What Causes the Fear of Flying? How to Overcome Aerophobia
Updated: Oct 26
The fear of flying is a relatively common phobia. It is also called aerophobia or aviophobia. 6.5% of American adults have a fear of flying according to the National Institute of Mental Health research. This means that out of every 100 people, six of them have flying anxiety. Two of those six individuals will have severe symptoms, which may include panic attacks.
It is a very real thing for many people. Even when they think about flying, they become extremely anxious. It can be a debilitating fear that keeps them from ever getting on an airplane. They avoid flying. For some, the fear is so great that they will never even consider flying. So, what causes that fear?
Many people often blame the traumatic memories of 9/11 for their fear. Some people may blame their anxiety on a traumatic flight experience. Still, others are terrified by the thought of being trapped in such a small space with hundreds of other people. Whatever the cause, a flying phobia can be a very real and paralyzing thing for those who suffer from it.
Physical symptoms of aerophobia
A flying phobia is a very real and valid fear that many people experience. For some, the fear is so severe that it prevents them from getting on an airplane. The symptoms can be debilitating and include:
Increased heart rate
Shortness of breath
These symptoms are caused by the body's natural fight-or-flight response. The body's natural fight-or-flight response is like an emergency alarm system. It's designed to help us protect ourselves from danger. In the case of the fear of air travel, the perceived threat is often heights, enclosed spaces, or turbulence.
When the body's fight-or-flight response is activated, it releases adrenaline and other stress hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones prepare the body for action by increasing heart rate and blood pressure and releasing glucose into the bloodstream. The physical signs are a direct result of this adrenaline rush.
What causes aviophobia?
If you are afraid of flying, it is important to understand what psychological factors may be contributing to your fear.
Loss of control
One of the most common psychological factors that contribute to aerophobia is a fear of loss of control. Lack of control over the situation – when you are on a plane, you have little control over what is happening.
Fear of loss of control can manifest itself in several ways, such as a fear of not being able to escape if there is an emergency or a fear of the plane crashing. People with a fear of flying may find this aspect of air travel extremely stressful.
Mental health issues
A fear of flying can also be the result of an underlying mental health issue, such as social phobia, panic attack disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder. People with mental health issues may manifest their symptoms of anxiety when taking a flight.
Other fears and phobias
Aerophobia is a common phobia that can be caused by a variety of factors. It may include:
Fear of heights. Many people have a general fear of heights, which can be exacerbated when travelling by plane.
Claustrophobia, fear of enclosed spaces. Some claustrophobic people are terrified by the thought of being locked in a plane with hundreds of other people.
Anxiety. Just being in the presence of other people can cause tremendous anxiety and fear.
Fear of dying. People with a fear of death are afraid of the plane crashing or breaking down. These fears are often exaggerated, but they can be very real in their minds.
Fear of the unknown. Flying involves many things that are completely unknown to most people, such as take-off and landing, turbulence, etc.
Other factors contributing to the fear of flying
Several factors contribute to the fear of flying. The most common factor is a specific event during flying, such as an emergency landing or an air-sickness episode. For example, if someone was airsick during turbulence on a previous flight or knows someone who has been in a plane crash, they may be more likely to experience intense anxiety or a panic attack on the next flight.
An unpleasant experience on the ground, such as an issue with a police officer at the airport or some stressful events before the flight, might also trigger the fear of flying. The media frequently reports on tragedies like plane accidents and other mishaps, which might make people fear flying.
In addition, the thought of being up in the air, potentially for hours at a time, can be very daunting for some people. Whatever the cause, the fear of flying can be a debilitating condition that prevents people from enjoying air travel.
Treatment options to overcome aerophobia
Aerophobia can be a debilitating phobia that prevents people from travelling by aeroplane. Mental health professionals can help people get rid of it
Hypnotherapy can help people conquer their fears by teaching them how to relax and manage their anxiety.
This treatment can be done in a one-on-one setting or in a group, and it typically involves several sessions. During hypnotherapy, the therapist will guide the patient into a state of deep relaxation and help them identify and address any negative thoughts or feelings about flying.
While it may not be a cure-all, hypnotherapy can be a very effective treatment, and it may help some people to get over their fear entirely.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is effective in treating aerophobia. This type of therapy helps people to change the way they think about flying and to develop coping skills for dealing with their fear.
The therapist will work with the individual to help them understand how their thoughts and behaviors are affecting their ability to fly.
Once an individual understands how their thoughts and behaviors are impacting their fear of flying, they can begin to work on changing these patterns. This may involve exposure therapy, which gradually exposes the individual to their fear in a safe environment. With exposure therapy, the individual will slowly begin to feel more comfortable with flying.
Exposure therapy is another treatment option that involves gradually exposing people to the situations that they fear. This can help them to learn to manage their anxiety and eventually manage their fear. It helps people feel more comfortable with flying.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy is a relatively new treatment approach and is also effective for treating phobias.
This treatment approach helps to reprocess memories and emotions that are causing anxiety and fear. This treatment approach involves using eye movements to help reprocess the memories that are causing the fear.
EMDR therapy is particularly effective in treating people who have a history of trauma, such as those who have experienced a plane crash or who have been in a military combat zone. This type of therapy can help to reduce the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Brain Working Recursive Therapy (BWRT) is a type of psychological therapy that is effective in treating a wide range of mental health disorders, including fear of flying. BWRT was developed by UK-based psychologist Terence Watts in the early 2000s.
The underlying idea behind this therapy is that the brain can work recursively to heal itself. BWRT can help to reprogram the brain so that it no longer produces negative thoughts and emotions associated with flying.
Several studies have been conducted on BWRT, including its efficacy in treating phobias. One study found that after just one session of BWRT, participants reported a significant reduction in their symptoms.
Medication is another way to treat the symptoms of a phobia. Talk to your doctor if your fear is severe and preventing you from living a normal life. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can help reduce the anxiety and panic that people feel when they are faced with flying.
A variety of factors can cause aerophobia. It can be a previous bad experience, heavy media coverage of airplane crushes, a fear of heights, or general anxiety about being in an enclosed space. Whatever the cause, there are a few potential solutions that can help to ease the fear.
If you want to conquer your fear of flying, seek the help of mental health professionals. They offer treatment methods to help you define the cause of aerophobia, manage symptoms, and help you overcome your fear. So, you will be able to fly again. You will get on a plane without fear and enjoy your trip and flight experience.