Fear of flying (aviophobia) - What to do?

About 15 percent of Germans suffer from fear of flying (aviophobia). As the name implies, fear of flying is the fear of flying. This anxiety is so pronounced in those affected that it greatly influences their lives: Already at the thought of an airplane begins to rage in some of the heart, shortly before departure, symptoms such as shortness of breath, diarrhea or panic reactions can occur. We will give you tips on how to fight and overcome your fear of flying.

Fear of flying arises in the head

Statistically, an airplane is the safest means of transportation - safer than a car, bus or train. Nevertheless, many people are afraid of flying. This is due to the fact that for many people flying is less common than driving. On the other hand, different fears collide in the plane: one feels cramped and locked up (claustrophobia), one is afraid of the altitude and feels at the mercy of the pilot and the crew.

For the rise of fear of flying our own (negative) imagination is responsible: Already before or at the latest during the flight one begins to imagine, which catastrophes could occur. These scenarios are vividly played through in the mind, you can see the machine already shattering on the ground or sinking into the sea.

Causes of fear of flying

But why does the idea of ​​an airplane come to such a negative head cinema? The fear of flying can be based on various causes. For example, you may have had a bad flight experience yourself: Maybe you have ever caught a flight with more turbulence or had to wait longer to get the landing permit.

If you have never flown or have not had negative experiences so far, you probably have a general anxious disposition. You feel delivered on board, locked up and fully assess the dangers of the flight: Harmless noises or normal operations are considered dangerous by you, even though they are not.

In addition, a bad experience of another person or their strong fears can be a cause of fear of flying. Although you have not had any problems with flying before, suddenly you do not feel safe on the plane anymore. This process is referred to as imitation learning - one imitates the behavior of the other person.

Typical symptoms of fear of flying

Those who are afraid of flying, usually no longer feel well in their skin days before departure. When entering the aircraft or at the latest when taking off then stronger symptoms occur. However, not everyone who does not like to fly suffers from fear of flying. Only when typical signs such as the following occur, is it said of fear of flying:

  • They avoid traveling by plane and prefer to use other means of transport - even if the journey becomes more complicated.
  • Already at the thought of a planned flight you experience anxiety symptoms.
  • As you enter the aircraft, you feel panicked and paralyzed. They are afraid to die.
  • They are irritable, nervous and aggressive. You are particularly sensitive to noises and smells.
  • They feel tense, shiver and sweat. You suffer from tachycardia, difficulty breathing, tinnitus and dizziness.
  • They behave differently than usual: they drink too much alcohol and take calming tablets, they chew on their fingernails or drumm their fingers on the table.

Combat fear of flying

Fear of flying only affects people who consider a flight to be dangerous. With them, the body shows a normal reaction to a dangerous situation. With a few tricks and a little practice, fear of flying can be controlled by most people. You can only overcome your fear of flying if you no longer perceive the flight as dangerous.

Above all, it is important that you build trust in the technology of the aircraft. Some airlines offer special flight anxiety seminars that pay particular attention to the technology aspect. A pilot informs you in the seminar in detail about the technical processes during the flight. In addition, various relaxation techniques are rehearsed in such a seminar. At the end there is usually a small test flight on the program.

9 tips: how to overcome your fear of flying

Not only a fear of flying seminar, but also a few small tips and tricks can help you to overcome your fear of flying. If possible, start fighting your fear of flying a few weeks before departure:

  • Get to grips with the topic of aircraft and flying. Obtain literature or drive to the nearest airport and observe planes taking off and landing.
  • Do regular relaxation exercises or autogenic training. Choose targeted relaxation exercises that you can also practice on the plane.
  • If your fear of flying is extreme, think about attending a fear of flying seminar. You generally suffer from strong fears if you are looking for a conversation with a psychologist. You may be helped by anxiety therapy.

If you have missed a long-term preparation for your flight, you can still do a few things shortly before and during the flight to combat your fear of flying:

  • Make the way to the airport as stress-free as possible: Check in online and start early to avoid unnecessary stress.
  • Avoid alcohol and coffee on the plane.
  • Concentrate on something positive during the flight: read an exciting book or listen to an audio book - this distracts from smaller sounds. Try to enjoy the good view and enjoy the service of the stewardesses.
  • Turn on the ventilation nozzles in the airplane. Just when you are straining the tightness in the plane, a little fresh air will do you good.
  • If you find yourself panicking, try stopping the negative thoughts with a conscious 'stop'. Instead, focus on a very nice event.
  • Relax and control your breathing. Breathe slowly in and out deeply. Imagine how the air flows into your body. Take a breath of at least six seconds after exhaling.

With medications to overcome the fear of flying?

Generally it is not recommended to fight fear of flying with drugs or alcohol. On the one hand, the fear of flying is not actively combated, on the other hand can be perceived by the intake of drugs, the loss of control in the plane as even stronger.

If you want to resort to medication, you should prefer herbal sedatives such as valerian or St. John's wort. These funds should be taken for a longer period of time before the flight to be fully effective. If you absolutely want to take a tranquilizer, you should first talk to a doctor about the dosage. In the long term, however, the use of sedatives during the flight should not be a solution.

If medications are taken on board, it should be noted that their mechanism of action may change due to altitude. Since you usually drink more than usual because of the dry air in the plane, the drugs are also excreted faster.

Many people who are afraid of flying attack alcohol before or during the flight. But beware: Alcohol is not only about twice as strong due to the altitude when flying, but can also panic those affected. Those who suffer from fear of flying should keep their fingers off alcohol and fight their fear of flying instead professionally.

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