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  • Writer's pictureGeorgina Sturmer

Aerophobia: what causes the fear of flying?

We all know what it means when someone says that they're afraid of flying. Right? It even has its own name: aerophobia. But when we take a deeper look, it’s important to grasp two things about the fear of flying. First of all, fear of flying is, at its heart, a rational response to a situation that would be unfamiliar to our ancestors. It’s when it becomes extreme that it’s a problem. Secondly, it's important to recognise that everyone’s fears are different. They are based on different causes, they are triggered by different thoughts or events, and they manifest in different ways. So there is no one way to cope with, or to manage the fear of flying.

Having said that, we can generalise about what causes 'aerophobia', the fear of flying:

  • Past events related to flying. We might refer to this as ’trauma’, which is really just a fancy way of referring to something that has happened to us in the past. Maybe you’ve had a distressing experience at an airport or during a flight, perhaps you’ve been unwell or scared or worried. It doesn’t necessarily have to relate to something that you have experienced. It could be a story that you’ve heard, or images that you’ve witnessed.

  • Fear of being out of control. There’s a lot about flying that is stress-inducing and out of our control. This doesn’t just start when we are up in the air. For many of us it begins the moment that we are on our way to the airport.

  • Existing fears and worries. If you suffer from anxiety, claustrophobia, or PTSD then flying may well be a trigger for an extreme emotional response.

  • Catastrophising. If you find yourself catastrophising about events or ideas in everyday life then you may well find that negative thoughts spiral out of control. In the case of flying, you might find yourself catastrophising about every possible terrifying outcome.

How does aerophobia affect us?

Our minds and bodies will offer emotional and physical signals to express a fear of flying. Emotionally, we might experience panic or fear. We might notice that it triggers our ‘flight, fight or freeze’ response. Physically, we might experience a whole range of feelings. Difficulty breathing, tightness in our chest, heat rising throughout our body, sweaty palms.

Depending on the situation, you might feel safe to communicate how you are feeling. Or you might feel as if you need to hide your fears. If so, this can lead to a whole range of additional feelings, perhaps shame or embarrassment, or numbness if you attempt to push your feelings deep inside.

So what tips can I offer for tackling aerophobia? As everyone's fears are different, everyone will respond to different tools in different ways. Counselling can help to identify and explore the root causes of your fears, and offer you tools for coping on a daily basis. I've offered some coping strategies in my article on anxiety (click here) which might be helpful for aerophobia too. Other therapies might also appeal to you, such as EFT (tapping) or hypnotherapy. You could also explore other holistic treatments that might help you to relax. Mindfulness, meditation and visualisation practices can be extremely useful. Some people benefit from exploring the practical element of their fears, identifying the risk factors and understanding the likelihood of them happening.

Keen to explore more?

I love working with people to help them to understand themselves. In counselling we build a relationship where we can look at what might be causing your worries and how you can work to overcome it, so that you can feel more comfortable and confident in everyday life. If you’d like to learn more, please get in touch. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a free 30-minute introductory chat.

Click here to view the original article on Psychreg. Note that my comments are included within an article extolling the virtues of CBD. This is something that I don't have an opinion on at all, I was simply sharing my views on how we understand our fears.

Aerophobia: what causes the fear of flying?

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