How to Get Over Your Fear of Flying

By: Suzanne Feinstein, PhD

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If you have a fear of flying, you’re not alone. A study published by the National Library of Medicine concludes that approximately 40% of the population of industrialized countries has an intense fear of flying. This phobia is known as aviophobia and can cause significant disruption in a person’s life.

The good news is there are steps you can take to overcome this condition. We’ve written a brief guide full of travel anxiety tips. Let’s explore how to get over fear of flying so you can get your life back on track.

Understanding the Root of Flight Anxiety

Before addressing how to get over fear of flying, it’s essential to understand its root causes. Flight anxiety often stems from a combined fear of heights, enclosed spaces, loss of control, or previous traumatic experiences.

Identifying the specific triggers can be the first step in managing fear. This self-awareness allows you to tackle the problem directly rather than dealing with a vague sense of dread.

Panic attacks play a large role in this phobia, as well. People who fear losing control are likely to trigger major anxiety episodes while flying.

For instance, driving a vehicle is inherently unsafe, but people often don’t consider this fact since they have control of the car.

Since they can’t control the plane, they feel problems are more likely to occur. People also have anxiety about having to land the plane or about embarrassing themselves during an episode.

Educating Yourself about Air Travel

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to overcoming flight anxiety. Learn about how planes work, the rigorous safety protocols they undergo, and the statistics that show flying is one of the safest modes of transport.

Understanding turbulence, for example, can help demystify one of the most common fears. Turbulence is a normal part of flying and is rarely dangerous.

It’s worth noting, though, that educating yourself won’t always be sufficient. Learning more about plane mechanics or turbulence often isn’t enough to quell the fear of flying. This is likely because you’re worried about your own loss of control moreso than a mechanical failure.

Gradual Exposure Therapy

A proven method for overcoming phobias is gradual exposure therapy, and this is an effective therapy model used to treat the fear of flying. Start by exposing yourself to aspects of air travel in a controlled and incremental way.

Visit an airport, watch planes take off and land, and practice boarding a stationary aircraft if possible. As you become more comfortable with these steps, gradually work up to short flights before tackling longer journeys. This method allows your mind and body to adapt slowly, reducing overall anxiety.

Relaxation Techniques and Mindfulness

Relaxation techniques and mindfulness can be powerful tools for managing travel anxiety. Practice deep breathing exercises and meditation.

These techniques can help calm your nervous system and keep anxiety at bay. During the flight, listen to calming music or use guided meditation apps designed for in-flight relaxation.

Mindfulness helps keep your thoughts grounded in the present moment, preventing them from spiraling into panic. Visualization exercises, such as picturing a peaceful scene or your safe arrival, can also be beneficial. Practicing these techniques before and during travel can significantly reduce anxiety and enhance your overall experience.

Seeking Professional Help

For some, the fear of flying is deeply ingrained and may require professional help to overcome. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is particularly effective for flight phobia.

A therapist can help you challenge and change negative thought patterns associated with flying. They may also use techniques like systematic desensitization or virtual reality exposure therapy to help you gradually face your fears.

Don’t hesitate to seek help if your anxiety feels unmanageable. Professional guidance can make a significant difference and teach you how to manage fear.

Using Medication and Natural Remedies

Medication can be a useful tool for managing severe flight anxiety, though it should be used under a doctor’s supervision. Anti-anxiety medications or mild sedatives can help calm your nerves during a flight.

Natural remedies like valerian root or passionflower can provide mild anxiety relief. Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new medication or supplement. This is especially true if you have existing health conditions or are taking other medications.

Preparing for the Flight

Preparation can go a long way in reducing travel anxiety. Book your flight during a time of day when you feel most relaxed and rested.

Choose a seat that makes you feel comfortable, whether it’s near the front of the plane, next to a window, or on the aisle. Arrive at the airport early to avoid the stress of rushing.

Pack a travel kit with items that help soothe you. This could include a favorite book, noise-canceling headphones, or a cozy blanket. Having these comforts can make the flying experience more enjoyable and less intimidating.

Distraction Techniques During the Flight

Bring along entertainment to keep your mind occupied, such as movies or puzzles. Engaging in these activities can divert your attention from your fears and make the time pass more quickly.

If you’re traveling with a companion, engage in conversation or play games together. This helps break the cycle of anxious thoughts and can significantly ease your discomfort.

Connecting with Fellow Passengers

Sometimes, a simple conversation with fellow passengers can provide comfort and distraction. Share your anxiety with a flight attendant.

Often, talking to someone can help normalize your feelings and provide a sense of camaraderie. Knowing you’re not alone can be comforting and can help reduce your fear’s intensity.

Visualizing a Positive Experience

Visualization is a powerful technique for overcoming flight anxiety. Before your trip, spend time each day visualizing a successful and calm flight.

Imagine yourself confidently boarding the plane, enjoying the journey, and arriving at your destination safely. Visualization can help reprogram your mind to associate flying with positive experiences rather than fear. By consistently practicing this, you can build a new mental framework that supports calmness and confidence during air travel.

Understand How to Get Over Fear of Flying

Advanced Behavioral Health specializes in evidence-based cognitive behavioral therapy. Our team offers personalized care for flight anxiety as well as many other types of anxiety, phobias, depression, and much more.

We strive to empower our clients to achieve lasting mental health and wellness. You can learn more about the benefits we provide when you schedule a consultation today.

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