People have always been fascinated with the sky and the idea of going up in the air. The long history of aviation didn't start with the Wright brothers. It started with kites, and manifested in the myth of Icarus.
Not all of us are enthusiastic about flying, though.
Aviophobia, also known as aerophobia, flight phobia, or flight anxiety, is an irrational and extreme fear of flying. It’s one of the more common phobias, with around two to six percent of people experiencing it. Though a lot more people are "somewhat" scared of flying, their fears aren't extreme enough to count as aviophobia. Aviophobia or not, flying can be a pretty stressful experience for a lot of us.
You’ve probably heard that the risk of being in a plane crash is incredibly low, and that you're infinitely more likely to die while crossing the street or driving to Walmart. Still, there’s no denying that it is pretty scary to be in an enclosed space high up in the sky — with no escape.
Some people find flying so scary that they may even experience panic attacks. If the thought of getting on a plane makes you anxious, how can you manage that flight anxiety? Let’s take a look at effective coping mechanisms that can make your trip a smooth experience.
What Exactly Is Aviophobia?
Phobias are types of anxiety disorders in which someone has a deep and (provably) irrational fear of something. Phobias tend to stick around, and people with phobias often spend a lot of time worrying and avoiding the thing or situation they fear.
Aviophobia is an extreme fear of flying. People with aviophobia may spend a lot of time worrying about planes, and be incredibly anxious while flying. They may also have panic attacks when flying — a terrifying experience that can leave you feeling like you're literally dying. Some symptoms you may experience if you have aviophobia include shortness of breath, shaking, nausea, chills, sweating, and heart palpitations.
Why do people develop aviophobia, though?
One of the more obvious reasons is the risk that the plane could crash. You could die. These fears could be sparked by a news report, or maybe you’ve already lost someone in a plane crash. You could also be scared of terrorism, induced by 9/11.
Some people who think they have aviophobia are instead afraid of heights (acrophobia) or enclosed spaces (claustrophobia). For some, the scariest part of flying is that once the plane takes off, you can’t get off. You’re stuck on that plane with no control until it lands.
This may lead to worries about having panic attacks on planes, especially if you've had panic attacks in the past. Being stuck many feet above the air while having a panic attack does sound pretty scary. There are, however, ways to cope.
Managing Anxiety On Planes
Flying can be pretty scary, especially if you come unprepared. Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can help manage your fear of flying.
Learn About Planes
The more you know about planes, and how low the risk of a plane crash really is, the less you’ll worry that you’ll be in a plane crash. The odds that you’ll be in a plane crash, are in fact, very low — less that one in a million. The risk that you’ll die in a plane crash is even lower.
Before your plane takes off, it goes through extensive safety checks to make sure that everything is in order.
If you still think that you’re plane may crash, feel free to look up more about how planes work and what makes them safe. Phobias are irrational by definition, but bringing the logical part of your brain to the forefront can help some people.
Take Deep Breaths
If you find yourself starting to worry, try taking a few deep breaths. When you’re anxious you may find it harder to breathe, so doing some breathing exercises can really calm you down. Try taking a deep breath in and a deep breath out until you start to feel a bit better.
Bring A Distraction
To combat your fear of flying, try bringing a distraction along. This could be something like a book you enjoy or watching your favorite show. You could also bring along a small puzzle, or draw on the plane. Small things like these can get your brain focused on something other than your fears.
You can even prepare a whole list of things to do while on your flight, to keep your brain busy the entire time.
Ask For Help
If you find yourself becoming really anxious, don’t be scared to ask for help. You could tell the person sitting next to you about your fears, or tell a flight attendant. Flight attendants are trained to deal with this type of thing, so feel free to tell them if you feel yourself slipping into a panic attack.
What To Do If You Have a Panic Attack on A Plane?
Even if you’ve prepared for your trip ahead of time, you may still worry about having a panic attack on a plane. What are you supposed to do when you have a panic attack on a plane? Relax. Take a deep breath. Tell yourself that everything is going to be alright, and that there is a very low risk that you will crash. You can try putting on some calming music as well.
Again, don’t hesitate to talk to others. It could really calm you down and your fellow passengers probably won’t mind helping you at all.
Remember that you are in safe hands, and soon enough you’ll be arriving at your destination safely.
Flying can be pretty scary, but with the right steps, you'll get used to it in no time. The more often you fly, the less scary it will be, because you'll know you survived last time and you can do it again. Just remember that it’s most likely you’ll be completely safe, and worrying that the plane crash isn’t going to help.
If these tips don't help, though, seeking professional help is a good option. A trained therapist can help you overcome your fear of flying with evidence-based therapeutic methods.