Beating Your Fear of Flying

Bjorn Koch Flying

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It’s a question that gets asked every so often, one for which no one ever seems amply prepared. Sometimes they spring it on you in a job interview, other times at networking sessions or, if you’re particularly unlucky, on a first date. It seems like there is no right answer, only answers that will satisfy and intrigue the asker into wanting to know more.

The question is, “what is your biggest fear?” And if you answered “flying,” well, there might be some help on the horizon.

The fear of flying is one of the most common fears among human beings. Roughly 1 in 3 adults–an estimated 9 million in America alone– express anxiety or outright fear when it comes to boarding an aircraft and taking off in the wondrous experience of  human flight. This fear, although common, is debilitating. Experiencing new and exciting places by hopping aboard an airplane is an unequivocally enlightening and fulfilling event.

If you’re one of the many people who wants to see the world but suffers from aviophobia, there are numerous means of helping to beat your phobia and see the world.


Identify What’s Triggering It

Sometimes phobias are not rooted in any one particular experience. In other instances some large-scale disasters like the missing Malaysian Airlines flight or the 9/11 terrorist attacks can cause an intrinsic fear of flying to become outwardly apparent. Whatever the cause may be, do your best to identify the cause and rationalize it. Once you’ve positively determined the source of your fear–even if you’ve determined it is not rooted in anything specifically–you can determine how to best treat it.


Learn to Manage Anxiety

Listening to relaxing music or distracting yourself by striking up a conversation or watching some television on your phone or tablet can help manage the stress you’re feeling as takeoff approaches. Slow your breathing and allow whatever you’re feeling to happen instead of fighting against it and working yourself into an anxiety attack. Actively trying to suppress your anxious feelings can actually exacerbate them. Consulting with your psychiatrist or doctor regarding the most effective means of overcoming the anxiety that surrounds flying for you.


Know the Statistics

When you’re trying to overcome a fear of any kind, knowledge is indeed power. According to MIT Professor Dr. Arnold Barnett, “a person would have to fly on average once a day every day for 22,000 years before they would die in a U.S. commercial airplane accident according to recent accident rates.” The fact of the matter remains that death or accidents as a result of taking a plane trip, both domestic and international, are extremely rare. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 96 percent of passengers survive plane accidents, and planes are 200 times as safe as driving a car.


Take a Flight

Perhaps the best and fastest way to overcome your aviophobia is to push yourself into experiencing it first-hand. This form of exposure therapy is used to treat various fear-inducing stimuli in those with anxiety, and is often successful. By exposing yourself to the fear directly–in this case by boarding a plane and flying somewhere–you can experience the safety and joy you can get from flying.