The fear of flying is called aviophobia and according to an article “Flying Phobia” on the website Phobia-Help.com, as many as 20% of people have some degree of fear when flying. Other reports place this as high as 40% to 50% of all people flying feel some fear.
Flying in a necessary form of travel for many people in the United States and around the world. Families are more spread out today. In order to visit with family over holidays, air travel may be the only option. Jobs may require people to travel. A fear of flying could severely interfere in personal and job opportunities.
Flying is stressful. There are long lines, heightened security, and searches that can feel like an invasion of privacy. There is the added fear of terrorism. All of this is on top of the fear that something may go wrong with the plane while in the air. All of these can be triggers for people with anxiety.
A number of other triggers are also present when flying. Many of these triggers are caused by different types of phobias, such as:
- Fear of heights
- Fear of being in enclosed or crowded areas
- Fear of being over water
- Social anxiety, fear of close proximity to strangers
Fear of flying can develop even after years of flying or can be present in people that have never flown before.
The fear of flying can cause panic attacks. The symptoms of those are the same as the symptoms for other phobias:
- Muscle tension
- Rapid heart beat
- Shortness of breath
- Trouble concentrating
Suggestions for Making Flying Easier
There are a number of steps people can take to eliminate some of the stress involved in air travel and therefore decrease the triggers for anxiety.
Use nonstop flights whenever possible. People are often most anxious during take-offs and landings. Minimizing these during air travel can minimize some of the stress.
Look for emergency exits. It may be reassuring to know where the emergency exits are in the plane. Emergency exits are not always located in the same place.
Look to flight attendants for guidance. Flight attendants are aware of any new laws or regulations regarding air travel as well as safety measures. If a flight attendant asks you to do something, follow their instructions.
Follow rules regarding what items you can bring on a flight. There are limits to the amount of liquids you can carry with you and how they must be packaged. There are limits to the size and weight of carry on luggage. Pay attention to these rules to avoid having a problem at check in.
Fly on larger aircraft. Larger aircraft offer a higher chance of survival should an accident occur.
Stay away from alcohol. Alcohol can increase anxiety symptoms. Reducing or eliminating alcohol can help you to stay alert.
Airlines around the country also offer classes and workshops on overcoming fear of flying. Check your local airport website to find out if there is a class offered near you.
Talk with your doctor about a short acting anxiety medication. It may be beneficial for you to take an anti-anxiety medication before and during your flight to minimize symptoms of anxiety.
Avoiding air travel is not always possible or beneficial for people. There are ways, however, to make this easier.
“Airports Address Fear of Flying”, 2008, July 28, Harriet Baskas, USA Today
“Travel Tips: Tips for Safer Flying”, 2008, Seth B., Fear of Flying Tips
“Fear of Flying Warning Signs”, Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Airsafe.com
“Fear of Flying Phobias”, Date Unknown, Author Unknown, Phobias-help.com
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.