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Encyclopedia > Fear of flying

Fear of flying is a fear of being on a plane while in flight. It is also sometimes referred to as aerophobia, aviatophobia or aviophobia. A fear of flying is a fear of air travel. ...



Fear of flying may be a distinct phobia in itself, or it may be an indirect manifestation of one or more other phobias, such as claustrophobia (a fear of enclosed spaces) or acrophobia (a fear of heights). It may have other causes as well. It is a symptom rather than a disease, and different causes may bring it about in different individuals. For other uses, see Phobia (disambiguation). ... Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder that involves the fear of enclosed or confined spaces. ... View through the glass floor of the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada. ...

Fear of flying receives more attention than most other phobias because air travel is often difficult for people to avoid—especially in professional contexts—and because the fear is widespread, affecting a significant minority of the population. A fear of flying may prevent a person from going on vacations or visiting family and friends, and it can cripple the career of a businessperson by preventing them from travelling as part of their job.

Despite its ubiquity, commercial air travel continues to cause a significant proportion of the public to feel anxiety. When this anxiety reaches a level that significantly interferes with a person's ability to travel by air, it becomes a fear of flying.


A fear of flying is a level of anxiety so great that it prevents a person from travelling by air, or causes great distress to a person when he or she is compelled to travel by air. The most extreme manifestations can include panic attacks or vomiting at the mere sight or mention of an aircraft or air travel. A panic attack is a period of intense fear or discomfort, typically with an abrupt onset and usually lasting no more than 30 minutes. ... Emesis redirects here. ...


The fear of flying may be created by various other phobias and fears:[1]

  • a fear of closed in spaces (claustrophobia), such as that of an aircraft cabin
  • a fear of heights (acrophobia)
  • a feeling of not being in control
  • fear of having panic attacks in certain places, where escape would be difficult and/or embarrassing (agoraphobia)
  • fear of hijacking or terrorism
  • fear of turbulence
  • fear of flying over water or night flying
  • fear of death/dying

A previous traumatizing experience with air travel or somehow connected to air travel can also trigger a fear of flying. For example, the experience of flying to a meeting only to be told that one has been fired might be traumatic enough to subsequently create an assocation between any air travel and bad or unpleasant events. Claustrophobia is an anxiety disorder that involves the fear of enclosed or confined spaces. ... View through the glass floor of the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada. ... Agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder which primarily consists of the fear of certain settings that may present unexpected challenges or demands. ... Hijackers inside flightdeck of TWA Flight 847 Aircraft hijacking (also known as skyjacking and aircraft piracy) is the take-over of an aircraft, by a person or group, usually armed. ... Terrorist redirects here. ... In fluid dynamics, turbulence or turbulent flow is a flow regime characterized by chaotic, stochastic property changes. ...

Some suggest that the media are a major factor behind fear of flying, and claim that the media sensationalize airline crashes (and the high casualty rate per incident), in comparison to the perceived scant attention given the massive number of isolated automobile crashes. As the total number of flights in the world rises, the absolute number of crashes rises as well, even though the overall safety of air travel continues to improve. If only the crashes are reported by the media (with no reference to the number of flights that do not end in a crash), the overall (and incorrect) impression created may be that air travel is becoming increasingly dangerous, which is the exact opposite of reality.

Misunderstandings of the principles of aviation can fuel an unjustified fear of flying. For example, many people incorrectly believe that the engines of a jet airliner support it in the air ... and from this false premise they also incorrectly reason that a failure of the engines will cause the aircraft to plummet to earth. In reality, all airliners can glide without engines, and the engines serve only to move the aircraft more quickly through the air and maintain its altitude over long distances.



In some cases, educating people with a fear of flying about the realities of aviation can considerably diminish their fears. Learning how aircraft fly, how airliners are flown in practice, and other aspects of aviation can assist people with a fear of flying in overcoming its irrational nature. Many people have overcome their fear of flying by learning to fly or skydive, and effectively removing their fear of the unknown. Some people with a fear of flying undertake education themselves; others attend courses (for people with the phobia or for people interested in aviation) to achieve the same result. Some airline and travel companies run courses to help people get over the fear of flying.

Education plays a very important role in overcoming the fear of flying. Understanding what a certain sound is or that an encounter with turbulence will not destroy the aircraft is beneficial to easing the fear of the unknown.

Therapy for fear of flying

Often therapy to overcome Fear of Flying indicates that there has been an initial sensitizing event (ISE) that has created the feelings of fear - in other words, this was the first time that the person felt those intense feelings of fear. Interestingly, it is sometimes the case that the ISE has nothing to do with flying at all, or that the fear or discomfort experienced on the plane at the time of the ISE is nothing to do with the experience of flying itself.

Hypnotherapy, Cognitive Behaviour therapy, Systematic Desensitisation and positive Visualisation are all useful techniques to overcome fear of flying. Hypnotherapy generally involves regression to the ISE, uncovering the event, the emotions around the event, and helping the client understand their source of fear. Other techniques will involve helping the client to associate more comfortable feelings with flying. All in all, often even intense fears can be alleviated in just a few hours, without needing to give therapy "in vivo" - (on the plane itself) but rather through using imagination techniques in the comfort of the therapy room.


Fear of flying may be treated by the use of psychoactive medications. For individuals experiencing anxiety due to a phobia, the standard psychiatric prescription might be any of a number of different psychoactive medications such as benzodiazepines or other relaxant/depressant drugs. Psychiatrists are sometimes reluctant to prescribe any medication for the treatment of fear of flying due to the need for patients to medicate irregularly. Benzodiazepine tablets The benzodiazepines are a class of drugs with hypnotic, anxiolytic, anticonvulsant, amnestic and muscle relaxant properties. ...

Some individuals with fear of flying may self-medicate with other psychoactive substances—particularly alcohol, which is served in many commercial airline cabins—in order to deal with their anxiety. Most mental health professionals would advise against consuming alcohol as a medication both due to the strong risk of dependency (alcoholism) and due to the particular physiological effects on the body of air travel. In a pressurized cabin, the lower-than-normal oxygen content of the air will cause an alcoholic beverage to have a significantly enhanced effect on the body--resulting in a perhaps surprising level and rapidity of intoxication from only one or two drinks. On the other hand, some professionals believe that if an individual is capable of controlling his or her drinking—i.e. is not an alcoholic—and consumes only a small amount at a time, that an alcoholic beverage before or during a flight may be beneficial as a short-term treatment of the fear of flying.[citation needed] Most would still advise a more long-term strategy of systematic desensitization therapy. Self-medication is the use of drugs, often illicit, to treat a perceived or real malady, often of a psychological nature. ... Alcoholism is the consumption of, or preoccupation with, alcoholic beverages to the extent that this behavior interferes with the drinkers normal personal, family, social, or work life, and may lead to physical or mental harm. ... King Alcohol and his Prime Minister circa 1820 Alcoholism is the consumption of or preoccupation with alcoholic beverages to the extent that this behavior interferes with the alcoholics normal personal, family, social, or work life. ... Systematic desensitization is a type of behavioral therapy used in the field of psychology to help effectively overcome phobias and other anxiety disorders. ...


  1. ^ Captain S. L. Chance (2006). Fear of Flying Media Kit. Press release. Retrieved on 2007-04-29.

For information on Wikipedia press releases, see Wikipedia:Press releases. ... Year 2007 (MMVII) is the current year, a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and the AD/CE era in the 21st century. ... is the 119th day of the year (120th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. ...

External links

  • Superstition and flight numbers
  • Les Posen's Fear of Flying Weblog

  Results from FactBites:
Fear of Flying? (5803 words)
Fear of flying is a complex psychological effect that is not easy to be tackled but a good understanding of what trigger them can help to alleviate the problem.
Flying at a height of six or seven mile, one is amazed at the mechanic of flight yet fearful of its capability in holding the airplane aloft.
Flying is more than 10 times safer than climbing up the stairs at home, 21 times safer than driving in your car and that you will have to take a flight every day for 30,000 years before you are likely to encounter a fatal air crash.
Fear of Flying: Symptoms, Medical Issues, and Treatment (4905 words)
But unless the fear can be traced directly to a trauma or accident, before seeking treatment specific to the child, it would be advisable to think of the child as just one part of a larger family system.
In other words, the fear is not about flying so much as about what flying signifies: the despair of being shuttled from one parent to another like a sack of potatoes.
The woman is ambivalent about her job promotion and fears that it might affect her marriage, and so the fear of flying symptoms serve unconsciously to prevent her from fulfilling the duties of her new job and call into question the promotion itself.
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