For many people, the idea of travel is enticing except for one important part: airplanes. Like traveling alone, fears of air travel can keep a person from boarding a plane and with little or no options to visit a new destination.
Out of the people who fly in the U.S. alone, between 2.5 and 6.5%, about 10-20 million people, are afraid of flying.
What makes people scared of flying? Further, how can they overcome this phobia to get through a flight?
According to medical professionals, the fear of flying is primarily based on bad experiences that people have encountered. That can include personal memories from a bad flight or that people they know have experienced.
Some mental health professionals speculate that aviophobia, as it is called, is a combination of triggers that cause a person great anxiety when they must fly in an aircraft.
For example, an individual who is claustrophobic may have a tough time flying because they feel trapped even though they are not. The close atmosphere and the feeling of not having a way out to escape can cause someone intense anxiety. The feeling may even build up to the point of an anxiety attack.
The person who is claustrophobic has not had a bad experience while in flight, per se. Although, their phobia of close surroundings triggers the fear of flying.
Another reason why individuals may be afraid to fly is that they do not like the turbulence they’ve dealt with in previous flights. Thousands of feet in the air, they could fear that the plane will crash.
Although the outcome is incredibly rare, these are valid fears.
But, airplanes are designed to endure turbulence. Yes, there are accidents, and just as with car accidents, plane crashes happen. It’s key to remember though that they are far and few between. Truth be told, there are more car accidents each year than plane crashes.
According to professionals, some of the best ways to overcome aviophobia are to:
Conduct your own research about planes and how they are designed to fly; how they are prepared to deal with an emergency situation. This is key if you are a person who happens to be terrified of an airplane crashing. What you will learn is that the flight crew and the pilots are well equipped, mentally, and physically to help their passengers in the event of an emergency.
Remind Yourself of the Lack of Real Danger
Try to distance yourself from the danger.
While you have a genuine fear, you must find productive ways to remind yourself that you are not at risk. Rest assured that the crew and pilot have been properly trained and can handle a problem.
Remain Calm and Think Rationally
Anxiety rules out common sense. When people are anxious, they tend to think irrationally. This kind of thinking will not help you relax and ease your stress.
Take Deep Breaths
It’s a cliche tip for a reason. Deep breaths are both an easy and effective technique.
The practice of deep breathing can be very beneficial physically, as well as psychologically. The act can increase the oxygen level to your brain and create a calm feeling within the body. Breathing deeply relaxes the body by lowering blood pressure, as well as slowing your heart-rate. The mind clears, and your anxious feelings are diminished.
Use Mental Imagery
Picturing your destination will help soothe your anxiety, as well as give you something to look forward to. Whether you are returning home from a trip, or on your way to an exquisite destination, imagine the end of the flying process.
Maybe you’d like to picture your favorite pet, if they aren’t flying with you, or a particular person who has had a positive impact on your life. By focusing on something that is positive in your life, it will reduce the anxious feelings and stress that you may be experiencing.
Millions may have a fear of flying, but aviophobia doesn’t have to keep them from completing their travel plans. Some simple actions can help reduce those feelings of stress and anxiety when traveling.
Written for Passport Health by Sabrina Cortes. Sabrina is a freelance writer with a Bachelor’s Degree from Georgian Court University. She currently lives in the Smokey Mountains of western North Carolina.