Aerophobia, the fear of flying, is a fairly common type of phobia that causes people to have an intense fear of air travel. According to Anxiety UK, around one in 10 people suffer from aerophobia, though some studies suggest it could be even higher.
Aerophobia can be distressing to live with and make travelling extremely difficult and anxiety-provoking. However, the good news is that there are things you can do to make things easier and put you on the right path to overcoming your fears.
With that said, we’ll be covering exactly what aerophobia is, what can cause it, and ways to help you cope. We hope you find it useful.
What is aerophobia?
Aerophobia is defined as an extreme fear of air travel – for example, in an aeroplane or helicopter. Despite statistics showing that air travel is far safer than other modes of transport, including by car and train, flying remains a common source of fear for many people.
Some people with aerophobia fear aeroplanes themselves, while for others, the condition can be an aspect of other psychological issues such as claustrophobia, panic attacks, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
It’s also common for people with aerophobia to experience increased anxiety and panic attacks just at the thought of flying, and many avoid air travel entirely as a result of their symptoms.
What can cause aerophobia?
There doesn’t appear to be one exact cause of aerophobia. Instead, it’s thought that a number of different factors can play a role.
Research has also found that aerophobia can vary greatly from person to person, and is influenced by a range of physiological, psychological, and social factors.
Some of these factors can include…
- Experiencing or witnessing a traumatic flight or plane crash. Research has found that even watching news coverage of aeroplane disasters can be enough to trigger aerophobia.
- Environmental factors. It’s possible to pick up a fear of flying from other people. This is a particularly common cause of aerophobia in children, but it can also occur in adults too – for example, picking the fear up from a relative or friend.
- Pre-existing and related phobias. Having an existing phobia can trigger aerophobia – particularly those which are partially related. For example, phobias like claustrophobia (fear of confined spaces), mysophobia (fear of germs), and astraphobia (fear of thunder and lightning) can be closely connected to aerophobia.
Researchers have also found that factors like turbulence, and bad weather or take off are some of the most anxiety-inducing aspects of flying and can be common triggers for aerophobia. Travel delays can also aggravate symptoms.
What are the symptoms of aerophobia?
Many people experience some degree of flying-related fear. But it’s important to recognise that this doesn’t necessarily translate to aerophobia – which is centered around a more extreme, deep-rooted fear of flying.
People with aerophobia often experience intense and persistent anxiety when travelling by air, or even just the thought of doing so.
Many symptoms of aerophobia are similar to those of other specific phobias and can include…
- Choking sensations
- Clouded thinking
- Dizziness and lightheadedness
- Excessive sweating
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
If you’re unsure whether or not you suffer from aerophobia, Anxiety UK has a set of questions on their website that you might find helpful.
However, if you suspect you have aerophobia, experts recommend seeking further guidance from your GP, who’ll be able to make a formal diagnosis.
5 tips for coping with aerophobia
While aerophobia can feel difficult to overcome, the good news is that many people find they’re able to improve – or at least manage – their symptoms through home remedies.
Below, we’ll cover some of the ways that may help you to cope with aerophobia.
For more general advice, you might also be interested in reading our article; Understanding fears and phobias and how to overcome them.
1. Educate yourself about flying
Fears are often heightened by the unknown. So, learning about air travel – including everything from turbulence to plane mechanics – may help to relieve some of your anxiety.
Some people also find it reassuring to read about the safety of air travel compared to other modes of transport. For example, according to statistics, travelling by car is 100 times more dangerous than flying.
2. Practise replacing negative thoughts with positive ones
Working to replace negative thoughts with positive ones can be useful for overcoming aerophobia because catastrophising is a common struggle for people with the condition.
When you notice your mind slipping towards negative thoughts, try to take a moment, breathe deeply, and do your best to stop it in its tracks. Our article, 8 tips on how to break negative habits and develop positive ones, might help with this.
3. Recognise your triggers
Aside from the thought and act of flying itself, some people also find that certain memories, sensations, sights, or even smells can trigger their symptoms.
By recognising and understanding your triggers, you can be better prepared to anticipate difficult situations and have coping mechanisms in place.
To help with this, when you feel your fear or anxiety peaking, try to observe the environment or thought patterns around you that may have triggered it.
4. Try soothing your anxiety with relaxation techniques
Remember, the more practise you have, the more effective these techniques tend to become, so it’s worth persevering even if you don’t notice a difference right away.
I’m still struggling – is there any available treatment for aerophobia?
Some people find that they’re able to manage their symptoms with home remedies, but if you’re still struggling, there are treatment options in the form of therapy available too.
We’ll cover two of the main types of therapy for phobias below…
Exposure therapy is a technique used to help people overcome fears, anxieties, and phobias by working to break the pattern of fear and avoidance. Some experts believe it’s the most effective form of therapy for aerophobia.
Treatment can involve controlled exposure to flying – for example, through the use of visualisation, flight simulations, or an actual flight.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is one of the most common forms of therapy. It can be useful for people suffering with phobias by helping unravel negative thought patterns, develop coping strategies, and get to the root cause of their anxieties.
You can find out more in our introduction to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).
Aerophobia can have a significant impact on quality of life. But while things can feel difficult, it’s important to remind yourself that you’re not alone, and with the right approach and treatment, it’s possible to manage symptoms, overcome your fears, and have a fulfilling life.
Whether that means making lifestyle changes or seeking professional support, just remember to do what’s right for you, be kind to yourself, and take it one day at a time.
For further reading and mental health support, head over to the healthy mind section of our website. Here you’ll find information on topics like how to improve confidence and self-esteem and powerful ways to conquer self-limiting beliefs.