How to Overcome the Fear of Flying
Updated: Nov 14, 2022
This year, there have been double the amount of travelers and frequent flyers than there were during the pandemic years. As people continue to travel, airports have seen an increase in passengers as well as quantity of flights per day. And while flying is the most common form of long-distance travel, there is still a lot of anxiety about being up in mid-air.
In fact, 40 percent of Americans experience a fear of flying, and up to 6.5 percent experience a phobia of flying. While statistics show that flying is safer than driving, this fact provides little comfort to those who experience flying anxiety. Below is an overview of some anxiety triggers and how to overcome them.
Fear of Flying at its Core
Research shows that when people address their fear of flying, they understand it in a logical sense. People know that flying is a safe way to travel, so saying this as a form of comfort is sometimes not the most helpful. The issue is that like most forms of anxiety, the body is forming a response pattern that triggers danger when it isn’t there. Commonalities between anxious flyers are pretty rational. Some are worried about being enclosed in a tight space for too long and others dislike heights. There is also a large group who are scared they might accidentally open a door mid-flight and fall. Regardless of the triggers, there are ways to overcome them.
Understand Your Triggers
Understanding what triggers you is the first step in overcoming any sort of anxiety. When you can examine how your anxiety is set off, you better understand how to combat your body’s response, making it easier to turn off. Doing this will get you in the right mindset before getting on a flight.
Be Knowledgable When Getting on Your Flight
Knowledge is power, so in addition to understanding your triggers, you should also understand all the facts about flying. It is extremely easy for us to ask ourselves “what if” questions that contain the worst of scenarios, especially when we feel anxious. Ask these questions but also know the answer. Knowing the facts will limit your brain from going off the rails and psyching yourself out.
Separate Your Anxiety from Danger
Our bodies react the same way to anxiety as it does to danger. Label your fear as anxiety, and remind yourself that your anxiety does not mean you are in danger. This won’t eliminate your anxiety, but it will help manage it.
Talk to a Flight Attendant
Flight attendants are your best advocate, and they will continue to check up on you if you inform them of your anxiety. Flight attendants hold a significant role on the plane, and they are trained to handle various health incidents like hyperventilation and fainting. Speaking with someone whose main responsibility is the safety of the passengers can do a lot to help ease some anxious thoughts.
Speak with a Therapist
Speaking with a professional should never be out of the question, especially if your fear of flying is paralyzing. A therapist can help you overcome fear from an experienced, outside perspective, while also supplying response-prevention techniques.
Source: Sarah Vander Schaaff (2019) Lots of Americans Have a Fear of Flying, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/lots-of-americans-have-a-fear-of-flying-there-are-way-to-overcome-the-anxiety-disorder/2019/10/11/d4746d84-d338-11e9-86ac-0f250cc91758_story.html
Source: ADAA (2016) 8 Steps to Overcoming Your Fear of Flying, https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/specific-phobias/treatment/8-Steps-to-Overcoming-Your-Fear-of-Flying
Source: Stephanie Waldek (2022) How to Get Over Your Fear of Flying, https://www.travelandleisure.com/travel-tips/getting-over-fear-of-flying