The fear of flying, aerophobia or aerophobia is the fear that some people feel to travel by plane. It is of psychological origin and can be eradicated following a series of advice, through psychological therapy. In what follows we show you the causes and types of fear of flying by plane, some techniques to know how to overcome it and the medication that can be taken to minimize the symptoms of this phobia.

1. Causes

Currently, it is estimated that one in four people are afraid of flying, of which about 13% suffer from true panic and 15% have mild or moderate discomfort when they know they are going to fly.

If we had to answer the question of how many people are afraid of flying, the answer would be that almost 30% of people suffer from this phobia on a daily basis. However, the fear of flying is of psychological origin and can be treated with different techniques depending on the intensity with which you suffer.

In most cases, the fear of flying is not a simple sudden fear generated without reason, but it is the extension of a previous phobia. Therefore, before looking for possible solutions to overcome it, we must find the true psychological origin of aerophobia. Here are the most common causes that result in fear of flying:

  • Adverse weather conditions

Rain, wind, storm, fog, ash from an active volcano and other atmospheric phenomena are the main causes of aerophobia in a high percentage of air passengers, especially because they fear that this may cause an air accident.

Given that storms, snow, heavy rains and, in general, negative weather conditions tend to happen more frequently in winter, there are passengers who directly fear flying during this season.

  • Hydrophobia or aquaphobia

It is an irrational fear of water or swimming. When a person knows that the plane or the helicopter is going to fly over the sea, he suffers from aquaphobia, because he fears that the plane will suffer some setback and fall on the sea.

However, every passenger must take into account the amount of rescue and safety resources available to any aircraft, including life jackets.

  • Fly for the first time

Many people avoid flying throughout their lives precisely because they suffer from aerophobia. Others, however, can not avoid it for reasons of work or studies, among others.

For these people, the first time can be really frightening, mainly because they do not know what they are going to face and they fear that some of the causes mentioned above will occur: turbulence, storms, strong winds …

  • Acrophobia or vertigo

This fear translates as fear of heights and generates anxiety in those who suffer from it. Acrophobia is generated by insecurity and fear when imagining the possibility of falling of oneself or even of a third person if accompanied.

People who suffer from this phobia are unable to practice extreme sports such as parachuting or paragliding, but, in addition, traveling by plane is another of their worst enemies.

  • Night flights

People who suffer from this insecurity are often those who suffer from nyctophobia, that is, fear of darkness or night.

This group is afraid of flying at night or even with a lot of fog or clouds because they believe that the worse the visibility conditions, the greater the risk of an accident.

However, flying without visual references is something that has always existed, as there are countries with very few hours of light, for example. There are highly advanced procedures, systems and navigation rules that allow you to fly at night with all the safety of a day flight.

  • Long flights

The fear of long or transoceanic flights is possibly the result of adding all the previous causes; The thought of a person suffering from aerophobia because he is going to experience a long flight is: the longer it lasts, the greater the risk of a problem occurring.

In these cases, comfort plays a fundamental role, so taking a correct decision when choosing a seat on the plane can be very beneficial.

  • Fly without company

The presence of a companion, be it a couple, a friend or a family member can be highly comforting for those who fear traveling by plane or feel uncomfortable about it.

Having someone next to help us relax and with whom we can talk during the time the flight lasts can make us forget any fear and even make us vent.

Therefore, those who are forced to travel alone feel really uncomfortable because they have no one next to share their concerns with. In these cases, it would be advisable to inform the crew’s personnel.

  • Take-off and landing

The moments when the plane takes off and lands are key moments during all airplane travel because it is when it starts and when everything ends.

Especially during take-off, all passengers experience a certain impression because the plane needs to reach a lot of speed in order to take off. Lean well on the armrest and, above all, relax could serve in these cases.

To help you overcome your aerophobia in case of what you produce it is either the moment of take-off or the time of landing, we recommend watching this video where a professional pilot explains step by step all the security measures that are carried out before starting any of these two processes:

  • Claustrophobia

This common phobia is nothing other than fear of enclosed spaces. This fear, in turn, can be caused either by the fear of only being able to make restricted movements or fear of the lack of oxygen within the space in which we find ourselves.

A plane is a closed place inside which a large number of people gather and, in addition, the seats are narrow. All this generates claustrophobia to those who suffer it.

  • Turbulence

Many people are afraid of turbulence during the flight, either because they think it will result in a plane crash or because they fear dizziness or injury.

However, the turbulence that occurs in the vast majority of flights are light or moderate, so they do not pose a danger to those who travel on that plane.

Related Post: Sleeping in an Airplane: 11 tricks

2. Symptom

The fear of flying generates anxiety and stress, from which various symptoms are derived, either at the physiological level, either at a psychological or cognitive level or at both levels. Below we list both types of symptoms.

 Physiological symptoms

The physical symptoms that people affected by this phobia usually experience are:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Tachycardia
  • Tremor
  • Abdominal pain
  • Gastrointestinal disorders and diarrhea
  • Sweating
  • General discomfort
  • Fatigue, nausea or dizziness
  • Shaking chills
  • Xerostomia or dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Blush or paleness

Psychological symptoms

Mentally and emotionally, people who suffer from fear of flying usually show one or more of the symptoms listed below:

  • Memory failures
  • Decreased reflexes or distortion of perception
  • Irritability
  • Disorientation
  • Inability or difficulty to think, concentrate or make decisions
  • Negativity and pessimism

In addition, at an observable level, people suffering from aerophobia can cry, perform movements that show a motor unrest (scratching, touching the same area of the body, etc.) or even stay paralyzed.

3. Tips

Whatever the intensity with which you suffer fear of flying, before taking medication or resorting to more aggressive cures, we recommend you to follow the following tips or tips. Maybe following these simple tricks you overcome your fear and do not have to do anything else:

  • Analyze the terrain: many people, especially those who are afraid of flying because it is the first time they do so, suffer from aviophobia because they do not know what they are facing. Therefore, learn about the process of traveling by plane, read statistics or ask for opinions of those who have already flown can be very useful and will let you know what you can expect.
  • Prepare your flight in advance: organizing a trip at the last minute generates anxiety and stress even in those people who do not suffer from aerophobia. Even more so in those who suffer it.  Therefore, do not leave the preparations for the last minute, because the fears that cause the fear of flying can add another related to the lack of some important document or the forgetting of some object necessary for the trip.
  • Learn to control anxiety: we have already mentioned how anxiety can be controlled: either with self-help books, with psychological or medical help. In any case, knowing the origin of our fear can also be a great help.
  • Feel comfortable on the plane: bring comfortable clothes and shoes, choose a good seat, do something entertaining or talk with the person next to us can increase our comfort levels during the journey and, consequently, relax and make us leave the aerophobia parked.
  • Fly frequently: the fear of flying is overcome flying. It’s as simple as that. So, our advice is to fly as often as you can, as you’ll end up getting used to it and realizing that air travel is the same or even safer than any other means of transport.

4. Treatment

The fear of flying is of psychological origin and, therefore, should be treated with therapy and with the help of a psychologist if necessary. For the milder cases, there are courses offered by the airlines of different prices whose purpose is to help passengers with aerophobia to overcome it. Another option is self-help books, such as the famous Happy Flight. How to lose the fear to fly (2002) of Javier del Campo Martín (former pilot of Iberia) and Luisa del Campo Martín-Cobos.

Psychological treatment

In the case of requiring psychological treatment, it is possible to resort to techniques such as hypnosis. However, the most recommended method is that of cognitive-behavioral therapy, whereby the patient is gradually exposed to the situation that causes his phobia so that little by little he can control the anxiety that this causes. In addition, this method teaches highly useful relaxation techniques such as those mentioned below:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation: the objective is for the patient to become aware of how much tension has been generated in their muscles so that it is gradually eliminated.
  • Respiration control exercises: such as the technique of deep breathing.
  • Stop at the thought: It is about capturing one by one the negative thoughts that come to the mind of the patient and stopping to analyze us in order to finish replacing them with more positive ones.
  • Distraction: This technique is the simplest of all since it consists of looking for an entertainment for when the moment of anxiety arrives. Read, listen to music, write, etc. They are good entertainment during a flight.
  • Laugh: It’s simple and accessible to everyone. It is as easy as trying to substitute a negative thought for something that is funny or a smile.

5. Children

Children can also have aerophobia the first time they fly, basically because it is a new medium, of great size and traveling very fast and at high altitude. With this in mind, it is normal for a child to be afraid of this means of transport. However, this fear can be reduced if we help them with these three simple tricks:

  • Keep it entertaining: bringing toys, a book or any other entertainment can make you forget about any concerns.
  • Anticipate what you will find: if this is the first time you travel, then explain how it is a plane trip: describe it as an airplane, show it videos, children’s movies, etc.
  • Make him feel safe: if a child perceives fear or anxiety in those who accompany him, then he or she will also feel this discomfort. There is no better way to make them feel comfortable than to show you relaxed.