Scared of flying? You’re not alone. Many people are afraid of flying, and the fear can range from feeling a little tense during takeoff and landing to refusing to set foot on a plane. Fear of flying is also referred to as flying phobia or aviophobia.
Fear of flying is a real thing
Fear of flying is an actual condition. Aviophobia is classified as an anxiety disorder and is considered a specific phobia. It means that an individual has increased anxiety and excessive fear related to flying, or the thought of flying.
Many different experiences and feelings can trigger aviophobia. Real-life traumatic events can trigger it. Witnessing traumatic events or being exposed to negative news stories from such events can also trigger this anxiety.
Thankfully, aviophobia is a recognized and diagnosable anxiety disorder and can be treated.
How to overcome your fear of flying
Here are some useful strategies that can help ease your anxiety and help you overcome your fear of flying:
1. Increase your level of relaxation
Learn and practice how to relax in stressful or fearful situations. This way when you start feeling anxious, you can use those techniques to calm yourself down. The easiest one to use is deep breathing. Use deep breathing to calm yourself down wherever you are at the moment when you need to. Whenever you feel your stress level rising, take a few deep breaths in and out.
Meditation apps can also help. We’ve personally tried and liked Headspace. Just pop in your earphones and pick from any number of guided meditation sessions. There’s even one called Fear of Flying, and plenty more to choose from that address stress and anxiety more generally.
2. Distract yourself
If you are on the plane and getting anxious or fearful, do something to distract your mind. When we are anxious or nervous, our thoughts end up spiraling very quickly. Keep your mind busy. Talk to your neighbor, look through the in-flight magazine, watch a movie, listen to music, or read a book you’ve brought.
If you know you feel distressed on planes, pack things to take your mind off the situation. Don’t rely on the in-flight entertainment, as you know best the kinds of activities you find most absorbing.
3. Rewire your brain to associate planes with relaxation
If you aren’t at a point where you can get on a plane, then start slow. Try looking at photos or videos of planes while using deep breathing techniques to encourage the association of planes with feelings of calm.
4. Seek professional help
If your fear of flying is impacting your daily functioning, causing distress, or gets in the way of you fulfilling your responsibilities, it may help to consult a healthcare professional. Some individuals benefit from anti-anxiety medication to help ease their fears. Therapists can also treat this type of anxiety through a combination of exposure therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and relaxation training.
They sometimes combine such treatments with medication to achieve the best outcomes. Specifically, look for a CBT specialist who treats anxiety, or speak to your primary care physician about anti-anxiety medication.
Having a fear of flying might be more common than you think. Aviophobia is a real anxiety disorder that can be treated, no matter how mild or severe your symptoms. We all deserve a little more calm when it comes to travel!
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