fear of flying

Fear of Flying

fear of flying

What is Aerophobia?

Aerophobia, otherwise known as the fear of flying or aviophobia, is a type of anxiety disorder triggered by an extreme sense of fear, panic, or worry about air travel. Air travel is considered the safest mode of transport, yet many people experience anxiety when they fly or even at the prospect of flying. If you have aerophobia, you will often suffer from increased anxiety and panic attacks at the thought of flying, when in an aircraft, or you may even avoid air travel altogether.

What Causes Fear of Flying?

Most people find air travel stressful, and certain aspects of flying, such as bad weather, travel delays, and take-off, can be particularly anxiety-inducing. It is difficult to discover the root cause of a fear of flying, but often this phobia is caused by various factors, including:

  • A traumatic flight or aircraft crash: Whilst airline crashes are infrequent, some people develop a fear of flying due to a traumatic experience with air travel. Perhaps you have encountered turbulence, mechanical problems, discomfort whilst flying, an emergency landing or been part of a crash. The psychological distress caused by these experiences could cause you to develop a fear of flying.
  • Lack of control: If you have aerophobia, it is likely triggered by an underlying fear of losing control of yourself. When you’re on a plane, you have no control over your situation or safety and have to put your full trust in the pilot and the cabin crew, which many people find very distressing.
  • Media exposure/hearing distressing testimonies: Often, your fear of flying will not be caused by a direct flight experience. Watching extensive media coverage of airline disasters can cause you to develop a fear of flying. Similarly, if your friend has had a bad air travel experience and then shares their distressing testimony with you, you will likely be more hesitant to use air travel. For example, many people developed aerophobia after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
  • Parental influence: If your parents have a fear of flying and actively avoid air travel, you may develop the phobia too, as your exposure level will be extremely low. This is a particularly common cause in children, but it can affect many adults as well.
  • Other related circumstances: Your aerophobia may have also developed due to a different conflict in your life. For example, if your fear of flying develops soon after starting a year of study abroad, and you have concerns about language barriers or education, this could be the root cause of your phobia. Likewise, children who must fly frequently to visit divorced parents sometimes develop aerophobia as a coping mechanism for the trauma of the divorce.

Additionally, your fear of flying could be triggered by certain other phobias and anxiety disorders, such as:

  • Claustrophobia: If you have claustrophobia, which is the irrational fear of confined spaces, you will often experience a fear of flying due to the cramped seating area and lack of personal space.
  • Acrophobia: Having acrophobia, otherwise known as an extreme fear of heights, can make you develop a fear of flying because most commercial aeroplanes sustain a cruising altitude of around 35,000 feet above sea level.
  • Social anxiety disorder: Many people who have social anxiety disorder will find air travel anxiety-inducing because they must spend long periods of time with strangers who can initiate conversation throughout the flight.
  • Germaphobia: Germaphobia is the excessive fear of germs. Therefore, if you have germaphobia, it is likely that you will develop a fear of flying because you will be uneasy about aeroplane cleanliness.
  • Emetophobia: Unfortunately, some people can suffer from nausea and vomiting when they use air travel, particularly if there is turbulence on the flight. This can be triggering if you have emetophobia, which is an extreme fear of vomiting, feeling sick, or watching other people vomit.
  • Physical symptoms: Sometimes, if you have certain a physical disorder, this can contribute to your fear of flying. For example, if you have a sinus infection, cold, or vertigo, you may suffer from pain, dizziness, or a worsening ear blocking sensation during your flight. Also, if you are at a higher risk of blood clots, such as if you have cardiovascular disease, this can prompt concerns about developing a worsening condition during a flight.

What are the Symptoms of Aerophobia?

If you have aerophobia, you will often experience persistent and intense anxiety when you travel by air or even at the prospect of flying. You may also experience anticipatory anxiety, which is when you experience the fear of flying long before your scheduled flight. Additionally, you may feel apprehensive, irritable, overly emotional, overwhelmed, or stressed. However, aerophobia can also manifest with physical symptoms, including:

  • Chills;
  • Chest pain, or shortness of breath;
  • Hyperventilating;
  • Difficulty concentrating, clouded thinking or disorientation;
  • Chest pain, feeling tight chested, or choking sensations;
  • Muscle spasms;
  • Flushed skin, or feeling overly hot;
  • Feeling nauseous or vomiting;
  • Diarrhoea or constipation;
  • Increased heart rate or heart palpitations;
  • Shaking;
  • Sweating;

In extreme cases, you may experience a panic attack, which is a sudden episode of intense fear that triggers physical and psychological symptoms, such as heart palpitations, feeling like you’re hallucinating, having a heart attack, or even dying.

What Treatments are Available if You Have a Fear of Flying?

If your fear of flying is having a detrimental impact on your life, you must get treatment for it. Hypnotherapy is a particularly effective and efficient complementary treatment for aerophobia, as it has little side effects and treats the psychological root cause of your anxieties so that they do not re-emerge later in life. However, patients often use this therapy alongside another form of talking treatment or medication, such as:

Talking treatments: talking treatments, such as counsellingcognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and mindfulness, have been very effective at treating aerophobia as they teach you sustainable coping methods that make your fear of flying more tolerable. However, one limitation of cognitive behavioural therapy is that often therapists will utilise exposure therapy by bringing the object that you fear into your sessions, which some patients find particularly anxiety-inducing. Therefore, if you believe that you would not benefit from exposure therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy probably isn’t for you.

Medication: Sometimes, medications, including antidepressants, tranquillisers, or beta-blockers, are prescribed on a short-term basis to treat the severe effects of aerophobia, such as anxiety. However, medication isn’t usually recommended for treating phobias because it tends to have side effects, such as nausea, dry mouth, headaches, sleeping problems, gastronomical issues, and sexual problems.

There are also several self-help techniques that you can implement in your life to manage your fear of flying, such as:

  • Be honest: You may be embarrassed to speak up about your fear of flying, but the first step to recovery is acknowledging that your phobia exists. Once you can be honest with yourself, you will be more likely to communicate with others about your fear, seek treatment, and tackle your phobia.
  • Get educated and educate others: Educate yourself on what could be triggering your fear of flying. Do you have claustrophobia, or do you struggle with turbulence? You can look online to find coping techniques for your anxieties. Furthermore, you may find reassurance in learning about safety regulations and pilot training, as it will help you feel safer on your flight. You can also educate those around you, speak to your cabin crew, and air any anxieties you have before the aircraft takes off.
  • Set travel goals: If you have a fear of flying, you may benefit from setting travel goals that involve air travel. If you aspire to go to a foreign country, you will be more likely to tackle your phobia as your positive attitude towards your travel destination may overpower your anxieties and make the prospect of flying more tolerable.
  • Ask for assistance: If you’re anxious before a flight, you can always speak to your cabin crew, friends, or therapist about your worries. If you feel that you have a support network on the aircraft, you may feel less intimated when travelling. 

Why Hypnotherapy is the Best Phobia Treatment? 

Our phobias exist in our subconscious, and we learn the fear responses to them. Therefore, hypnotherapy is particularly effective at treating phobias because it can help you unlearn the fear response, build up your exposure to the phobia and, in time, ease the associated anxiety. Please read our blog to find out how you can use hypnotherapy for phobias.

Why use Hypnotherapy for Aerophobia?

Essentially, aerophobia is a conditioned response, which means that every time you encounter your phobia (an aircraft), your behaviour reinforces and strengthens it. However, hypnotherapy for phobias could help you break this cycle as it treats its root cause, which will ensure that it does not resurface later in life. At Focused Hypnosis, your hypnotherapist will use guided relaxation techniques to help you achieve hypnosis, where you will become totally relaxed and usually more susceptible to suggestion. Your hypnotherapist will work with you to disassociate air travel with emotional distress and anxiety and help you deconstruct it so that it becomes more tolerable. Visit our blog to discover how does hypnotherapy work.

Benefits of Using Hypnotherapy to Treat Fear of Flying

  1. Hypnotherapy sends you into a deeply relaxed state of mind and body, which can have a massive impact on your physical health. It can reduce your nervous system activity, decrease your blood pressure, slow your heart rate, and accelerate your body’s healing process.
  2. Hypnotherapy for aerophobia empowers you to take control of your life, as it offers you the tools to deconstruct your fear and think about it more positively so that it becomes more tolerable when you meet it in real life.
  3. Unlike many other forms of psychological treatment, hypnotherapy is self-led, as you can control the methods that your hypnotherapist will use, and you can bring yourself out of the hypnotic state whenever you want to. 
  4. By learning how to control your fear of flying, hypnotherapy offers you independence, which allows you to take charge of your self-management and self-care.
  5. Hypnotherapy allows you to directly influence your future, as it delves into your unconscious to treat the root cause of your fear of flying so that it does not re-emerge later in life.
  6. Hypnotherapy is all-natural and has little side-effects or complications.
  7. Hypnotherapy is cost-effective and a cheaper option for psychological treatment, as it only requires around six sessions. Please read our blog to find out how much does hypnotherapy cost. 
  8. Hypnotherapy teaches you self-sufficient methods that can be practised and have effects that last for the rest of your life.

Potential Side Effects

When hypnosis is conducted by a trained hypnotherapist, therapist, or health care provider, it is generally considered a safe, complementary, and alternative psychological treatment. However, hypnosis can sometimes cause adverse reactions, such as:

  • Headaches
  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness 
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety or increased stress
  • Creation of false memories

It is important to remember that all medical treatments cause side effects, and these are rare among hypnotherapy patients.

Additionally, hypnosis may not be appropriate for people with serious mental disorders, such as:

  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Schizophrenia

What Happens During a Fear of Flying Hypnotherapy Session?

At Focused Hypnosis, your first flying phobia session will begin with your hypnotherapist explaining how hypnotherapy for phobias works. After that, you’ll agree on the methods that your hypnotherapist will use. When tackling phobias, some therapists use exposure therapy, which brings the thing or object that the patient fears into the room. However, many people find this anxiety-inducing, so if you believe that you would not benefit from this form of treatment, we will not use it.

Then, the hypnotherapist may:

  • Use guided relaxation techniques to help you achieve hypnosis;
  • Use your agreed method to achieve your goal. For example, advising that flying is the safest form of travel, so you should not fear it.
  • To conclude the session, your hypnotherapist will gradually bring you out of your trance-like state.

Does Hypnotherapy for Fear of Flying Work?

Hypnosis can be an effective, efficient, and accessible form of treatment if you need help tackling aerophobia. However, hypnosis is not the right form of treatment for everyone. For example, if you are not open to hypnosis, you will not achieve a trance-like state. Also, for some serious mental disorders, such as schizophrenia, hypnosis can have detrimental effects as it can create false memories.