Are you going on a holiday or business trip where flying is neccesary, but the very thought of it is making you anxious? Then you might be suffering from Aerophobia.
What is Aerophobia?
Aerophobia, also known as Aviophobia, is the fear of flying either in helicopters, airplanes and other flying vehicles. In some patients, Aerophobia may be present along with other fears or phobias like Claustrophobia (fear of closed and confined spaces) or Acrophobia (fear of heights) etc. Nearly 25% of air travelers are known to suffer from this phobia.
Flying is a necessity for many people today, especially owing to their professions. As the modern world is growing closer thanks to technology and communication, flying has become inevitable. Many people feel mild anxiety before flights. However, in case of Aerophobia, the anxiety takes on a more serious turn. Such people start avoiding family vacations or put off business meetings that include flying. This can often have devastating effects on one’s career and personal life.
What are the typical symptoms of Aerophobia?
As with many types of fears and phobias, the fear of flying also has physical and psychological manifestations.
The physical symptoms include sweating, trembling, increased heart rate, nausea, vomiting and other forms of gastrointestinal distress. Psychological symptoms include irritation, dizziness, thoughts of falling to death, inability to think clearly, disorientation and nervousness.
Most phobics suffering from aerophobia start to experience these symptoms as soon as they reach the airport. They may become irritable, show signs of a major panic attack and may lash out at airline staff or at family members/friends/colleagues. In other cases, the individuals may be comfortable whilst waiting for his/her flight but may start to show signs of distress upon boarding the aircraft.
Causes and conditions related to the fear of flying
As mentioned above, the fear of flying is often associated with other fears and phobias. In such cases, the individuals experience greater forms of anxiety. For example, the fear of flying is often linked to the fear of confined spaces. The individual dislikes the closed and cramped spaces in the aircraft and may get the feeling of being trapped and unable to escape. The fear of heights or Acrophobia is also linked with the fear of flying.
Social phobias can also trigger Aerophobia mainly, the individual fears sitting close to strange people on the aircraft.
Certain physical conditions are also linked with Aerophobia. People with cold, vertigo, sinus problems or other nasal conditions as well as tinnitus/ear issues may experience the fear of flying owing to the aggravation of symptoms during the flight. DVT or deep vein thrombosis (which is common in people with cardiovascular disorders) is also known to cause bouts of Aerophobia in patients.
The fear of flying is usually not related to any drugs or medications. A range of factors can be attributed for its onset. Traumatic flights in the past, possibility of motion sickness due to air turbulence, news and images of plane crashes or terrorism threats etc may also lead to development of the symptoms of fear of flying. The condition is hereditary, which means that it is likelier in kids whose parents suffer from it.
Treatment for Aerophobia
Diagnosing aerophobia is important especially if the presented symptoms are of epic proportions. A psychologist or psychiatrist can help assess the magnitude of fear and suggest medication (0.5 to 1mg of the drug Alprazolam taken half an hour before the flight is recommended) or other advice related to it.
Group and individual therapy sessions are also known to help ease aerophobia. Newer techniques like virtual flight simulation are known to provide groundbreaking treatment options for overcoming various kinds of phobias. Individual or group cognitive behavior therapy and Hypnosis can also help in overcoming this phobia.
If your Aerophobia is associated with other health conditions or phobias, it is best to seek medical help in order to treat all concurrent disorders.