Hope and Help for Fearful Flyers

Does the thought of getting on a plane make your palms sweat? If so, you are not alone. Most people have some nervousness about flying. However, the amount of fear varies a lot among people. Some travelers are mildly uneasy during plane trips. Others feel such fear that they refuse to fly. They will not fly to see loved ones or take jobs that involve flying.

Before you seek help, consider your level of fear. Are you uneasy, uptight, or panicked? Do you need to make a few changes or seek professional help?

What Causes Fear of Flying

News of accidents, near misses, and terrorist attacks can frighten any traveler. When these events happen, people become more fearful. Some even stop flying.

Other things that can lead to fear of flying are:

  • An upsetting experience when flying, such as:
    • A rough, bouncy flight
    • Mechanical problems
  • Having too much stress in your life
  • Worrying about a future panic attack
  • Being in an enclosed space for a long period of time

Anxious flyers must take action to deal with their feelings. There are many ways to do this. Here are some tips.

Tips for the Just Plane Scared

To ease your anxiety:

  • Learn more about airports, airplanes, airlines, and air traffic systems. Use a bookstore, library, or the Internet. Also, know all the safety and emergency instructions.
  • Do not watch a lot of news. It can add to your fears.
  • Get to the airport early. Rushing can contribute to nervousness.
  • Get some exercise. Take a long walk in the airport.
  • Bring comfort items, like a small pillow or thin blanket.
  • Drink enough water to prevent dehydration.
  • Do not use caffeine, diet pills, or other stimulant drugs. They can make you feel more nervous.
  • Stay busy. Listen to soothing music, watch a movie, read a great book, or work.
  • Practice deep breathing and relaxation techniques.

Extreme Help for Extreme Cases

If you refuse to fly no matter what, you may have a phobia. Phobias are excessive, irrational fears. The best way to get over a phobia is to face it head on. You may be able to overcome your fear, or at least learn how to control it. Maybe you can finally take that dream vacation. Phobias may be treated with:

  • Virtual reality therapy—use digital images that slowly expose you to an entire flight
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy—changing your behaviors to help you cope with your fear
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Medicines—can help you relax, but work best with other therapies to ease fear
  • Support groups
  • An airline-run self-help group

If you think you have a phobia, talk to your doctor.

RESOURCES:

Anxiety Disorders Association of America
http://www.adaa.org

National Institute of Mental Health
http://www.nimh.nih.gov

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Anxiety Disorders Association of Canada
http://www.anxietycanada.ca

Canadian Psychological Association
http://www.cpa.ca

REFERENCES:

Don't let fear of flying ground you. University of Florida Health Science Center website. Available at: https://podcasts.ufhealth.org/don%E2%80%99t-let-fear-of-flying-ground-you/. Accessed October 25, 2021.

How can I overcome my fear of flying? Anxiety and Depression Association of America website. Available at: https://adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/ask-expert/how-can-i-overcome-my-fear-of-flying. Accessed October 25, 2021.

How to conquer your fear of flying. AARP website. Available at: https://www.aarp.org/health/conditions-treatments/info-2021/overcoming-fear-of-flying.html. Accessed October 25, 2021.

Specific phobia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/specific-phobia. Accessed October 25, 2021.

Last reviewed October 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board   Last Updated: 10/25/2021