Fear of flying

Fear of flying is one of the most common phobias, with an estimated one in 10 people experiencing flight anxiety. To those who do not suffer from anxiety, this may seem like an irrational fear. But, our minds will create feelings of anxiety when it believes we are in danger. Protecting us is the primary function of our subconscious mind, so if something is seen as a threat, actions will be taken.

Despite flying being proven to be one of the safest ways to travel, fear still affects much of the population. This fear can interfere with daily life and hold people back. Here we take a closer look at this phobia and how hypnotherapy for fear of flying can help.

Living with a fear of flying

Having a fear of flying can often interfere with personal holidays and business trips. This can lead to people avoiding career paths that involve travel or even missing out on family holidays abroad. There are many aspects of flying that can lead to feelings of anxiety, including fear of having a panic attack, fearing the plane will go down, claustrophobia, being out of control and fear of terrorism.

And it’s not just whilst on a plane that anxiety can set in. If you're afraid of flying, anything from booking a holiday, arriving at an airport or even thinking about getting on a plane can trigger feelings of anxiety.

It’s important to note that not everyone who suffers from fear of flying will experience the same amount of distress. Experiences can range from mild anxiety before flying, to a state of terror which can prevent a person from getting on the plane.

Common symptoms include:

  • sweating
  • dry mouth
  • panic attacks
  • blurred vision
  • racing heartbeat
  • nausea

What causes a fear of flying?

Fear of flying is a learnt fear. It may stem from childhood (perhaps if the individual’s parents showed similar fear) or may have developed after suffering a bad experience (such as bad turbulence or the plane making an emergency landing).

Some people suggest that fears may increase at significant points in a person’s life, after having children, for instance. It is thought this may be driven by survival instincts.

It's important to bear in mind that being scared of flying may not only be a single phobia. The fear may also stem from other fears and phobias, such as claustrophobia, fear of heights or agoraphobia. But, if you can successfully identify what triggers your anxiety, you've taken the first step in overcoming the fear.

Try this meditation before you fly to get you in the right frame of mind.

Overcoming your fear

Many of those who don't suffer from a fear of flying don't understand how it feels. They might try to reassure the person, quoting statistics and personal experiences. But to those living with a fear of flying, these reassuring words are not always helpful. They may, in fact, do the opposite, making the individual feel like the fear is just weakness. But, it is important to know that fear of flying can affect anyone, regardless of age, status, gender and intelligence.

One theory as to why people experience a fear of flying relates to control. Hypnotherapist Jo Rogers BA (Hons), Dip Hyp, IAEBP explores the idea of control and anxiety:

Let someone else drive you while you sit in the passenger seat. Feel how it feels to let someone else take care of you just for a while and trust that they will look after you, in just the same way as a pilot who wants to go home to his or her family will make sure that the plane you are travelling in together is safe.

Overcoming a fear of flying takes a lot of courage and practise. But it is possible with appropriate treatment.

The most successful way to overcome phobias is exposure to feared triggers. It’s important to remember that avoidance keeps your phobia alive and intense. With fear of flying, one of the biggest factors is anticipatory anxiety; the fear experienced in anticipation of taking a flight. Any successful treatment will help fearful fliers manage anticipatory anxiety before, as well as during, a flight.

The good news is that there are methods that can access the unconscious mind and work to enable the individual to overcome their fear of flying.

Hypnotherapy for fear of flying

A popular treatment method for fear of flying is hypnotherapy, which connects with the unconscious. It aims to change our thoughts and behaviours associated with flying, making it a more positive experience. Re-evaluating the reaction our unconscious mind creates can often help us to regain control over a fear and feel more at ease when anxious feelings arise.

Hypnotherapist Biodun Ogunyemi shares his tips for overcoming flight anxiety.

Hypnotherapy can help you to become a relaxed, calm thinker - help you to feel safe and in control. Hypnosis uses relaxation techniques and the power of suggestion to promote a positive change. The hypnotherapist will tailor the suggestions to you, with the aim of helping you recognise what triggers your fear and why, as well as changing your reaction.

Another treatment method for fear of flying is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This type of counselling includes techniques for managing anxiety, such as diaphragmatic breathing, to use while on the flight.

Learn more about CBT and counselling for phobias.

Fear of flying - paper airplane

What to expect from a hypnosis session

During your initial consultation, your hypnotherapist will spend time getting to know you. They will talk to you, asking you why you are seeking hypnotherapy for fear of flying and what you want to achieve. Your therapist will then take some time to understand what you have told them, analysing this information and looking for a pattern.

After explaining the process to you and confirming you are happy to proceed, your hypnotherapist will help you enter a relaxed, trance-like state. They may ask you to picture getting on a plane, or booking a holiday - whenever it is that you begin to feel anxious. You may be asked to focus on how you feel and what you think triggers the fear.

When you have recognised these sensations, you will be offered suggestions or calming words. What they will say will depend on you and your fear. The idea behind this is that when you feel the onset of fear, these words will enter your conscious mind. These suggestions will help you manage your emotions and give you an element of control over your behaviour.

My hypnotherapist showed me some techniques to use if I became anxious and these really helped. I'm glad I did the hypnotherapy now as I feel more confident about flying, and I feel more in control of how to deal with my anxieties too.

- Mel shares how hypnotherapy helped her fear of flying.

Your hypnotherapist may also teach you self-hypnosis techniques. This way you can continue your treatment long after your sessions are over. These methods will stay with you, to refer back to when you are next booking a holiday, walking into an airport or during a flight.

How can I find a hypnotherapist?

Just by being here, you are taking a step in the right direction. On Hypnotherapy Directory, we believe that everyone deserves access to the right information and that it is important to find a hypnotherapist that you feel comfortable with.

To make your search easier, we encourage the professionals listed with us to fill their profiles with plenty of information and submit regular articles to our expert articles section. This way you can learn more about them, the way they work and if they are the person to help you.

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