Pteromerhanophobia - an unfamiliar term, but if you have a flying phobia you'll know how it feels
So, you’re looking through the internet at possible destinations for your holiday, drawn to some of the wonderful exotic resorts with white sandy beaches and clear blue skies. And don’t you need the rest, ten days relaxing on a sun-drenched beach, feeling the warmth on your skin, the soft feeling of the sand between your toes, the sensation of your body melting into the sun lounger while your mind basks in the satisfying feeling of complete relaxation and pleasure.
But what’s that feeling that’s starting to overtake your lovely daydream? Your heartbeat starts to quicken, your hands are feeling clammy, there’s an unpleasant feeling in your stomach and your head feels like something is starting to pound from the inside. Of course, you recognise the signs, to get to this particular resort, you’ll need to fly and flying is out of the question.
You’ve had a fear of flying for years and for years you’ve avoided going anywhere that you can’t reach by car, boat, train – any form of travel except planes. You can’t even remember where it came from, you just know that the mere thought is enough to tell you you’re never going to be able to overcome that fear.
Sound familiar? If it does you’re not on your own, various surveys are done regularly and quote a fear of flying affecting anything from 7% to 28% of the population in the UK, that’s somewhere between 4.5 and 18.4 million people. For a small percentage of people that means avoiding flying completely, for others it means increased anxiety, short tempers, distress, discomfort and a range of unpleasant sensations from the minute they leave the house until clearing security at their destination.
Phobia’s come in many shapes and forms, sometimes they can be tracked back to a specific event, sometimes you can relate it back to a parent or carers fear, they could be a result of a recent event you have been exposed to and sometimes they seem to have come out of nowhere. And no matter how often your nearest and dearest try to calm you with explanations and efforts of replacing irrationality with logic, you know it’s real to you and you can’t control it.
Or can you…
Phobias can be treated successfully in a number of ways by working with a therapist who will support you in learning how to manage your phobia, some of the techniques may include:
- Learning specific relaxation techniques. Once mastered these can be used to combat some of the symptoms of anxiety when you start to experience anxiety, also in the lead up to stressful events to help you retain control of how you’re feeling.
- Using imagery and visualisations, particularly with hypnotherapy, learning how to take yourself to a ‘safe’ place during a flight to help you keep calm. Your imagination is already likely to be highly efficient, after all, it has created the phobia, use that to your advantage to create more positive images and visualisations.
- Using de-sensitisation techniques, again alongside hypnotherapy – working with a therapist to gradually experience the ‘milestones’ of flying in your imagination, such as arriving at the airport, boarding the plan, buckling your seatbelt and so on. The imagination is a powerful thing and what you experience here can be translated into real life experiences and a pace that works for you.
- Breathing techniques – learning a breathing technique that works for you and allows you to introduce calm into your body, suppressing the feelings of anxiety.
- Affirmations – creating a positive affirmation that you can use throughout your journey to the airport and flight, using the power of your mind to cope and take control.
There are other techniques that you can explore with your therapist. There isn’t a one size fits all for phobias, what works for one of your friends may not work for you, but if you have the will there will be a way, and a good therapist will guide you there.
So, if white sandy beaches are calling you and you're starting to think enough is enough, contact a hypnotherapist to find out how they can help you overcome your fear.
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About Shelley Cushway
I am a cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist and coach. I am also a mindfulness coach and trainer. I work with individuals supporting them to achieve their goals and overcome whatever is holding them back. I also run workshops and training sessions in mindfulness and building confidence.