People suffering from aerophobia can have symptoms ranging from simple chills or shaking to full-blown panic attacks

The lack of understanding of how a plane works and less familiarity with the air route can also contribute to the fear

We have always heard people saying that air travel is the safest mode of transport. However, for people who have fear of flying, the fact is not very settling. For them, there is something about a plane journey that can put them into a lot of anxiety. Aerophobia is the fear of flying and it is more common than you might think.

People affected by this phobia might be scared of some aspect of the air journey maybe related to flying, plane taking off, plane landing or even the fear of being locked up in a plane. Sometimes the simple reason for which people might be scared could be that they have not stepped on a plane before or they might have some negative experience associated with a similar journey in the past.

“I used to binge-watch air accident videos”

For Simran Rao, a woman in early thirties, a journey by flight can be psychologically tiring. She described an ordinary air trip from Bangalore to Delhi. She said: “I had downloaded some songs and two episodes of a show in anticipation of the fear I might suffer during turbulence. When it happened, I compulsively put off my ear pods and put them down instead of distracting myself with music. I wanted to be in control of the situation. I remember my sister describing a frantic look on my face as if we were under a terror attack. It was just simple turbulence.”

Rao suffers from claustrophobia which is the fear of closed spaces. For her, the fear of flying is closely associated with fear of closed places that make escape impossible. She shared her preference for aisle seats that are comparatively less suffocating. She also shared that how earlier she used to binge-watch air crashes and accidents that left a lasting impression on her mind. Every time she boards a flight, the memories come back.

Symptoms of Aerophobia

People suffering from aerophobia can have symptoms ranging from simple chills or shaking to full-blown panic attacks. Here are few signs that you might be having fear of flying-

  1. You are overly anxious of taking a flight. The anxiety might a day or two before the scheduled day or even a week or month before boarding the flight.
  2. You might get gastrointestinal issues before boarding.
  3. Other physical symptoms could be chills, shaking of legs, jitters, increased heart rate, nausea, foggy mind and others.
  4. You might also start experiencing the fear of flight long before the scheduled date or time.
  5. You find yourself extra vigilant in a flight.

What might cause this fear?

The fear of flying gets worsened if it is combined with other phobias like claustrophobia (fear of closed spaces), fear of heights, social anxiety, fear of germs and others. Similarly, people suffering from chronic sinus infections might find air journey distressing because of blocked ears that sometimes might make one feel dizzy. Also, the frequently changing altitude could also be disturbing for people having cardiovascular problems. As per reports, the lack of understanding of how a plane works and less familiarity with air pathway can also contribute to the fear.

What can you do to reduce the fear?

Like many other phobias, the fear of flying is also treatable. However, a person must be prompt in taking help if their work or personal life requires them to travel very often. Here are few things you can do to reduce the fear-

  1. Exposure is the best medicine. The more you expose yourself to air travel through actually travelling or through virtual means, the faster you will lose your fear.
  2. Bust myths about turbulence. As per experts, a road is more bumpy and full of obstacles than an air pathway. Unlike roads, we are less familiar with air routes. Turbulence is normal and pilots are well trained to handle it.
  3. Maybe choose a seat that triggers you the least. If aisle seat makes you feel relaxed then go for it.
  4. Distract yourself with good music, book or a movie or podcast. Sleep could also be a good way to divert your attention.
  5. Try understanding how a plane works and how like any other means of transport it is well under the control of a man
  6. You must also know this that flight mishaps look scary because they are less frequent and widely covered. Road accidents are far more common and deadlier.

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