As technology advances and even far flung corners of the world are easily accessible, air travel has become increasingly common, and in some cases essential. Many businesses rely on sending their staff across the globe to seal a deal or pacify an important customer.
However, up to 25% of people have a fear of flying, which in extreme cases is referred to as Aerophobia. This excessive fear of flying can cause sufferers huge distress and have an impact on their personal and professional lives. In extreme cases, just the very thought of flying can invoke a severe panic attack.
Frequently associated with other phobias, Aerophobia can be difficult to cure, but by no means impossible. If the fear of flying is holding you back in life, read on. Discover the most common causes and symptoms, and the various methods one can use to overcome the fear of flying.
CAUSES OF AEROPHOBIA
Aerophobia is frequently associated with other phobias, most commonly the fear of enclosed spaces (Claustrophobia) and the fear of heights (Acrophobia). The cabin is generally short of space, which can be a nightmare for a claustrophobic, who may feel as if there is no escape. This is also true of those suffering from Agoraphobia, who may fear having a panic escape and not being able to escape.
Many sufferers simply worry that the plane will crash, leaving them very little chance of survival. This wariness is fairly widespread, but in the case of Aerophobia, the worry soon becomes stark terror. The fear of not being in control of the situation, and not knowing exactly what is going on – especially during turbulence – is another factor.
Traumatic past experiences can also play a role, especially in childhood. A particularly rough flight could leave a child terrified of flying forever. The result is more probable if the parents also suffer from Aerophobia, and are unable to reassure themselves, let alone their children.
Research has shown that genetics can play a role, and that Aerophobia can be hereditary. Others argue that those with Aerophobic parents are more likely to learn the fear of flying from them.
Physical conditions such as tinnitus may also lead to Aerophobia, as a result of the worsening of their condition during flying. The same is true of those suffering from cardiovascular disorders, which can lead to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) while flying.
Finally, the perceived increased threat of terrorism or hijacking has caused many people to fear flying. News reports and movies exacerbate the problem, making it seem more likely that something will happen.
SYMPTOMS OF AEROPHOBIA
Flying will typically lead to an anxiety attack, with sufferers feeling dizzy and nauseous. Additional symptoms include crying, feeling powerless, profuse sweating, increased heartbeat, shortness of breath and possibly fainting. In some cases, the sufferer may become aggressive to those nearby.
In more extreme cases, these symptoms will manifest before stepping onto the plane, and can occur in the airport or departure lounge, leading to drinking, depression or anger. The anticipation of flying can take over every waking thought, preventing sleep, work and social enjoyment.
A complete avoidance of flying is also common. This can again impact quality of life, and limit the opportunities open to the sufferer, especially in a professional context.
The favored techniques include a blend of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) and Exposure Therapy. After learning a number of relaxation techniques to combat anxiety attacks, patients are slowly exposed to their fear, until they are able to control it. In CBT, therapists aim to discover the root of the patients fear. They then instill positive thoughts regarding flying, replacing the detrimental negative ways of thinking. Virtual Reality Therapy doesn’t seem to be overly effective.
In less extreme cases, simply educating oneself as to what is going on during a typical flight can help. In conjunction with self-taught relaxation techniques, patients can overcome their fear, as they have a little more understanding. Specialized courses, run by pilots and other specialists, are a great option.
Hypnotherapy can work in the same way as CBT, but by talking directly to the unconsciousness and using subliminal therapy, results can often be achieved quicker. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) works in the same way, with therapy sessions and self-help exercises having great results.
BENEFITS OF OVERCOMING FEAR OF FLYING
By overcoming Aerophobia, the world literally grows. There are opportunities to travel for pleasure, with friends or family, or by yourself. Those exotic vacations you’ve always wanted to enjoy are suddenly doable.
In a professional sense, there are far more opportunities to advance. By flying to meetings on the other side of the globe, you can begin to advance to higher positions. You could even learn new skills, such as parachuting or flying a plane yourself!