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Fear Of Flying (Aviophobia)

By Steve Hill

Psychiatry identifies three different categories of phobia:

Agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces. It is also a fear of having a panic attack in a public place, of losing control in an area from which escape may prove difficult or embarrassing.

Social Phobia is an irrational anxiety brought forth by exposure to certain social situations, leading to avoidance behaviour.

Specific Phobia is a persistent and irrational fear in response to some specific stimulus, which commonly results in avoidance of/withdrawal from that stimulus. It could be triggered by an insect or animal (zoophobia), by a situation like being trapped in an enclosed space (claustrophobia) or it could be a fear of disease (pathophobia).

The fear of flying is believed to be widespread, possibly affecting as many as 1 in 5 people to some extent. Many sufferers have never flown before. Others used to fly confidently until they unwittingly developed fear. It can even happen to professionally trained pilots.

Fear of flying is a learned response. The only fear a baby is born with is a fear of loud noises. At some point you developed the fear, perhaps after seeing footage of an air disaster on the television. Maybe you experienced turbulence during a flight, or your plane was in a holding position, circling an airport for an interminably long time, waiting for permission to land and you began to wonder how much fuel was left.

There are many who do fly in spite of their fears. They imagine feeling scared ahead of time. They may have sleepless nights thinking about an impending flight sometimes months away. In the air, symptoms of high anxiety may be experienced such as palpitations, dizziness, nausea, sweating, tightness of chest or hyperventilation. Fear of the fear is common being scared because you are imagining being scared. In the hopes of controlling their fears some will use alcohol or sedatives. It is much healthier to eat well before a flight, have some good reading material or other distractions like music and avoid alcohol, caffeine and sugar. Breathing exercises might also be useful.


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