wing where you'll be less likely to feel bumps.
You can also spend a little more on a business class ticket if you can't find the required seats.
4. Distract yourself during the flight
Distracting yourself during a flight can be one of the easiest ways to forget that you are thousands of feet up in the air.
Watching in-flight movies, reading, listening to music, or playing games can help take your mind off the fact that you're on a plane.
*Note: Try to avoid movies with plane crashes as it could be one of your triggers and can lead to extreme anxiety.
It's also important to remember that flying is one of the safest modes of transportation. The odds of being in a plane crash are about 1 in 11 million (NOVA), so try to keep things in perspective.
If you're struggling with your fear of flying, several medication and therapy options can also help. Speak with your doctor or mental health professional about what might be right for you.
5. Don't be afraid to ask for help
Flying can be an anxiety-inducing experience, especially for those who are afraid of heights or have a fear of enclosed spaces.
However, there are some things that you can do to help ease your anxiety and make the experience more bearable. First, you must understand that you are not alone in your fear.
Many people experience some anxiety when flying, and the flight crew is trained to deal with these situations. If you are incredibly anxious during the flight, don't be afraid to ask for help from the flight attendants. They will be able to provide reassurance and support.
Additionally, it can be helpful to take some deep breaths and focus on relaxing your muscles. It is also important to remember that flying is one of the safest forms of travel, so try to stay calm and remind yourself that there is no reason to be afraid. With some preparation, you can overcome your fear of flying and enjoy the experience.
6. Practise relaxation techniques
Practising relaxation techniques can significantly alleviate your anxiety and stress about flying. It can involve deep breathing exercises, visualization, or even meditation.
Finding a technique that works for you and practising it regularly is essential. Another tip is to avoid caffeine and alcohol before a flight, as these can worsen anxiety symptoms.
7. Seek professional help
Overcoming the fear of flying can seem like a daunting task, but there is professional help available that can make the process easier.
One option is to seek a therapist specializing in treating anxiety disorders.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of therapy that is effective in treating many different types of anxiety. A CBT therapist can help you identify and challenge the negative thoughts and patterns of behavior contributing to your fear of flying.
With professional help, it is possible to overcome the fear of flying and enjoy taking trips by plane. Your doctor can prescribe anti-anxiety medication to help reduce anxiety symptoms, making managing your fear easier. In addition, medication can also help treat anxiety disorders.
8. Fly with a friend or family member
One simple and effective way to help ease your fear is to fly with a friend or family member. If it's your first flight, having them tag along can reduce a lot of flight anxiety.
It can help you feel more comfortable and relaxed, as you will have someone to talk to during the flight. Plus, it won't feel like a foreign environment with them next to you.
9. Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy
While various methods can overcome this fear, Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) is an effective treatment for aerophobia, the specific fear of flying.
In VRET, patients are exposed to a virtual environment simulating a flying experience. It allows them to confront their fears in a controlled setting and gradually work up their exposure to real-life flying situations.
Several studies have shown that VRET is an effective treatment for aerophobia (Australian and New Zealand study of Psychiatry), with patients reporting significant reductions in fear and anxiety after completing the therapy.
For anyone who suffers from the fear of flying, VRET may be an effective treatment option.
10. Give it time
It is estimated that 2.5 to 6.5% per cent of the population fears flying. It means that every time a plane takes off, there are dozens of people on board who are feeling anxious, if not outright panicked.
If your fear is mild, it may go away with time. If it's more severe, you may need to take some steps to face your fear head-on.
Give yourself time to adjust to the idea of flying. Once you understand that flying is safe, you may feel more relaxed about getting on a plane. If you have the opportunity, take a short flight to get used to the sensations of being in the air.
And remember, it's perfectly normal to feel some apprehension about flying—you're not alone!
11. Take an actual flight
There's no better way to get over your fear of flying than by, well, flying.
Start by taking a short flight—perhaps just an hour or two. If that goes well, consider taking a long flight. And don't forget to celebrate your success after each flight!
Flying experiences can help anxious flyers get used to air travel.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are some of the reasons people may have a fear of flying?
There are many reasons why people may have a fear of flying, including a fear of heights, a fear of being in a confined space, or a fear of crashing. Some people may also have anxiety about being away from home or not having control over the situation.
What are some of the symptoms of a fear of flying?
The symptoms of a fear of flying can vary from person to person. Still, they may include feeling anxious or panicked about flying, sweating, increased heart rate, difficulty breathing, and avoiding flying altogether.
What are some ways fear of flying can be treated?
The treatment for fear of flying will vary depending on the severity. Some people may be able to overcome their fear with virtual reality exposure therapy or by taking medication to help reduce the symptoms of anxiety. Others may need to seek out professional help from a therapist who specializes in treating phobias.
What is virtual reality exposure therapy?
Virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) is a treatment used to help people with a fear of flying confront their fears in a controlled setting. In VRET, patients are exposed to a virtual environment simulating a flying experience. It allows them to work up to exposure to real-life flying situations gradually.
How long does it usually take to treat a fear of flying?
The length of time it takes to treat a fear of flying will vary depending on the anxiety's severity and the treatment used. Some people may see a reduction in their symptoms after just a few sessions of exposure therapy, while others may need to continue treatment for several weeks or months.
The Bottom Line:
Although conquering your fear of flying can seem daunting, following these 11 simple steps can make the process much easier.
Remember to be patient and take things one step at a time – before you know it, you will enjoy your next flight!