Fear of flying
Fear of flying, also known as aviophobia or aerophobia, is when you are frightened of being on a plane whilst in flight. This common phobia can hold people back, stopping them from travelling, seeing the world and even connecting with loved ones.
What is 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 mind creates 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.
In this video, clinical hypnotherapist Claire Williamson (Dip Cp, Dip Hyp, LHS MSC) discusses how hypnotherapy can help you overcome your fear of flying.
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. Many aspects of flying can lead to feelings of anxiety, including:
- fear of having a panic attack
- fearing the plane will go down
- being out of control
- 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:
- dry mouth
- panic attacks
- blurred vision
- racing heartbeat
In this recording, hypnotherapist Sue Rowland leads a self-hypnosis session to help ease fear of flying.
What causes the fear of flying?
Fear of flying is a learned 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's 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.
Can you overcome fear of flying?
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 a weakness.
But, it's important to know that fear of flying can affect anyone. Overcoming a fear of flying takes a lot of courage and practice, 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 a 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.
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.
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.
Hypnotherapy for fear of flying aims to change our thoughts and behaviours associated with flying, making it a more positive experience. Through the power of suggestion and relaxation techniques, hypnotherapy can help you become a more relaxed, calm thinker, helping you to feel safe and in control of your fears. The hypnotherapist will tailor the suggestions to you, to help 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.
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're 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're 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'll 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.
Your hypnotherapist may also teach you self-hypnosis techniques. These methods will stay with you, enabling you with the skills to refer back to when you're next booking a holiday, walking into an airport or during a flight.
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.
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