Are you afraid of planes? Do you avoid travelling by plane although it is your job’s requirement? Have you got relatives or friends that you would like to visit more often but you are scared of flying? Would you like to go for holidays abroad with your family or friends but you’re thinking of the dangers involved?
If your answer is “Yes” to most of the above, you are not alone. One out of four passengers in Europe suffers from stress and phobia of planes before and during the flight. Plane and flight phobia came to its height after the 11th of September, mostly for Americans for whom is the first out of the three most common phobias. Nevertheless, taking in mind the statistics, plane, is the safest means of transport.
Below is a list of the main fear factors of a plane journey. Read them and choose those that suit your case. If they are more than three, you should seek professional help:
- Fear of a possible panic attack
- Weather conditions
- A crowded airport
- Feeling nauseous
- Flying over the sea
- Sitting uncomfortably
- Traveling for long hours
- Feeling trapped
- How much do I trust the pilot?
- Finding myself out of control
- A mistake of the air traffic controllers
- Fear in case plane crashes with another plane while flying
- How much do I trust the airline?
- The possibility of a mechanic malfunction while flying
- Being away of my loved ones
In order to overcome your fears regarding plane journeys, you should mainly have strong motives. It’s not pleasant for someone to face his/her anxiety and phobias, at least in the beginning. Thus, you have to be determined. Choose you flights, having in mind that plane is the easiest, fastest and safest way of transportation. See it as a success challenge. Your strong will to achieve your goal will help you overcome every difficulty. With motives and your willingness, you can adopt 7 steps to help you travel pleasantly by plane.
Start positively, with a visit to the airport for coffee or to welcome a friend. Then, choose a close destination to fly to with friends for the weekend. The more you familiarize yourself with your fear, the easier will be to achieve your goal.
Think: Your personal safety system has been disturbed. Help it in order to get it back in use.
Remember: Avoidance is not a helpful tool whatsoever.
Plane phobia is really a fear of flying. It occurs mainly to people who are not calm, are anxious, terrified, have panic and are nervous with anything related to the plane. They only have to think of a plane journey to get discouraged and start feeling bad or even avoiding it.
So, let’s go for a mental journey!
This scenario requires a plane journey. At first with a friend or partner you trust and usually feel good around him/her and later on your own. Remember that in your suitcase you should have your most positive thoughts and not your catastrophic ones.
Step 1: Lie down on a comfortable armchair and bring to your mind a nice picture from your holidays.
Step 2: You are entering an aircraft, you settle down and fasten the seatbelt.
Step 3: You are flipping through the pages of a magazine you find at the front seat.
Step 4: The plane takes its position for take-off
Step 5: The plane takes off, and you bring to your mind a nice picture from your holidays.
Step 6: You are on air. You are sitting in the flying plane, drinking your coffee.
Step 7: The plane is landing, don’t panic, there isn’t any threat so far since you are imagining all that from the armchair of your home.
*If in any of the above steps you feel nervous or experience any other symptoms, stop, make sure your thoughts are positive and start again from where you stopped. Repeat the exercise daily, improving the negative points with your fantasy.
In reality plane phobia is fear of death. It mainly occurs to people who present symptoms of anxiety, stress, panic and nervousness regarding closed spaces, height and fear that something bad will happen during the flight. A mechanic problem or something else that might occur during the flight, makes them see a plane journey with anxiety and fear.
Some people are scared because they had or heard someone describing a traumatic experience when traveling by plane or even just because they saw images of a plane tragedy in the media.
They feel they have no control over the situation because someone else has their lives in his/her hands, which might be the pilot or the maintenance staff. Thus, weeks before a flight they get drawn into their fear. This is called anticipation anxiety and is as harmful as panic of phobia because they tend to analyze negative thoughts and feelings and they drain their energy levels days before the flight.
This can be translated into lack of trust. Thus, you don’t have to be on a flight to experience all these feelings. You can even feel them in your daily life or your sexual relationship. For instance, when your safety feeling is activated it can create the same or similar symptoms.
Many researchers relate these feelings with the type of relationship we had with our parents during childhood. If we were safely attached nothing of the above would have happened. If the opposite happens, things do not seem rosy.
Being very close to a relationship (which is coded as closed space: claustrophobia) provides security, but takes freedom, personal expression and initiative away.
On the contrary, being away (which is coded as open space: agoraphobia) provides a sense of freedom in a relationship, and a sense of insecurity at the same time. Thus, perceive plane phobia and flights as a challenge to de-code the situation! Many happy flights.!!!
Questions you would like to ask your psychologist before flying by plane.
Question: What is the cause of your plane phobia?
Answer: Some people are afraid to get in a plane after an unpleasant or traumatic experience they had when they traveled by plane, or something relevant like a death. Some other people might be afraid of planes because someone in their family is afraid of them (i.e. they have raised levels of anxiety/panic). Roughly, around 80% of the people with plane phobia have a close member of their family who is phobic to something.
Question: Is taking-off the greatest fear?
Answer: Some people panic simply by thinking they have a plane journey ahead, without even boarding on an aircraft, until the moment, the aircraft takes-off. This is called “anticipation anxiety” and is as harmful as panic of phobia because people tend to analyze negative thoughts and feelings, and drain their energy levels, days, weeks or even months before the flight.
Question: What does Negative Automatic Thought mean?
Answer: Under normal circumstances, our brain processes roughly around 1.000 words a minute, but when anxiety attacks, our brain works even faster creating thoughts (automatic), images and feelings. Most of the times, these thoughts are repetitive. Consequently, we will start loosing control if we are constantly over-worried about “what”, “how” and “why” without giving rational answers. The good news is that we can learn controlling our negative automatic thoughts.
Question: Which are the usual symptoms?
Answer: This phobia focuses on the fear of planes, airports and flights. It is the only time when the individual gets in a period of raised anxiety. On the contrary, in generalized anxiety disorder the individual is constantly worried about every day situations, transferring his/her worry from one situation to the other, which creates constant stress and tension and is harmful for his/her health.
Question: In the psychological treatment, do you focus on the symptoms or the cause?
Answer: The focus is on both of them. If the therapy focuses only on the symptoms and not the cause, we will never treat the phobia and the symptoms will recur. Therefore, we use a multi-level procedure, which re-introduces thoughts, feelings and behaviors. This, allows the individual to comprehend the link between the cause and the symptom evaporating the cause.
Dr. Hara Nomikou
If you are afraid of flying by planes, contact us on 210 6810592. Well- trained Psychologists will help you face your phobia and in a short period of time, you will be able to enjoy a really entertaining plane journey.
The article is originally written by Dr. Nomikou in Greek, and publicized in the newspaper “Eleftherotypia”. The article was translated in English for the purpose of this website.
Many happy flights!