Aerophobia: Definition, Causes, Typical Symptoms and Treatment

Fear of flying is an unpleasant emotion caused by the perceived threat of danger before and during airplane travel.

More than ten percent of the population claim to be afraid of flying, making this a very common phobia, although people plagued with this fear often acknowledge that flying is the fastest and safest mode of transportation.

People with a fear of flying fall into three categories:

  • There are those who fear external factors related to aviation, such as turbulence or mechanical problems with the aircraft.
  • The second group are those with internal fears such as losing emotional control during the flight and drawing attention to themselves.
  • Third, an abnormal and persistent fear of flying.

Victims experience severe anxiety even though they generally realize that the flight does not pose a threat commensurate with their fear.

Aerophobia also means an irrational fear of fresh air or drafts.

This word is derived from the Greek “aero”, which means air or gas and “phobos”, which means fear, which is literally fear of air.

Victims of fear of flying often go to great lengths to avoid family vacations or work trips that require them to fly in an airplane, this causes them to avoid and make excuses that can be detrimental to their career and personal life.

Causes and conditions that lead to aerophobia

There is no single universal cause for fear of flying. Fear is a survival mechanism that is learned through everyone’s personal experience.

Individual experiences initiate the development of this fear, although it has been related to a possible hypersensitivity, fear of airplanes or could be related to other concerns, such as panic attacks , claustrophobia or post- traumatic stress .

People who were unfortunate enough to have experienced a severe, flight-related panic attack are understandably reluctant to experience this again, and as such may develop a fear of flying.

Those who have developed a fear of flying may also fear creating a scene or losing control of themselves in front of others, during a flight-related panic attack.

Some people also develop a fear of losing control of their bodily functions during a flight-induced panic attack.

Aerophobia can be linked to many other social phobias such as claustrophobia, which is the fear of confined spaces.

The aerophobic suffers greater anxiety attacks when being in a confined space from which he cannot escape in the face of imminent danger and feels trapped.

It can also be associated with acrophobia or fear of heights.

Xenophobia, fear of strangers or foreigners, can also trigger the fear of flying, since the phobic person is afraid of sitting next to people or objects with which they are not familiar.

Especially after the occurrence of terrorist attacks on the flights.

People with physical conditions such as vertigo, tinnitus, flu, sinusitis or other nasal conditions, may fear flying due to the aggravation of such conditions during flight.

Medical conditions, such as deep vein thrombosis , can be aggravated during air travel and can be a cause of aerophobia.

The fear of flying is generally not related to drugs or medications, but rather to a wide variety of negative traumatic events from the past, the possibility of motion sickness, terrorism, news and air crash charts.

Aerophobia is unfortunately hereditary and can be passed from phobic parents to their children.

Typical symptoms

People with a fear of flying often experience dizziness, severe chest pain, shortness of breath or hyperventilation, excessive sweating, a feeling of butterflies in the stomach, tremors, and a feeling of losing control before or during the flight.

The most common symptoms of aerophobia are:

  • Incrise of cardiac frecuency.
  • Nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and other forms of gastrointestinal upset.
  • They show signs of irritability and anger misdirected toward aircraft personnel, family, friends, and bystanders.
  • Thoughts of plane crashes and thinking of being close to death (thanatophobia).
  • Inability to think clearly, disorientation, and nervousness.
  • Most people with aerophobia begin to experience these physical and psychological symptoms in the vicinity of the airport.
  • Major panic attacks, while people who do not suffer from the phobia sit down with a newspaper, aerophobics can only show signs of distress when boarding the plane.

Treatment for aerophobia

The diagnosis of aerophobia is important, especially if the symptoms presented are of feasible magnitudes.

An expert psychologist or psychiatrist can help assess the fear ratio and recommend some kind of measures before making the flight and suggest medications, such as alprazolam with doses of 0.5 to 1 mg taken half an hour before the time the flight is scheduled. .

Group and individual therapy sessions are also known to help alleviate aerophobia.

Modern virtual flight simulation techniques, where the patient is confronted with the experience through virtual images, provide innovative treatment procedures to overcome various types of phobias.

Individual or group cognitive behavior therapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming, and Hypnosis can also help overcome the fear of flying.

Fear is a highly functional survival mechanism that serves us well when appropriate. However, since flying is statistically safe, the fear of flying is not useful, it is very unpleasant and it is unnecessary. At the same time, it is interesting to note that we are not born with this fear.

This fear is a learned fear. The fear of flying is learned through direct or indirect experience and as such each individual experience will be different.

Therefore, because each experience that causes fear will be different, they all require a different and personalized treatment.

If one is capable of learning to be afraid of flying, it stands to reason that one can learn to be fearless and trust in flying.

Since fears are not stored in the conscious mind, it is difficult to change fears consciously. Fears are stored in the protective subconscious mind.

To eliminate the fears in the subconscious mind, we need to work and communicate with the subconscious mind. The fastest and most effective method of communicating with the subconscious mind is hypnotherapy .

As easy as it is to establish a fear, it is just as easy to remove when working with the subconscious mind.