Feb 21, 2023

Tackling Aerophobia - How to Overcome Your Fear of Flying

Tips to overcome the fear of flying

Are you scared of flying? Sometimes just looking out of the window can comfort you but there are better ways to harness your anxiety and overcome the fear of flying.

Flight phobia, also referred to as aviophobia or aerophobia, plagues a considerable number of individuals across the globe. This fear of flying can induce intense anxiety and stress, rendering air travel an arduous and often avoided experience. Although it is a common concern, flight phobia can have a major impact on an individual's daily life and travel plans, causing them to miss out on significant life events and chances

The fear of flying is a multifaceted issue that can stem from numerous psychological and environmental causes. Some individuals may have undergone a traumatic flying experience, while others may struggle with a general anxiety disorder that is exacerbated by the thought of being in a confined environment.


What is Flight Phobia? How does it Contrast with General Anxiety or Fear of Flying?

Flight phobia, also named aviophobia or aerophobia, is a unique form of anxiety disorder characterized by a relentless and intense fear of flying. People affected by flight phobia endure excessive fear and anxiety at the mere notion of flying, which often intensifies as the flight date draws near. The fear isn't just restricted to the act of flying itself but may also encompass fears of turbulence, crashing, heights, and confinement in a cramped space.

While some people may have a generalized anxiety or fear of flying, flight phobia is classified as a specific phobia, meaning it is an unwarranted, persistent, and overpowering fear that disrupts daily life. Individuals with flight phobia often go to great lengths to avoid flying, such as avoiding travel or making career choices based on their phobia.

It is crucial to understand that flight phobia isn't synonymous with a rational fear of flying. People suffering from flight phobia have an irrational and excessive fear of flying, even when they comprehend that flying is statistically safe. In contrast, a rational fear of flying may stem from a previous traumatic experience or a concern about the safety of air travel.

Causes of flight phobia:

The root of flight phobia lies in a complex interplay of psychological and environmental elements, each of which has the potential to contribute to the manifestation of this fear. For some, past traumatic experiences while soaring through the skies - turbulence, a close call - can ignite an enduring trigger for future dread associated with flying.

Anxiety runs in the family for some, and it's not uncommon to find a genetic predisposition to anxiety in individuals prone to flight phobia and other related disorders. The sensation of being in an aircraft - especially during take-off and landing - can evoke a profound sense of loss of control, and the unknown - such as what may transpire during the flight - often amplifies fear and anxiety.

Past negative experiences with flying, be it delays, cancellations, or lost luggage, can also foster the growth of flight phobia. The media's coverage of air accidents and negative flying experiences, which is often hard to avoid, adds fuel to the fire of fear and anxiety related to flying.

Personality factors also play a role in the development of flight phobia. People who are prone to high levels of anxiety, perfectionism, and fear of failure are more susceptible to developing a fear of flying.

Symptoms of flight phobia:

The dread of flight phobia can unleash an array of physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms, which can entangle the individual in a vicious cycle of fear and anxiety. Physically, one may endure profuse sweating, uncontrollable tremors, dizziness, elevated heart rate, and difficulty in breathing. These physiological responses can exacerbate the already present emotional turmoil.

Emotionally, the person grappling with flight phobia is tormented by intense and irrational fear and anxiety related to flying. This phobia can interfere with their daily life, causing them to avoid flying and making decisions based on their fear.

Behaviourally, the fear can manifest in ways such as avoiding flying altogether, compulsively researching the safety of flying, constantly checking weather and news reports or making travel plans that exclude flying. These compulsive behaviours can significantly impact the quality of life of the individual and those around them.

The impact of flight phobia:

The ramifications of flight phobia can be devastating, affecting a person's daily life and travel itineraries in a profound and far-reaching manner. This formidable phobia instils a dread so intense, it causes difficulties in making travel arrangements and participating in crucial events. For those grappling with flight phobia, the mere thought of flying can be overwhelming, leading to a complete avoidance of air travel, thereby limiting opportunities for professional growth, personal enrichment, and recreational pursuits.

This form of avoidance can result in serious consequences for relationships and opportunities, leading to missed chances and a decline in the quality of life. The phobia can also thwart one's ability to attend significant life events, such as weddings, deaths, and family reunions, causing them to miss out on precious memories.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy:

Fear of flying can be a debilitating condition, causing individuals to miss out on important life events and opportunities. But, there's hope - Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) offers a proven solution. This form of therapy aims to change negative thought patterns and behaviours that lead to fear and anxiety, specifically when it comes to flying.

A typical CBT session for flight phobia would involve an assessment of the individual's physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms related to their fear of flying. The therapist would then educate the person about how fear of flying impacts the body and mind.

Negative thought patterns play a crucial role in fear and anxiety, and CBT addresses this by helping the person restructure these thoughts into a more positive and realistic perspective.

Behavioural exposure is another key component of CBT. The therapist would guide the person through controlled, safe exposure exercises to gradually build confidence and overcome their fear of flying.

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation are also taught during therapy to help reduce stress and anxiety.

Exposure therapy:

Exposure therapy, a form of behavioural therapy, has proven to be a valuable tool in overcoming the phobia of flying. The objective? To gradually face the fear and diminish the feelings of anxiety associated with it. Let us delve into the intricacies of exposure therapy:

Diagnosis: The therapist will first diagnose the fear of flying and identify the precise triggers that trigger feelings of unease.

Gradual Unveiling: The therapist will then design a customized plan of gradual exposure, beginning with simpler exercises, such as viewing pictures of airplanes or watching videos of take-offs and landings, and gradually escalating to more intense activities like visiting an airport or even participating in a simulator session.

Controlled Confrontation: These exposure exercises occur in a controlled setting, allowing the person to gradually build confidence and vanquish the fear.

Reinforcement: Throughout the exposure process, the therapist will reinforce positive behaviour and provide support to help the person manage their anxiety.

Desensitization: The aim of exposure therapy is to desensitize the person to their fear of flying. As they gradually expose themselves to their fear, their anxiety levels should decrease, ultimately enabling them to fly without any fears.


Flight phobia is a prevalent concern that can exert a substantial impact on an individual's lifestyle and travel aspirations. Grasping the intricacies of the fear of flying, be it the psychological or environmental causes, or the physical, emotional, and behavioural symptoms is crucial for tackling and vanquishing this phobia with efficacy. With the proper therapeutic approach, support, and mindset, those battling flight phobia can conquer their anxiety and bask in the advantages of air travel. Whether for personal or professional reasons, the ability to soar without fear can usher in new prospects and experiences, elevating the overall standard of living.

Prasad Amore
Prasad Amore

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