For many, flying is synonymous with vacation and relaxation, while for others, less fortunate, this form of transportation is a source of intense anxiety. The fear of flying affects nearly a third of the population. However, there are effective solutions to get rid of it and get the most out of travel.

What is fear?

Being afraid is useful since fear is the body’s warning system that warns us of potential danger. It occurs when the situation seems to get out of hand or when we believe that we no longer have any control. “Fear” can be defined as “a  feeling of anguish experienced in the presence or thought of a danger, real or perceived, or of a threat”.

Physiologically, fear comes down to a simple adrenaline rush. Its consequence is the increase in blood pressure and pulse so that you can run as quickly as possible in case of real danger. In addition, fear also helps stimulate the brain to find a solution to a problem or danger quickly. In addition, when we are afraid, all the senses are on alert in order to collect as much information as possible on the situation which generates the fear.

What is a phobia?

phobia is “a distressing and unjustified fear of a situation, an object or the accomplishment of an action “. Phobias are classified as anxiety disorders. When we talk of phobia, the fear that is felt is no longer physiological because it is not useful in the absence of danger. A phobia is a pathological fear that must be taken care of.

What is the fear of flying?

The fear of flying, also called aerophobia, is an unreasonable fear of flying. Anxiety arises when the patient learns of a planned plane trip. Although these individuals know that the plane is the safest form of transportation, the fear persists.

It is difficult to know the precise cause(s) of the fear of flying. In some individuals, a history of difficult travel (turbulence or anxiety in other means of transport) is reported. In the majority of cases, there is no specific history. In contrast, the fear of flying is very frequently coupled with other transport phobias.

Aerophobia Symptoms

People with a fear of flying experience travel anticipation anxiety the moment they learn of a planned trip. This anxiety is more and more important as the day of departure approaches and reaches its peak in the hours before the flight. Frequently, patients experience insomnia the night before travel. The discomfort is significant during the journey to the airport.

Once on the plane, the anxiety varies depending on the flight conditions and the person in question. It can be intense throughout the flight and associated with panic attacks, or it can fluctuate with periods of lull.

The aerophobic person is often hyper-vigilant throughout the flight. They pay attention to all environmental noises, especially those that might be disturbing.

This discomfort can lead some people to avoid air travel altogether. It can also be the cause of a professional handicap for individuals who have to make professional trips as part of their job.

Treatment for the fear of flying

The management of a fear of flying depends on the degree of disability associated with it.

Some airlines thus offer practical training courses. When the anxiety is too great and handicaps the patient, treatment by a psychologist or a psychiatrist becomes imperative. In the event of too great an impact on the quality of life of patients, phobias require, in fact, appropriate management. Cognitive-behavioral therapies associated with certain relaxation techniques have already proven their worth in the field of phobias. The psychotherapy employed is chosen according to the needs of each patient.

Thus, when the patient wishes to quickly suppress the symptoms of their phobia, cognitive behavioral therapy seems more suitable. This therapy involves gradually exposing the patient to the object or situation that triggers their fear until they can control their anxiety. Patients can get relief from their symptoms within a few sessions.

If the patient, on the other hand, wishes to do more in-depth work on themself in order to discover the origin of their phobia and above all to treat it in-depth, they can experiment with a longer analytical therapy. Hypnotherapy can also be used.

The use of drugs is rare in the management of phobias. Only one of them, social phobia, has recourse to it as a basic treatment. However, in the event of a lack of time due to a planned flight, it is possible to resort to anxiolytics.

Note that anxiolytics, generally benzodiazepines, are molecules with a high risk of dependence. It is therefore strongly recommended not to use them in the long term, or not to consider them as a definitive solution.

As an alternative to medication, it is possible to use certain relaxation techniques. They are generally focused on breathing and muscle relaxation. The goal is to turn your mind away from the object of the anguish, either by clearing your thoughts or by creating reassuring thoughts.

It is advisable to carry out the first sessions with a qualified professional in order to learn the right behaviors that will effectively relieve anxiety. The exercises will be then perfectly doable alone if necessary.

Cassidy Perry

A certified dietician specializing in diabetes care, Cassidy has over a decade of experience working with diverse patient backgrounds. She writes health-related articles for the Scientific Origin.