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Flying With Flight Anxiety

How I Survive Flying With an Extreme Fear of Heights

By Emily Marie ConcannonPublished 8 months ago β€’ 7 min read
Top Story - September 2023
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Flying With Flight Anxiety
Photo by Philip Myrtorp on Unsplash

Did you know there are over 100,000 flights per day? With that impressive number of planes in the sky, it's reasonable to conclude that some 6 million passengers take to the skies every day.

Flying is the safest mode of transportation. Accordingly, there are approximately 60-70 plane crashes each year, including private flights and personal planes. If you only count commercial airlines, the number is significantly lower.

Finally, even if your plane crashes or experiences issues doesn't mean it's a death sentence. Consider this statistic: there's a one in eleven million chance of being in a plane crash. However, there's only one in twenty-nine million chance of dying in a plane crash. Do you know what this means?

These statistics mean that even if you are in a plane crash (which is extremely unlikely), you're even less likely to die due to impact. In comparison, there's a 1-in-366 chance of dying in a car crash during a trip of 1,000 miles. Most automobile owners file 3-4 insurance claims in their lifetime, with many filing significantly more.

Despite these facts, an estimated 40% of the population suffers from flight phobia. In some cases, this phobia is so bad they can't fly at all without suffering a panic attack. Dear reader, I am one of these people.

While driving to the airport the last time I flew, I saw a small Toyota on the side of the road consumed in flames. I didn't see the people involved in the crash, but I can only imagine how they looked after that experience. Despite this, I felt afraid of flying. I didn't feel any anxiety on the drive to the airport.

And I know I'm not alone. I rarely meet anyone who's afraid of driving despite seeing mangled cars on the side of the road every week. Are we crazy?

In this article, we'll explore flight anxiety/phobia and how you can begin overcoming it. Even if you don't overcome your fears (I still get nervous every time I fly), I hope to help you work up the courage to get on the bridge again!

What is Flight Anxiety (Phobia)?

By louis magnotti on Unsplash

Flight phobia is sometimes connected to a fear of heights, while for others, it's connected to a fear of losing control or dying traumatically. This condition is sometimes called aerophobia and can prevent people from traveling at all if it's bad enough. It manifests as mild discomfort before or during a flight or as panic attacks, difficulty breathing, and elevated heart rate.

Some people don't like flying because it puts their fate into someone else's hands. In other words, rather than sitting back in their seat and watching a film while flying, these people obsess about the pilot's decisions.

Did the pre-flight check go well? Were they thorough? You might think this is foolish, but Japanese Flight 123 learned otherwise when their tail wing fell off during the flight. The crash cost the lives of all 15 crew members and 505 out of the 509 passengers.

In other words, while it's extremely unlikely that your plane will experience such a malfunction, the thought that it COULD happen haunts people with aerophobia.

Although you're more likely to die in a car crash, the reason people with this phobia don't fear driving is they feel like they have control. They check their car for issues. They get their car inspected. They drive safely and avoid crazy drivers on the roadway. When you're strapped into your plane seat, you do not perform the pre-flight check, inspect the plane, or ensure you had a proper night's sleep before piloting.

Many plane crashes result from pilot misjudgment, missed pre-flight checks, and negligence during the inspection. And this is something you have no control over whatsoever.

Why Do We Fear Flying?

While a fear of heights or falling is the most common cause of flight phobia, they're not the only cause. Some people experience panic attacks when in a crowd or are claustrophobic. Planes are very small spaces with little room for stretching or moving, which can be a nightmare for people who hate crammed spaces.

Some people trace our fear of heights as a species back to an early survival mechanism. We were more likely to survive if we avoided high places where we could fall.

However, some people develop aerophobia because they experienced something traumatic in a plane or when they were at high heights. For example, one of the first times I realized I had a fear of flying was when I flew to Cusco and experienced a really bad storm.

However, for some people, being crammed into a small space so close to others is very unnerving. Others fear flying because of mysophobia, a.k.a germaphobia, although this is uncommon.

Is Flight Anxiety the Same As a Fear of Heights?

Flight anxiety is often connected to a fear of heights, although they aren't mutually exclusive. You can have a fear of heights but not a fear of flying. Or, you can fear flying while not fearing heights.

Many people suffer from aerophobia because they fear heights; however, this doesn't have to be the cause. For example, I'm not really afraid of heights. I wasn't scared at all when I climbed Machu Picchu. But, I was terrified when ziplining in the Andes Mountains.

In other words, I have a fear of falling more than a fear of heights.

By Ty Downs on Unsplash

Best Ways to Deal With Flight Anxiety

1. Understand Flying

Familiarize yourself with the plane's layout and safety precautions. You might think the little video before liftoff is nothing more than an insurance requirement, but that's not it's only purpose. It's also meant to keep you alive in the event of a disaster.

For example, flight attendants demonstrate how to use the oxygen mask. Do you know why planes have oxygen masks? Because the cabin can decompress, which can suffocate you.

What are you supposed to do in the event of a water landing? What even is a water landing? A water landing is when the plane experiences an emergency and can't return to an airport before crashing. When this happens, it's extremely important to understand the plane's protocol so everyone escapes safely.

2. Be an Aware Flyer

Did you know that all U.S. aircraft must have a life raft? Most planes have rafts that include a canopy, inflation device, and supplies in the event of a landing at sea. These rafts are built of polyurethane-coated nylon, which is meant to resist extreme conditions.

Understanding these safety devices on-board and how the airline evacuates is the best way to guarantee survival. You don't want to be the dummy jamming out to U2 during the announcement who pays for it when there's a disaster.

Also, pay close attention to all the pilot's announcements. Airlines like to have the cooperation of their passengers, and if they believe there's a chance of an emergency, they will keep you informed via the intercom.

By Alev Takil on Unsplash

3. Take Anti-Anxiety Herbs Before Flying

Let's be honest though, it's very unlikely any of these horrible things will happen on your flight. So, how can you be prepared without having a panic attack and overthinking all the terrible ways you could die?

I find that anxiety herbs help a great deal while flying. My favorite brand is Olly. You can usually find these herbs in shops after getting through TSA. I recommend the sleep and anti-stress gummies.

4. Hypnosis

I personally want to try getting hypnosis to help me overcome my anxiety. I don't have much to say about this because I have not received this treatment method, but I've heard many success stories.

Hypnosis works to reframe your mind and the relationship you have with your phobia. You can read more about it in this wonderful article.

5. Communicate

If you feel heavy turbulence, listen to the captain's announcements carefully. They might give you an idea of how the shaking should last and how bad it might get. I remember captains announcing things like, "We're going through some clouds and may experience heavy turbulence for the next 10 minutes. Fasten your seat belts."

While I felt terrified during the experience, knowing how long the event should last helped me get through it. They don't always give a time frame, but when they can, they usually do. So pay attention.

Also, always fasten your seat belt. I've had many a fool say to me, "Why bother? This little strap won't save me if we fall out of the sky!"

Okay, genius, it actually CAN save you if we fall out of the sky. But the reason the pilots tell you to wear your seat belt isn't because it will stop you from falling, but it will stop you from being flung out of your seat during turbulence and having your skull smashed.

Sorry for the rant!

Back to communication. If you missed an announcement or are having fears because your plane took and different route, speak to the flight attendants. I remember once, while flying back to New Jersey, we had to make an emergency landing in D.C. I couldn't understand the captain's announcement other than we would be taxing for 30 minutes. I asked an attendant and she explained we would be landing because of tornados in N.J.

All the mystery along with the anxiety, quickly melted away.

By Lukas Souza on Unsplash

Conclusion

I truly hope this article helps you overcome your fear of flying. I know it's not a cure-all because I still fear flying! But I can say these techniques really helped me!

Also, please check out Green Dot Aviation if you want to understand airplanes even more! This channel is helping me understand planes more and how we can fly safely.

Thanks so much for reading, it means so much! Much love to you!

travel
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About the Creator

Emily Marie Concannon

I am a world nomad with a passion for vegan food, history, coffee, and equality.

You can find my first novel on Kindle Vella here: https://www.amazon.com/kindle-vella/story/B09V4S7T4N :) I appreciate all your support and engagement! :)

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  • lovel cute7 months ago

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  • Great advice, thank yuo for sharing this

  • Betty-Ann8 months ago

    great! work

  • Don Waters Jr.8 months ago

    For someone that suffers from flight anxiety, your article really helps calm my nerves. I didn't realize every commercial had to have a life raft. I guess I just figured life rafts were only on ships.

  • Audio AI8 months ago

    Awesome Infographics

  • Yusuf Alam8 months ago

    πŸ‘ŒπŸ‘ŒπŸ‘Œ

  • Test8 months ago

    Fascinating. Well done

  • Naveedkk 8 months ago

    Very well written, congratulations on top story.πŸ’—

  • Mariann Carroll8 months ago

    Congratulations on Top Story πŸ’—

  • Carol Townend8 months ago

    I can relate. I've never flown, because when I saw a plane on a trip with school, all we did was get to the entrance, and then I passed out because of my anxiety. Also, someone I know had a very heightened phobia of planes, which also worsened my fear as I grew up. Thank you for putting my mind at rest.

  • Luca Williams8 months ago

    Great writing and great to see it as a Top Story congrats:)

  • Great Article and Congratulations on your Top StoryπŸ’―πŸŽ‰βœŒοΈ

  • Heather Hubler8 months ago

    Back to say congrats on Top Story!!

  • Rene Peters8 months ago

    This was really interesting!

  • Tom Baker8 months ago

    The curious thing is that statistically, people choose to cancel flights most often when they DO end up going down. Same for trains. Perhaps even ships? W.T. Stead was instructed by a medium NOT to book passage in 1912 (Stead was a spiritualist as well as a writer and social reformer of the era). HE did so anyway, out of curiosity. He died aboard the Titanic.

  • Only a few years ago I came to know that this was an actual phobia that people have. I've been so ignorant because I've never been afraid of flying. Shame on me. Anyway, those are slme very helpful ways to help deal with flying anxiety!

  • Heather Hubler8 months ago

    I appreciate how you're trying to find different methods to help yourself and others! Wonderfully presented article :)

  • Babs Iverson8 months ago

    Sensational article!!! Super advice!!! Live this!!!β€οΈβ€οΈπŸ’•

  • Mark Gagnon8 months ago

    I've never had a fear of flying and have flown in open-cockpit biplanes, and gliders ( a fantastic experience that everyone should try). I've also been up in commercial jets and Air Force jets. The point is, if it doesn't bother you it never will but if it does, you share a lot of great info.

  • Lamar Wiggins8 months ago

    Interesting article. It contains a lot of great info. I’m not afraid to fly, however, no matter how tired I am and how many times I’ve tried. I cannot fall asleep on a plane, not even close, lol. After reading your article it’s probably due to the fact that I’m no longer in control of my fate and my mind must know everything that happens until I regain control. So I guess that is linked to the fear. Never thought of it that way. Thank you for sharing.

  • Alex H Mittelman 8 months ago

    Very interesting! Good job!

  • Scott Christenson8 months ago

    Nice essay. I have a lot of anxiety, fear of heights, and am really afraid of things like amusement park rides and zip lines. But I don't have that much fear of flying. I usually think of the flight attendants and how they fly every single day for decades, and think if they're ok with it, I should be fine. I have heard someone getting absolutely amazing results from hypnosis for another anxiety type of problem. Turbulence. Its totally harmless. Just caused by air movements. After a friend took for a flight in his cessna, which bounced up and down like a ping pong ball in every updraft and downdraft, I'll never be afraid of turbulence on a commercial airliner again. Thanks again for the nice story and being so open about your aerophobia.

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