What is the Fear of Flying?

Fear of flying is a fear of being on an airplane (aeroplane), or other flying vehicle, such as a helicopter, while in flight. It is also referred to as flying phobia, flight phobia, aviophobia or aerophobia (although the last also means a fear of drafts or of fresh air).[1]

Fear of flying may be a distinct phobia in itself, or it may be an indirect combination of one or more other disorders, such as claustrophobia (a phobia of being restricted, confined, or unable to escape) or acrophobia (anxiety or dread of being at a great height). It may have other causes as well, such as agoraphobia (especially the type associated with having a panic attack in a place they can’t escape from). It is a symptom rather than a disease, and different causes may bring it about in different individuals.

This phobia receives more attention than most other phobias because air travel is often difficult for people to avoid—especially in professional contexts—and because it is common, affecting a significant percentage of the population. Inability to maintain emotional control when aloft may prevent a person from going on vacations or visiting family and friends, and it can cripple the career of a businessperson by preventing them from traveling on work-related business.

More than physical fear, it is also emotional fear. Fear, panic, and claustrophobia can develop when not in control.

As both a licensed Clinical Psychotherapist and a commercial airline Flight Attendant, I have specialized in the practical treatment of “fear of flying” for over the 23 years I have been flying. Combined with my formal psychotherapy training and experience, I have developed methods that are far more effective in treating fear of flying than those found anywhere else.

What is the “Fear” in people that Fear Flying?

It can, of course, be fear that one’s plane will crash. It can also be fear of fear itself: the fear that if they fly, they will panic. And, if they do, there will be no way to relieve the panic. Panic can happen in an elevator, on a bridge, in a tunnel, or even in an MRI scanner. But panic on an airplane is, for many people, their worst nightmare. At cruising altitude, relief is miles away. The plane will not land until it reaches its destination. The thought of being high up – held seemingly by nothing – is disturbing in itself. When the plane drops, it feels like the plane is falling out of the sky.

This is the reality a person with fear of flying endures. Meanwhile, there are millions of people who fly comfortably every day and my goal is that one day you will feel that comfort and the “beauty” of being in the air. Those comfortable with flying regulate stress through brain circuitry that works automatically and unconsciously. Although we all have this circuitry, in many of us, it has not been fully developed. Anxiety is controlled by being in control. Otherwise, there must be some means of escape, literally by walking away on their own two feet, or psychological by keeping the mind focused elsewhere, or by drugs or alcohol.

In the air, passengers have no control. Physical escape is impossible. The only option is psychological escape that keeps the flight out of mind. But when the plane drops and it is physically felt, that strategy falls apart. In turbulence, it is impossible to keep the flight out of mind. Relaxation exercises and breathing exercises no longer may work. Panic, or even terror, can set in.

There is a way out of this problem, physically. The answer is to more completely develop your ability to control feelings automatically, and apply this control directly to flying:

  • First, as the Flying Psychotherapist I will explain how flying works so you know how well-controlled everything is.
  • Second, I will enable you to fly as many comfortable fliers do. I will teach you the step-by-step process that trains your mind to control feelings automatically and unconsciously.
  • Third, an individual session is included to make sure the control is effectively established.

I understand that you have doubts. Everything I do will not work for everyone, but trying to make a change will be far more effective than sitting on your hands and not doing anything.