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Dealing With Anxiety – Anxiety Before Flying

Dealing With Anxiety


Dealing with anxietyWhen dealing with anxiety, you begin to have a sense of dread when you book the flight, and again when you pick up the tickets. By the time you reach the terminal you’re a nervous wreck – mind racing, sweating, consumed with thoughts about what could go wrong. Or maybe you’re OK until turbulence hits, at which point an uncontrollable panic takes over.

Dealing with anxiety and fear of flying can manifest itself in many forms. It’s not always centered on fear of a plane crash or a hijacking – sometimes people are anxious about having to breathe the recirculated air or be wedged in between two other people for hours.

Identifying The Root Cause

In some cases, Dealing with anxiety before a flight may not specifically be about flying on a plane, but is simply a manifestation of another general phobia, like claustrophobia or acrophobia. People suffering from extreme social anxiety may dread being expected to interact with people that are very close to them. Mysophobics (more commonly called “germaphobes”) may fear the spread of illness on a plane or having to use the bathroom while stuck on a long flight.There is thus no “magic bullet” to fix flight anxiety. There are many techniques to address common manifestations of dealing with anxiety and fear of flying, however.


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The Only Thing You Have To Fear Is Fear Itself

For many people dealing with anxiety and fear of flying, the worst part is the anticipation. Worries about plane safety and security can run rampant all the way up until it’s time to board. They may also be “on edge” the entire time during the flight anticipating that something bad is going to happen until the wheels touch down on the tarmac and the plane comes to a complete stop.

This type of anxiety is called “anticipatory anxiety” and is the most common aspect in fears of flying. Many people are tempted to go straight to medication when anxiety becomes a factor, but there are also a wide range of techniques to deal with it that you might consider before heading to the doctor’s office.

Simple knowledge sometimes can do a lot to combat anticipatory anxiety. For example, the knowledge that in the vast majority of cases, anticipatory anxiety does not predict the level of anxiety you will actually experience when in contact with the situation you are worried about. In other words, fear of the thing might be much worse than the thing itself. First-time flyers who experience pre-flight anxiety very commonly find this to be true.

We also commonly hear the phrase “flying is safer than driving.” By nearly all possible statistical metrics, that saying is true. Every day, roughly 28,500 commercial passenger flghts are in the air in the United States (along with three times as many cargo planes and other types of flights.) That works out to almost 10 and a half million passenger flights per year! In the years 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012 there were zero airline fatalities in the United States. In 2009 there were 49 fatalities, but all 49 were the result of only one crash (a Colgan Air flight from New York to Buffalo.) According to the data they keep on accidents, the Bureau of Transportation Statistics estimates that you have a 1 in 100,000 chance of being in an accident for every mile you travel in a car. Your chances of an accident for every mile travelled on a plane? 1 in 100 billion! And as far as hijackings and acts of terrorism go, there hasn’t even been an attempt in the United States since the bumbling “shoe bomber” of late 2001. And if turbulence is your worry, there are a number of sources from which you can get a turbulence forecast ahead of time so you know a shaking plane is just a result of normal atmospheric conditions and not a mechanical mishap.

If the knowledge of the statistically miniscule likelihood of a plane having an accident or being attacked doesn’t quell your fears, there are more intensive methods to turn to. Flight simulations (of the sort found at flight schools) may help dealing with anxiety while also providing knowledge about how the plane works and how it readily copes with turbulence. There are also therapy groups that meet specifically for dealing with flight anxiety. A mental health professional may also be able to prescribe behavioral techniques to manage flight anxiety.

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Treating Specific Phobias And Triggers

If you have experienced a specific panic attack on a plane before, then you likely know what the specific trigger is. This is another instance where a mental health professional can likely prescribe behavioral techniques to be used when the trigger occurs, such as deep breathing and visualization. In more extreme cases, there are psychotherapy programs that involve having a counselor present with the patient on a short commercial flight.

People also often turn to sedatives and tranquilizers to manage anxiety while on a flight. While they can work as a patchwork solution to get you through a necessary flight, they don’t solve the overall problem. A doctor may prescribe a general anti-anxiety or antidepressant drug to start out, such as Zoloft, diazepam or lorazepam. For a long international flight or a “red eye” a doctor may also prescribe a sedative to help you sleep, such as Ambien or Lunesta. Certain herbs and herb extracts are also said to have calming effects, namely lavender, lemon balm and kava kava.

If you found this article about dealing with anxiety before flying helpful, please leave us a comment and let us know.  We are always looking for different ideas or topics related to the fear of flying that might interest the general public so please post your suggestions.  Our reason for creating this site is to provide a forum which provides real and valuable information for those of us who suffer from the fear of flying.  However, in order for us to do so, we’d like to enlist the help of our readers and together we can grow this forum into a valuable resource for those of us who suffer from this crippling phobia.  We appreciate you visiting our site and thank you.



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