Dry mouth? Sweaty palms? Trembling knees? Increased heart rate? Some can relate to these indicators of discomfort when air-bound. According to Psychcentral.com, about 20-30% of people experience anxiety when flying. If you feel these symptoms to the degree of a panic attack, you may be one of the 2-10% with aerophobia (also known as aviophobia).
This fear can be attributed to a lot of factors. Among those who may develop it are people who have experienced some sort of trauma before flying such as an accident, an assault, or disability, as well as those who are exposed to these incidents via media. Aerophobia is also likely to develop if a person is stressed about a major life event such as job change, relocation, or marriage. Personality factors may play a role, particularly among those who find it hard to leave their safety to other people. Though agreed upon by experts as a learned behavior, some research shows that it can also be inherited.
The phobia kicks in when you perceive a safe situation as dangerous. This is then followed by what psychologists call “hypervigilance”, wherein the mind would actively seek out signs of danger. One might perceive an odd sound as a sign of mechanical mishap (e.g. turbulence pops are interpreted as the plane’s wings snapping off or the engines failing).
Chronic aerophobia can greatly affect one’s quality of life, particularly for people whose lifestyle involves a lot of travelling (such as businessman, photographers, and even flight attendants). Some would have to rely on drugs such as sedatives and benzodiazepines or alcohol to relax during the trip, but this method offers no long-term relief. A better option, as psychologists would agree, is high-impact exposure such as a Spitfire flight experience.
A good way to counter the fear of flying is by making it a pleasurable activity. Passenger Spitfire flights, which institutes such as the Boultbee Flight Academy open to the public, let people hover above the majestic scenery of the White Cliffs or the English Channel. Plus, if you feel bold enough, you can even ask for some aerobatics. In addition, you can take comfort in the fact that your pilots are the finest military and civilian instructors in the UK.
Being able to travel on plane and view the world from up above is a life experience you shouldn’t miss out on. If you have aerophobia, take the necessary measures to overcome it right away.
(Source: Understanding the Fear of Flying, Psychcentral.com)