Many people experience a fear of flying, also known as aviophobia or aerophobia, which is more than just discomfort or unease about air travel. It is an intense anxiety that can manifest as anything from mild nervousness to severe panic attacks, profoundly impacting one’s ability to travel by plane.
What is Aviophobia?
Aviophobia, or fear of flying, is a specific phobia characterized by an intense, irrational fear of air travel. People with aviophobia may experience significant anxiety at the thought of flying, and this fear can be triggered by various aspects of flying, such as fear of heights, enclosed spaces, or loss of control.
How Common is Aerophobia?
Aerophobia, or the fear of flying, is a relatively common phobia, with an estimated prevalence of around 6.5% of the general population. However, the severity of aerophobia can vary widely, ranging from mild anxiety to full-blown panic attacks.
While aerophobia can affect people of all ages and backgrounds, it is more common among women than men, and tends to develop in early adulthood.
Who's at Risk of Developing Aerophobia?
Anyone can develop aerophobia or the fear of flying, but certain factors may increase a person's risk of developing this phobia. Some common risk factors for aerophobia include:
Previous traumatic experience: People who have experienced a traumatic event during a previous flight, such as severe turbulence or a near crash, may develop a fear of flying.
Family history: A family history of anxiety disorders or phobias can increase the risk of developing aerophobia.
Lack of control: People who feel like they have no control over the flying experience, such as being unable to leave the aeroplane during a flight, may be more likely to develop aerophobia.
Anxiety and stress: High levels of stress or anxiety in general can make a person more susceptible to developing aerophobia.
Health issues: People who suffer from certain health issues, such as claustrophobia, panic disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), may be more likely to develop aerophobia.
What are the Symptoms?
Aerophobia, or the fear of flying, can cause a wide range of symptoms, both physical and psychological. Here are some common symptoms of aerophobia:
Physical symptoms: People with aerophobia may experience physical symptoms such as rapid heartbeat, sweating, trembling, difficulty breathing, chest pain or discomfort, nausea, or a feeling of choking or suffocating.
Psychological symptoms: Aerophobia can also cause psychological symptoms such as intense anxiety or panic attacks, feelings of dread or impending doom, a sense of loss of control, or a fear of dying.
Avoidance behaviours: People with aerophobia may avoid situations that involve flying or travelling by air, such as declining invitations to travel, planning longer road trips, or making excuses to avoid air travel.
Preoccupation with flight-related news or events: People with aerophobia may become preoccupied with news stories or events related to air travel, and may seek reassurance from others that they will be safe.
Interference with daily life: Aerophobia can interfere with a person's daily life, causing them to miss out on opportunities or experiences that involve air travel.
What Treatments are Available?
Some common treatments for aerophobia include:
Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. CBT for aerophobia may involve exposure therapy, where the person gradually faces their fear of flying in a controlled and supportive environment.
Medications: Certain medications, such as anti-anxiety medications or beta-blockers, may be prescribed to help manage the physical symptoms of anxiety associated with aerophobia.
Relaxation techniques: Learning and practising relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help manage anxiety and panic symptoms.
Education and preparation: Education about how aeroplanes work and what to expect during a flight can help ease some of the fears associated with flying. Preparing for a flight, such as packing early and arriving at the airport early, can also help reduce anxiety.
Virtual reality exposure therapy: Virtual reality technology simulates the experience of flying in a controlled environment, allowing individuals to confront and overcome their fear of flying gradually.
Treating Aviophobia with Hypnotherapy
One effective approach to overcoming the fear of flying is through hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy is a type of therapy that uses hypnosis to help individuals manage their anxiety and fear associated with flying. Through hypnosis, individuals can access the subconscious mind and reframe their thoughts and feelings about flying. This can help them feel more relaxed and in control during the flight, reducing their fear and anxiety.
The Process of Hypnotherapy
During hypnotherapy, the therapist may guide the person into a relaxed state and use suggestion techniques to help the person associate positive emotions and feelings of calm with the experience of flying. The therapist may also help the person uncover and address any underlying issues or traumas contributing to their fear of flying.
Hypnotherapy can be used on its own or with other therapies, such as cognitive-behavioural therapy, to help the person overcome their fear of flying. However, it's important to note that hypnotherapy should only be conducted by a trained and licensed professional, as it involves inducing an altered state of consciousness and can have potential risks if not done correctly.
Additional Strategies Alongside Hypnotherapy
Understanding how planes work and the safety statistics of air travel can alleviate some of the fear. Education about the mechanisms of flying and safety procedures can demystify the flying process.
Gradually exposing oneself to the idea of flying, through steps like visiting an airport or watching videos of planes taking off, can desensitise the fear response.
Breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation can be practised to manage anxiety during flights.
Support from a therapist or group therapy programs can offer additional coping strategies. Discussions with flight attendants about fears may also provide reassurance.
Making the First Step
Fear of flying can be a challenging phobia to overcome, but with the right approach, including hypnotherapy, it is possible to manage and even overcome this fear. Hypnotherapy offers a safe and effective way to address the root causes of aviophobia, helping individuals gain confidence and enjoy the freedom of air travel.