Extreme Fear Of Flying: What Is Aerophobia, Symptoms, How To Get Over It (And More)
Do you experience chills at the thought of flying? Do you become nauseous right before you board a plane? If yes, then you might have an extreme fear of flying, also known as aerophobia.
One of the most common specific phobias, the fear of flying is experienced by almost 40% of people. And while many people are scared of flying, only a small percentage of people meet the diagnostic criteria for the phobia.
Whether or not your phobia is self-rated or professionally diagnosed, it can still have serious impacts on your overall wellness and quality of life.
In this blog, let’s take a look at what is aerophobia, its symptoms, what causes it, and how you can overcome the fear of flying.
What Does Aerophobia Mean?
Aerophobia or the fear of flying is a kind of anxiety disorder that causes a person to experience extreme anxiety, panic, or fear when they board a plane or think about traveling by air.
Many people experience uneasiness or stress when they travel by air. For some, the feeling of being in a closed space, turbulence, and feelings when taking off and landing can be unpleasant. But for others, who experience the extreme fear of flying try to avoid flying altogether as it causes them intense anxiety and panic.
Do You Have The Fear Of Flying?
If you have aerophobia or the fear of flying then along with anxiety you may experience these symptoms:
- Choking sensation
- Distorted thinking
- Upset stomach
- Increased heart rate
- Flushed skin
- Shortness of breath
In some extreme cases, you may experience a panic attack with symptoms such as erratic heart rate, derealization, and fear of dying.
Many people may feel comfortable until they board the plane and others may experience discomfort at the thought of traveling by air. This experience can be termed anticipatory anxiety. This type of anxiety is when you experience symptoms of anxiety long before the day of your flight.
What Causes Aerophobia?
There are no known causes of aerophobia but many factors can contribute to your fear of flying. The reasons can be a mix of social, psychological, or situational factors. Some common causes of aerophobia may include:
- Past Trauma: If you’ve experienced a past traumatic event that involved a plane crash or accident then you may develop aerophobia. Even watching news coverage that showed a plane crash can be a factor.
- Environmental: If someone in your family has a fear of flying then you may have internalized their fear as your own. You can pick up fear from others but if a parent is struggling with the fear, then they might be the more likely factor.
- Psychological: Your fear of flying can also be related to an underlying personal conflict. For example, children with divorced parents who need to travel by air to visit might develop aerophobia as a coping mechanism as a result of the divorce.
The fear of flying is in itself debilitating but it can feel extreme if you have other hidden or visible anxiety disorders or phobias. Such as:
- Claustrophobia: If you have claustrophobia, then you may be scared of flying because of the confined environment or lack of space.
- Acrophobia: If you have the fear of heights then it can also cause you to experience aerophobia.
- Germaphobia: If you have a fear of germs or getting infected, then your fear of flying can make it harder for you to sit in a plane for long periods.
Other physical disorders that can cause fear of flying can be:
- Sinus: If you have sinus problems or ear blockage problems then flying can cause you to feel dizzy thus contributing to your fear of flying.
- Vertigo: If you have conditions such as vertigo, ear disorders, or cold then these too can cause you extreme discomfort during your travels.
Can Aerophobia Be Treated?
Luckily, there are ways you can treat your fear of flying. Aerophobia treatment can include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is usually the most recommended therapy approach to treat specific phobias. With this approach, you can learn to focus on changing your negative thoughts and form effective and healthy coping techniques to minimize your fearful responses.
- Exposure Therapy: Another approach when it comes to aerophobia treatment can include exposure therapy. In this therapy, you work with a professional who gradually exposes you to your fear of either virtual reality or flight simulation. This is done in a controlled environment.
- Medications: If you have an extreme fear of flying that causes you to experience panic attacks or anxiety attacks, then a psychologist may prescribe some medications to control your symptoms such as anxiety, nausea, or dizziness.
Medications can be useful but they give only temporary relief. It is recommended that you combine medications with psychotherapy. Also, please consult with your physician before taking any medications as many may have side effects.
How To Overcome The Fear Of Flying?
Apart from professional treatments, you can also try the following ways to get over the fear of flying:
- Educate Yourself: One way to get over the fear of flying is to self-educate yourself about the mechanisms of the plane, why turbulence occurs, and what happens during the flight. This can help make the trip less scary.
- Recognize Your Thoughts: Catastrophic thinking is a big part of a phobia so you need to recognize the negative thoughts when they pop up and replace them with positive or realistic ones.
- Understand Your Triggers: When you experience anxiety over traveling by air, notice the situation that triggers your anxiety. When you understand what triggers your fear or anxiety, you can try to avoid or eliminate them.
- Try Relaxation Exercises: Create a self-care travel kit if you have fear of flying. You can also try to practice breathing exercises, grounding exercises, or progressive muscle relaxation (PMR) when you feel anxious.
If you’re struggling with the fear of flying, then it is recommended that you speak with a professional to get the proper diagnosis first. Only a professional can diagnose your phobia and other underlying disorders that may be contributing to your fear of flying.
Fear of flying or aerophobia can leave a lasting impact on your life and overall wellness. Fortunately, with the right treatment and coping techniques, you can overcome the fear of flying and travel without being scared.
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