Aviophobia: How to Conquer Fear of Flying

At PrivateFly, we live and breathe private jets, and aviation in general. And although flying seems quite common and convenient, a study by the International Civil Aviation Organization shows that up 40% of adults suffer from a debilitating fear of flying, known as aviophobia.

So, we take a look at what causes aviophobia and what aviophobes can do to conquer their fears.*

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What is Aviophobia?

Aviophobia, sometimes alternately called aerophobia, is characterized by an extreme, debilitating fear of flying, whereby sufferers will do anything to avoid air travel, and if forced to fly, can suffer from mild anxiety to full-blown panic attacks.

Although aviophobia may seem to be a fear of flying, in most cases it stems from a few other psychological conditions, such as claustrophobia (fear of enclosed spaces) or acrophobia (fear of heights).

© Bombardier

© Bombardier

Sometimes people who were once fine flying, develop their fear of flying if associating flying with a traumatic experience – such as routine air travel to visit an ailing parent, or flying during a particularly fraught period in their lives. In this way, flying comes to symbolize something uncomfortable and frightening for them.

Dr. Jason Guy Richards, a psychologist who specializes in anxiety disorders explains that “Somebody who develops an anxiety disorder around flying reacts to it in a kind of catastrophic way.”

Possible Ways to Mitigate Aviophobia

Along with Dr. Richards, Matthew Price, a clinical psychologist at the University of Vermont, who researches anxiety disorders, and psychologist Robert Bor, a pilot and psychiatric consultant to the Royal Air Force, all agree that the best way to overcome the fear of flying is with controlled exposure.

Controlled exposure involves someone gradually being exposed to the different stages of flying, usually under the guidance of a trained therapist. Another excellent option for controlled exposure is using virtual reality equipment and flight simulators. There are specific types of virtual reality flight simulators that enable the user to go through every step of the flying process, including a simulated airport with large crowds around.

Both types of exposure should always be done under the supervision of a qualified professional who will be able to help manage the process and give support and guidance.

Thanks to technological innovations, a revolutionary app called SkyGuru has been created by Alex Gervash, an FAA and EASA licensed commercial pilot with a degree in psychology, to help people who suffer from aviophobia.

He realized that the best way to calm travelers with a fear of flying was to have an expert with them throughout the flight providing real-time explanations about weather conditions and turbulence, which is exactly what SkyGuru does.

Natural remedies for flying anxiety include breathing exercises, some of which you can find online. Download guided meditations or breathing exercises and listen to them with your earphones in throughout the journey.

Food and drinks containing sugar and caffeine should be avoided at all costs, as they increase energy levels and can aggravate anxiety. The same goes for alcohol – although it might seem able to take the edge off, it will just make your anxiety worse when the effects wear off.

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*PrivateFly is not a certified professional in the area of treating mental disorders or anxiety. With further questions, please contact a professional.