Image of plane in the clouds

Getting over your fear of flying

For most people going on holiday is the best time of the year. It’s a time when we can kick back, relax and enjoy ourselves; a time to forget all the stresses of work and the pressures of everyday home life.

Although, for some, going on holiday is actually something terrifying – that is, when they have to fly at least – this can be especially true for longer term and longstay trips when the flight times often go into the double digits.

A fear of flying – also known as ‘aerophobia’, ‘aviatophobia’, or ‘aviophobia’ – isn’t something we should sniff at. Some sources claim that as many as 25 per cent of the population suffer from the condition – moreover, it’s also not just the thought of the aeroplane itself which people fear.

Closed, cramped conditions (claustrophobia), a fear of heights (acrophobia) or a fear of not being in control are but a few of the contributing phobias and factors that might contribute towards an overall unease about stepping in a plane. It’s also worth noting that the (extremely rare) instances of planes crashing might also tap into these fears.

First steps to overcoming fear – understanding it

There is hope though. There are so many different treatments available now to help wannabe holidaymakers overcome their fear for flying. Most of which are based around understanding the psychology behind our fears first, before then putting the crucial and practical first-steps into practice.

Experts in cognitive behaviour and psychology often start treatment by asking their clients what it is they fear about flying exactly. Most of the time it is exactly the kinds of situations described above – should they have an anxiety or panic attack and feel trapped for example – more so than the risk of crashing. Once patients have started to talk through and recognise these signs, they can then be put into increasingly cramped and confined places (at height) to talk through how they are feeling. Eventually, after enough repetition and practice, they will reach a plateau of calm and become more comfortable about these kinds of environment.

It’s actually the initial anticipation and worry of getting into a plane that puts most people off booking a flight at all, so by simulating the conditions of flying in similar environments, their confidence should build, eventually readying them for the real thing.

Facing your fears on the plane

In an interview with Mail Online, cognitive behavioural therapist Dr George Fieldman, and Jennie Francis, a Harley Street hypnotherapist, recommend several very effective methods to overcoming a fear of flying when sufferers finally face the airport.

One idea, proposed by Francis, is to lighten up and treat the airport as a fun place to be. While this might sound impossible from a sufferer’s perspective, making a joke of anxious situations is one of the most effective techniques to overcome fear.

“There are signs saying ‘terminal’ and ‘final destination’ or ‘departure lounge’,” she says. “These all have an impending sound of doom” but the best way to deal with this is to make a joke of it.

Similarly, this same technique works when facing turbulence on the place. Francis suggests that repeating works in your head such as “turbulence is fun” can actually trick the brain into turning a negative experience into a positive.

Tricking your mind again, so not to concentrate on your environment, by reading, listening or tapping your feet, in repetitive motions, could also prove enough of a distraction to see you off the ground in no time.

Facing your fears in this practical kind of manner is preferential to overcoming them through the use of alcohol or other sedative/calming drugs too.

Dr Fieldman says that these substances only perpetuate the problem: “By using drugs, you simply build up a dependency and a tolerance which doesn’t tackle the problem.”

However you attempt to cure your fear of flying, we wish you luck! Don’t let it hold you back from the trip of a lifetime.