Fear of flying is known as aerophobia. It affects around 25 million adults in the United States, making it extremely common. People who are afraid can typically overcome it with psychotherapy and fly without experiencing severe anxiety or panic attacks.
Aerophobia is an intense fear of flying on an airplane. Those with aerophobia may experience fear related to various aspects of flying, including take-off, landing, or feeling trapped on the plane. While individuals with this fear may recognize that it is irrational — given that air travel has statistically lower fatality rates compared to other forms of transportation — they are unable to logic their way out of the anxiety. Another term for this condition is aviophobia.
Most individuals with aerophobia are not necessarily fearful of the plane crashing. Instead, their fear is often linked to the overwhelming anxiety associated with being on a flight. The anticipation of flying, or simply the thought of it, can be just as distressing as the actual flight itself.
A phobia is a type of anxiety condition characterized by an overwhelming and ongoing fear of a thing or circumstance. The majority of phobias cause a sudden and intense feeling of terror, and they frequently last longer than six months.
Determining the exact number of people experiencing aerophobia can be challenging, as many individuals with this fear may avoid flying instead of seeking a diagnosis. However, it is estimated that 2.5% to 5% of people experience aerophobia.
Dr. Elizabeth Joy Fazio, a licensed clinical psychologist in Homer Glen, emphasizes that the majority of individuals with aerophobia respond positively to psychotherapy and various treatment approaches. A study suggests that symptoms in some participants showed improvement for up to two to three years after undergoing Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT). It’s worth noting that for some individuals, ongoing therapy may be necessary, as aerophobia has the potential to resurface even after initial treatment.
Aerophobia can affect anyone, however specific risk factors can make it more likely for you to get the illness, such as: possessing an additional phobia that is pertinent, like acrophobia or claustrophobia—having a past filled with unreasonable anxieties or experiencing anxiety, despair, or panic attacks.
Aerophobia typically lacks a specific origin, and it is uncommon for the fear to be rooted in a traumatic flight experience. Potential triggers for aerophobia may include:
Moreover, other existing phobias can exacerbate aerophobia, such as:
Individuals experiencing aerophobia often go to great lengths to avoid air travel. This avoidance behavior may result in missing family vacations or declining work-related travel opportunities. Some may adamantly opt for alternative modes of transportation, such as cars, buses, or trains, even if these options are less convenient than flying. For those with aerophobia, there might also be a tendency to steer clear of movies, books, or news stories related to air travel. Alternatively, there could be an intense focus on acquiring knowledge about security measures at airports and planes.
Additionally, individuals with aerophobia may be susceptible to panic attacks either before or during a flight, manifesting symptoms such as:
A specific diagnostic test for aerophobia does not exist. Instead, your healthcare provider will thoroughly assess your symptoms and inquire about various aspects of your fear of flying. The spectrum of aerophobia can vary, ranging from mild (being willing to fly but feeling anxious) to severe (refusing to fly for an extended period, such as more than five years).
Your healthcare provider may diagnose you with a specific phobic disorder, like aerophobia if you:
Many individuals can address their fear of flying through psychotherapy. Your healthcare provider might suggest:
Psychotherapy may occur individually with a therapist or in a group setting. Some U.S. cities offer group therapy programs at airports, culminating in a “graduation flight” at the program’s conclusion.
When dealing with aerophobia or specific phobic disorders, such as fear of flying, Dr. Elizabeth Joy Fazio, licensed clinical psychologist in Homer Glen, emphasizes the limited long-term effectiveness of medication for management. However, for individuals who must fly and are apprehensive about potential panic attacks, healthcare providers may suggest the use of anti-anxiety drugs as necessary.
Preventing aerophobia is not possible, but you can minimize its impact on your life by:
If you are struggling with flight anxiety, there are numerous resources at your disposal. These include support groups, educational books and websites, online chat rooms, and self-help techniques. Dr. Elizabeth Joy Fazio, a licensed clinical psychologist in Homer Glen, can assist you in integrating these resources with her therapy to effectively conquer your fears. Remember, you are not alone in experiencing flight anxiety, and there is a large community of individuals who have successfully overcome it.
The licensed clinicians at GGPA work together to help ensure collaborative teamwork and excellent communication, bringing you the best possible experience.