One of the most common fears that people experience in their daily lives is a fear of flying. A person’s issues with flying on an airplane can range anywhere from mild worry or anxiety to an intense fear that could prevent them ever traveling by air. Tragedies in the news involving plane crashes and emergency landings can make people very anxious about the dangers of flying.
News stories about plane crashes have a tendency to amplify normal traveling nervousness and give people a more dangerous image of flying. In spite of tragic events covered on the news, the reality is that these kinds of accidents are extremely rare and commercial airplanes are safer than they have ever been. The odds of being involved in a plane crash are extremely small and the typical commercial flight usually goes smoothly for passengers.
In spite of the relative safety of traveling on an airplane, people may still find it hard to overcome their feelings of anxiety about flying. They may have irrational fears that are overwhelming and cause them to avoid ever taking a plane when they need to travel. However, it is possible to minimize feelings of anxiety about flying and learn to feel more comfortable on an airplane.
Fear of Flying Symptoms
Some people may not completely understand how their fear of flying is affecting them and what they can do about it. Feeling nervous before a flight can be natural but in some cases a person’s feelings of anxiety can escalate and even cause a panic attack. People with a serious fear of flying have many physical and emotional symptoms that are triggered when they fly or prepare for a flight.
Some flying anxiety symptoms may include:
- A feeling that you have lost control
- Muscle tension
- Pounding heart
- Labored breathing
- Repeatedly running crash scenarios or images through your mind
- Impaired memory
- Clouded judgement
People who have these symptoms on an airplane may find their traveling experience uncomfortable and even unbearable. They may attempt to avoid flying altogether so that they can prevent the kind of physiological and mental anxiety that they go through on a plane. Fortunately many of these symptoms can be managed and minimized with certain strategies and tactics.
Understanding and Treating Flying Anxiety
What causes someone to have such extreme anxiety about flying? It can have different causes depending on the individual but many people have experienced trauma that caused them to be afraid of flying. They could have been on an airplane when they were young that experienced severe turbulence or had to take part in an emergency landing.
A person’s past experiences on an airplane can make it hard for them to get over the feeling that flying is not safe. Some people who are afraid of flying already have issues of panic attacks that can occur in other situations. They could have had a different type of traumatic experience that causes anxiety in various areas of their life including being on an airplane.
One of the things to understand about flying anxiety is that it is typically not based on any real danger. Even if someone has experienced a flight with heavy turbulence, it doesn’t mean that flying can never be safe for them. People with flying anxiety trick themselves into believing that their fear is accurate and based on a legitimate threat.
In order to minimize and dispel some of the fears that people have about flying it is important for them to be exposed to being on an airplane. Avoiding the situation will only intensify and validate their fears that they can’t handle flying. Being on a plane and coping with symptoms as they occur is the best way to help people realize their fears are unfounded.
When feelings of anxiety occur it is more helpful to actually face them and acknowledge them instead of avoiding them or finding a way to stop them. Fighting feelings of panic can actually make those feelings much worse. Accepting those feelings and experiencing them can make them gradually disappear and run their natural course.
Talking to a therapist about your flying fears can give you insight into why you have those feelings and what strategies you can take to overcome them. A therapist can suggest certain exercises to use on a plane such as deep breathing for relaxation or techniques to stay in the present moment. Getting professional advice can make flying anxiety much easier to manage.
Flying anxiety can make traveling much harder but learning how to cope with the emotions that occur can make it possible to continue flying when necessary. After flying many times and getting past those feelings of anxiety, someone with a fear of flying with eventually realize that planes are safe and they can travel by plane with relative comfort and ease.