How To Overcome Fear Of Flying: Tips For Aerophobia

how to overcome fear of flying

Let's talk about how to overcome fear of flying. It's something many of us can relate to. For some, the mere mention of air travel is enough to make their palms sweaty and hearts race. If that sounds familiar, then I want you to know: it's okay, and you're not alone.

In fact, flight anxiety is a common experience that affects millions of people around the world. And no, it's not just you feeling an extra squeeze when the flight attendants start their safety demonstration or when you have to claim that dreaded aisle seat for a long flight.

So, why do some of us morph into a bundle of nerves the moment we step into an enclosed space like an airplane?

Well, the root cause can be different for everyone, and it often comes down to specific triggers. Maybe it's the idea of being high up in the sky, or perhaps it's feeling out of control. It's also possible that past experiences or negative thoughts are fueling your fear. Whatever the case, I'm here to tell you that it's perfectly normal, and even the most fearful flyers can overcome this fear.

What's important is that you acknowledge the fear. You're already taking the first step by reading this article, which tells me you're on the best way to conquer your fear. As a life coach with a background in psychology, I've seen firsthand how effective techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, controlled breathing exercises, and even a little help from our fellow passengers or a trusted family member can be in managing flight anxiety.

So, strap in, take a few deep breaths, and prepare for takeoff. Overcoming your fear of flying might not be the easiest journey, but with the right tools and mindset, you'll soon look forward to your next flight instead of dreading it. Trust me, the view from above is worth it!

What is Aerophobia?

Aerophobia, also known as the fear of flying, is a type of anxiety disorder that can transform the relatively simple act of getting on a plane into a nerve-racking experience. It's common among both seasoned travelers and those embarking on their first flight. Akin to other anxiety disorders, the symptoms can vary from mild nervousness to full-blown panic disorder. The anxious flyer's heart rate might spike at the mere thought of air travel, or a news story about a plane accident could trigger excessive worry.

But here's the good news – it's a manageable fear. Clinical psychologists, like New York City's Dr. Martin Seif, are known for helping nervous fliers understand the root of their fear. Is it a fear of heights, an unease of being out of their comfort zone, or the feeling of not being in control? Identifying the reason in the first place is key to working through it.

The best thing is that there are practical guides and professional help available to address this fear. In fact, millions of fearful fliers in the United States alone have successfully overcome their phobia, proving that taking that small plane trip outside your comfort zone might be a good idea after all.

Can Aerophobia be overcome?

Well, this would be a short article if the answer was no! Absolutely, aerophobia can definitely be overcome. It's a process, of course, but many people have successfully managed their fear and are now able to fly comfortably. There are several treatments and techniques available, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is a type of talk therapy that helps you understand and change thought patterns leading to harmful behaviors or distressing feelings. Exposure therapy is another option where you're gradually exposed to flying in a safe and controlled way until the fear begins to fade.

Besides professional therapies, there are also self-help strategies you can use. Mindfulness and relaxation techniques, like deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation, can help manage the symptoms of anxiety. In addition, educating oneself about the mechanics and safety of flying can also bring some relief. Remember, reaching out to professionals for help is a crucial step and there's no shame in doing so. Overcoming acrophobia is entirely possible and can lead to a more relaxed and enjoyable travel experience.

​Tips for How To Overcome The Fear Of Flying

Here are some things you can do to help improve your thoughts and feelings about flying. Give them a try and get ready to spread those wings!

1. Understand Your Fear

Understanding that your fear of flying, also known as aerophobia, is a specific phobic disorder can be an effective first step in dealing with it. Consulting a clinical psychologist or mental health professional can provide insights into the root cause of your fear.

2. Educate Yourself About Flying

Knowledge is power. Learn how planes work, the safety procedures they follow, and the fact that air travel is one of the safest modes of transportation. Patrick Smith, an airline pilot and author, has written extensively on this topic and his works can be a valuable resource.

3. Try Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy

In recent years, the use of virtual reality exposure therapy for treating various forms of anxiety, including fear of flying, has gained traction. This involves the use of video games and simulations to gradually expose you to the experience of flying in a controlled environment.

4. Use Relaxation Techniques

Deep breathing exercises and progressive muscle relaxation can help manage anxiety levels and prevent a full-blown panic attack. These techniques help calm the nervous system and can be very useful during flights.

5. Avoid the Middle Seat

If possible, avoid booking a middle seat. Having an aisle seat or a seat in the front of the plane may help reduce the feeling of being trapped and can provide easier access to the flight attendants if you need reassurance.

6. Plan Ahead

Dealing with a fear of flying often involves a lot of anticipatory anxiety. By booking flights well in advance with a trusted travel agent, you can help alleviate some of this stress. Try to avoid rush hours and long flight connections to make your travel experience as smooth as possible.

7. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Tom Bunn, a former commercial airline pilot and licensed therapist, developed SOAR, a form of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), to help fearful flyers. This therapy can help you change the negative thought patterns that trigger your anxiety.

8. Consider Medication

For some, anti-anxiety medication can be a helpful resource to manage severe fear and intense anxiety. Consult your healthcare provider to discuss if this option is suitable for you.

9. Practice Mindfulness

Being present and focusing on what's happening at the moment can help manage your fear. By concentrating on the experience, rather than what could potentially go wrong, you may find your anxiety levels decreasing.

10. Connect With Fellow Travelers

Don't be afraid to let a flight attendant or fellow travelers know that you're a nervous flyer. Often, people are more than willing to offer a few comforting words or distractions when turbulence hits or fear sets in.

Ready for Take Off

In wrapping up, let's remember that conquering the fear of flying, much like any form of anxiety, isn't a one-size-fits-all kind of deal. Everyone experiences their anxieties and fears in different ways and what works for one person may not work for another. It may take a lot of time, patience, and sometimes even professional help to make significant progress.

The practical methods and effective techniques discussed here, ranging from education about safety statistics to cognitive behavioral therapies, are designed to help ease feelings of anxiety and regain control in what can feel like an overwhelmingly fearful situation. Nervous flyers have found solace in everything from carefully chosen seats to distraction methods. Some have even found relief in seemingly unrelated methods such as dealing with motion sickness or channeling their focus on a good book or movie.

It's essential to remember that aerophobia, or fear of flight, despite being an irrational fear, is a very real and challenging anxiety disorder for those who experience it. Even with the knowledge that airplane crashes are extremely rare, and that air travel, as stated by the International Air Transport Association, is one of the safest modes of transportation, fear can persist.

However, the good times are on the horizon. With patience, persistence, and the right techniques, your fear of flying can be managed, making that dream vacation or that important business trip not just a possibility, but a reality. After all, our fears should never limit our ability to experience the world. So next time you book that plane ticket, remember, you have the tools to face and overcome your fear of flying.

Something to think about

Fear is ingrained in our DNA. It's something we developed over centuries - maybe longer - for one reason. To keep us alive. Fear can help us recognize danger and take steps to avoid it. So having flying fears is understandable. It's a big deal to a number of people around the world. 

However, fear can hold us back when approaching the unknown. It can create false perceptions of an unlikely future. As much as fear is a tool for survival, it's also about control. One of the most effective ways I've gotten over fear in my life is to let go. To get comfortable with that lack of control.

When getting on the plane, I put my trust in the pilot, the plane, and everything that comes with them. With acceptance, the general anxiety goes away, and you can spend less time worrying about different things that can happen, but probably won't. Enjoy the experience, and enjoy your trip!