Video by Jenny, text by Dr. Carandang
Hi. It’s Jenny at AnxietyBoss.com. Our question today is from Sam in Portland. I am terrified of flying. After hearing treacherous stories of plane crashes and tragic events, how do other people stay calm when they travel?
It’s because the other people you see on the plane who are calm do not have a fear of flying. The fear of flying is also called flying/flight phobia, aviophobia, or aerophobia. The fear of flying may also be due to other phobias, like agoraphobia (fear having a panic attack in a place where there is no help), claustrophobia (fear of closed, confined spaces), or acrophobia (fear of heights). People with a fear of flying avoid airplanes, and this avoidant behavior only serves to make the anxiety and worse.
There may be many reasons that you are experiencing this fear of flying. Maybe you are anxious about the plane crashing. Do you feel that you are trapped? That you may run out of air? That you are too high off the ground? That the people on the plane with you are dangerous?
Well, rest assured, you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 25 percent of Americans experience some sort of flying related fear. Before flight, it may help meditating; yes, meditating. This will slow down your nervous system and help you clear your mind before your trip. Try to remind yourself of all of the great things that you’ll be experiencing once you land. Actually, flying is the safest way to travel. It’s much safer than traveling on the ground.
If statistics don’t put your mind at ease, there are workshops that you can attend to better help overcome this phobia. There are also books, websites, even apps to assist you. Exposure to the fear is key, so although you will not start out with flying, you may start exposing yourself to less threatening flying fears…maybe you start with a picture of an airplane; then after you can handle that, you go on to visualizing flight in your mind; then you may eventually see an airplane in person, then eventually board and just sit in the seat; then maybe the next time you can book a flight an go on a fun vacation as a reward. This is called gradual desensitization, and with this technique, you are able to eventually face your fears of flying.
Other people who may seem calm when flying have probably done it several times before. There are people who take trips every week for their job. This is something that you need to get used to and also to overcome in order to travel anxiety-free.