How To Overcome Aerophobia, the Fear of Flying on Planes

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Alengthy with sharks, masked intruders, and apocalyptic disasters, the movie business has carried out a rattling good job at making air journey appear extra terrifying than it already is. In case your first publicity to a Hollywood flight gone mistaken—whether or not it was The Twilight Zone’s The Odyssey of Flight 33 or Tom Hanks’ abandoned island epic Cast Away—was sufficient to make you anxious about planes for all times, you’re not alone. For some folks, although, that worry is so insurmountable that they’ll’t even convey themselves to consider flying in a aircraft, not to mention go to an airport to board one. Such is the expertise of individuals with aerophobia, or the medical analysis of a “worry of flying.”

Flight anxiousness is regular, but when your worry of flying retains you completely rooted to the bottom, it could be time to hunt skilled assist. Fortunately, psychologists say there are confirmed therapy strategies to assist folks with aerophobia overcome their fears. When you assume you will have aerophobia or know a beloved one who does, maintain studying to be taught extra.

What’s aerophobia?

Aerophobia, additionally known as aviophobia, is a worry of flying. Aerophobia falls underneath the broader umbrella of anxiety disorders and is assessed as a specific phobia because it includes a definite worry of air journey. This contains any mixture of air journey strategies (helicopters, scorching air balloons, blimps, and so forth), however is often used to explain a worry of flying by aircraft since that’s sometimes probably the most accessible type of air journey.

Signs of aerophobia

Signs of aerophobia can range from individual to individual and are often influenced by the person’s previous experiences with flying. Nonetheless, some frequent psychological and bodily signs usually related to aerophobia are outlined under.

Psychological signs might embody:

  • Heightened anxiousness about flying in airplanes
  • Avoidance of air journey
  • Nervousness about upcoming flights
  • Issue concentrating or enjoyable throughout flights
  • Obsession with the opportunity of an airplane crash

Along with these signs, “most phobias have quite a lot of overlap with the signs of tension, as a result of it’s, in reality, an anxiousness dysfunction,” explains psychiatrist Gail Saltz, MD, medical affiliate professor of psychiatry at NewYork-Presbyterian. To that finish, some bodily signs of aerophobia might embody:

  • Elevated coronary heart charge or palpitations
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Nausea or abdomen discomfort

What are the causes of aerophobia?

Aerophobia might stem from previous trauma concerning air journey, but it surely is also as a consequence of different elements. In keeping with medical psychologist Kevin Chapman, PhD, founding father of the Kentucky Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, all phobias (together with thanatophobia, somniphobia, cherophobia, and scopophobia) sometimes stem from three main pathways.

The primary pathway is observational studying, or modeling a habits we had been uncovered to in childhood, says Dr. Chapman. Analysis reveals that many fears are taught to us at an early age1; somewhat than studying to worry sure risks by way of expertise (like getting stung by a bee), we regularly find out about them by way of modeling the behaviors exhibited by our mother and father. For aerophobic of us, this might appear to be, whereas a toddler, observing a mum or dad or caregiver who was overly suspicious or petrified of flying in planes.

The second pathway, trauma, is the one chances are you’ll be most acquainted with, says Dr. Chapman. With this pathway, a worry of flying is developed after dwelling by way of one or a number of adverse previous experiences with flying. This expertise might be an particularly violent or turbulent flight, and even one thing as extreme as an aviation accident.

This ultimate pathway for phobias to develop is thru data transmission. This occurs when somebody learns about the threat of danger2 of flying. This might appear to be watching information clips of an airplane crash, watching a scary film a few aircraft crash, or studying a private account from somebody who survived an aviation accident.

As for who’s probably to be recognized with a worry of flying, analysis reveals that ladies are more likely to be diagnosed with a specific phobia than men3. Dr. Saltz echoes this, including that genetics do play a task, as nicely.

Whereas analysis surrounding the heritability of phobias is sparse, science means that people who have someone diagnosed with a phobia in their family4 usually tend to be recognized with one, too. “We do not know precisely what the genetic element is—as in, I can not inform you the precise gene—but it surely does run in households,” says Dr. Saltz.

Moreover, Dr. Saltz says that these with sure psychological well being circumstances usually tend to develop a phobia. “Generalized anxiousness dysfunction, panic dysfunction, and even despair or substance abuse dysfunction might increase the danger of growing a particular phobia,” she provides.

Aerophobia vs. flight anxiousness

Aerophobia and flight anxiousness might sound like one and the identical, however they’re two various things. Feeling nervous or uneasy earlier than flying is completely regular. Except you journey usually for work or pleasure, most individuals don’t journey through planes fairly often: The average American passenger can count on to take solely 208 flights all through their lifetime, which comes out to roughly two to 3 flights per 12 months.

Whereas many individuals cope with flight anxiousness main as much as a visit—research indicates roughly 40 percent of all adults5 have skilled some type of it—the precise variety of folks recognized with aerophobia is far decrease at 2.5 %. To be recognized with aerophobia, “the signs have to be such that they’ve risen to the extent of considerably impacting your life in a couple of area,” and people signs should persist for six months or extra, explains Dr. Saltz.

The first dividing line between aerophobia and flight anxiousness is that aerophobia often prevents the sufferer from taking part in air journey. Folks with aerophobia could also be so afraid of flying, says medical psychologist Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, that they by no means try and take one. Their worry of flying could also be so profound that “it may even be tough [for them] to observe planes or different folks fly in films,” she provides.

Flight anxiousness, however, just isn’t an precise medical analysis, and “is way more generalized,” says Dr. Hafeez. Folks with flight anxiousness are sometimes capable of quell their emotions as a way to board a flight; aerophobic of us, however, are often unable to push previous their worry and fly in an airplane.

Are acrophobia and aerophobia the identical factor?

Acrophobia and aerophobia are each particular phobias revolving round elevation, however they’re two totally different diagnoses with distinctive sources of worry. Aerophobia particularly offers with a worry of flying, however acrophobia is a fear of heights.

Aerophobic folks aren’t essentially afraid of standing inside a skyscraper or using on a tall rollercoaster. Their worry is particularly tied to air journey. Folks with acrophobia, however, have a worry of heights, whatever the context.

In different phrases, acrophobic folks could also be anxious about flying in an airplane as a result of they’re afraid of heights, however not as a result of they’re afraid of the concept of touring in a aircraft. And other people with aerophobia aren’t all the time afraid of how excessive the aircraft will get. Folks with aerophobia might wrestle with a number of different facets of air journey, like airplane turbulence or sharing a cramped area with strangers.

Is aerophobia curable?

It’s potential to recover from a worry of flying, although it could take some effort to beat, says Dr. Saltz, and based on america Nationwide Institute of Psychological Well being, roughly 75 percent of people with specific phobias overcome their fears with skilled therapy.

One of many main therapy strategies for phobias contains publicity remedy. Exposure therapy is a psychological well being therapy methodology that includes exposing a affected person to the supply of their fears in progressive doses to assist confront them. Many individuals with phobias are inclined to keep away from the supply of their worry altogether, which regularly makes the irrational worry even worse.

For folks with a worry of flying, some progressive examples of publicity remedy may embody speaking about boarding a aircraft, then visiting an airport, then touring a aircraft, earlier than lastly boarding a aircraft and retreating. “With a worry of flying—which is quite common—there are locations the place you possibly can go and truly go to an airplane, stroll on an airplane, sit down, strap in, and even hearken to somebody discuss as in the event that they had been about to take off,” provides Dr. Hafeez.

Docs may prescribe sure medicines to assist sufferers push previous their phobias. “Remedy can actually be useful,” says Dr. Saltz. She provides that within the case of phobias, medical doctors will often prescribe particular serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) to minimize the psychological ranges of tension to assist somebody extra simply progress by way of publicity remedy. As soon as the affected person can recover from the “hump” of preliminary publicity remedy, Dr. Saltz says that the remedy is often then decreased till the affected person has fully weaned off of it.

How do I overcome flying anxiousness?

You could really feel compelled to keep away from the considered flying altogether earlier than a giant journey, however Dr. Saltz says that pondering extra about it may make it easier to step by step overcome your worry of it. “Publicity begins with actually fascinated with the factor,” says Dr. Saltz.

Pondering and speaking about your worry is a type of systematic desensitization, a graduated type of publicity remedy, says Dr. Hafeez. “You escape every element of the trauma or the phobia, and also you desensitize an individual to it,” she explains. She suggests taking gradual steps: Attempt studying the phrase “flying in an airplane” first, taking gradual, measured breaths, and sustaining a relaxed posture. When you’ve mastered that with out feeling anxious, take a look at a photograph of an individual in an airplane seat whereas making an attempt to remain relaxed, then progress towards watching a video of a aircraft taking off or folks speaking on a aircraft.

“The aim is to calm down the physique, to deep breathe, to calm down the muscular tissues, and to acclimate your self slowly,” says Dr. Hafeez. “And should you’re not there, return to the step prior till you’re bodily prepared to return to it.” Whereas easy, Dr. Hafeez says that systematic desensitization is an extremely efficient, but underrated, publicity remedy approach that may assist folks push previous their fears.

When to hunt medical therapy for aerophobia

For folks with extreme aerophobia, the above publicity remedy approach might really feel unattainable. “If you cannot do this with out having quite a lot of anxiousness, then I’d say that it is going to be very tough so that you can expose your self to [flying or planes],” says Dr. Saltz. If that is so, or in case your signs of aerophobia start to considerably disrupt your high quality of life and maintain you again from with the ability to fly, you will have a extreme case of aerophobia. On this state of affairs, Dr. Saltz, Dr. Hafeez, and Dr. Chapman agree that skilled assist ought to be the following plan of action.

That’s as a result of folks with extreme phobias usually miss out on sure alternatives due to their fears. For an individual who has a worry of flying, this might embody job alternatives that contain journey or relocation, with the ability to go to far-flung household or associates, or exploring different areas of the world. In case your worry of flying retains you from dwelling your dream life, take into account enlisting medical assist.


Properly+Good articles reference scientific, dependable, current, sturdy research to again up the knowledge we share. You may belief us alongside your wellness journey.


  1. LoBue, Vanessa, and Karen E Adolph. “Concern in infancy: Classes from snakes, spiders, heights, and strangers.” Developmental psychology vol. 55,9 (2019): 1889-1907. doi:10.1037/dev0000675

  2. Muris, Peter, and Andy P Discipline. “The function of verbal menace data within the growth of childhood worry. “Beware the Jabberwock!”.” Scientific baby and household psychology overview vol. 13,2 (2010): 129-50. doi:10.1007/s10567-010-0064-1

  3. Fredrikson, M et al. “Gender and age variations within the prevalence of particular fears and phobias.” Behaviour analysis and remedy vol. 34,1 (1996): 33-9. doi:10.1016/0005-7967(95)00048-3

  4. Steinhausen, Hans-Christoph et al. “Household Aggregation and Threat Components in Phobic Problems over Three-Generations in a Nation-Extensive Research.” PloS one vol. 11,1 e0146591. 19 Jan. 2016, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0146591

  5. Clark, Gavin I, and Adam J Rock. “Processes Contributing to the Upkeep of Flying Phobia: A Narrative Overview.” Frontiers in psychology vol. 7 754. 1 Jun. 2016, doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.00754


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