The phobia of flying is a disorder that may be influenced by other fears, is situational and interferes with a person’s daily life and social functioning. People experiencing flying phobia would also suffer anxiety when taking a flight and may also rely on alcohol or anxiolytics in order to fly. Some 10% of people also avoid completely flying due to the intensity of their fear (Campos, 2019). Other manifestations of this phobia would include increased anxiety, increased heart rate, sweating, gastro-intestinal problems, panic attacks. Increased preoccupation and thoughts about crashing, technical problems, social embarrassment, rumination on recent or past traumatic events shared on the media, etc…
How can a flying phobia be treated?
Psychotherapy and Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy
Therapy gives space to the client to express the worries and come into contact with the emotions being aroused by the phobia. It offers a space to look at the thoughts and self-talk associated with the flying experience which in turn leads the client to learn new ways to challenge these. The client is encouraged to learn more about statistics, technical details about what happens during the flight. Therapy would also be useful to create some exposure to the situation via visualisation techniques and eventually by actually taking a flight in order to apply the skills learnt or new responses learnt and role played during the session itself.
This is useful to target physical symptoms associated with the phobia, for example the nausea and anxiety. This is best done in combination with therapy and may be used for a short time only.
Persons suffering from flight phobia can take the opportunity to learn more about how an airplane works, why turbulence occurs and what the pilot does in such situations. They may also plan how to structure their time depending how long the flight is, and how they may engage in relaxation techniques. Identification of triggers and irrational thoughts is also important. Once these are identified and acknowledged, the person has more skills to counter them and develop more realistic and helpful thoughts.
In addition to all of these, it is important to find support and talk about your fears with the people who would accompany you during a flight. Many people would feel shame or embarrassment about their phobia and try to face it alone, if they decide not to avoid flying completely. By explaining one’s situation to others, you are adding more support to yourself especially during the flight itself.
If you are struggling with issues like this one, you can book an appointment with a professional here.
Abigail Church is a Humanistic Integrative Counsellor who works with adults and children through counselling with Willingness. She can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 79291817.
References & Bibliography:
- Campos D, Bretón-López J, Botella C, et al. Efficacy of an internet-based exposure treatment for flying phobia (0RW1S34RfeSDcfkexd09rT2NO-FEAR airlines1RW1S34RfeSDcfkexd09rT2) with and without therapist guidance: A randomized controlled trial. BMC Psychiatry. 2019;19. https://ejournals.um.edu.mt/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/efficacy-internet-based-exposure-treatment-flying/docview/2193976279/se-2. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12888-019-2060-4.
- 1. Oakes M, Bor R. The psychology of fear of flying (part I): A critical evaluation of current perspectives on the nature, prevalence and etiology of fear of flying. Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease. 2010;8(6):327-63. https://ejournals.um.edu.mt/login?url=https://www.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/psychology-fear-flying-part-i-critical-evaluation/docview/1027137207/se-2?accountid=27934. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tmaid.2010.10.001.