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By Arwa Lodhi
Fear of flying is no joke. Sufferers experience such intense anxiety and fear, they may not fly at all, even if it means not seeing loved ones or attending important personal and work events. Some choose to self medicate with some seriously unhealthy alcohol and pills. The good news is that flying is one of the safest means of travel – you’re far more likely to be run over by a bus that killed in an aviation disaster. Still, that doesn’t make it any less scary if you are terrified of flying.
On the Air Charter Service website, psychologist David Carbonell Ph.D., who specializes in treating people with anxiety and phobias, says that many people are well aware that their phobia is irrational, but in trying to conquer the fear, they make it worse. So, how can you deal with fear of flying (aka ‘aviophobia’) in a natural, effective way?
How To Beat Your Fear Of Flying
Therapy and anxiety coaching can help people with a fear of flying. Treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), hypnosis, and anxiety workshops with trained counselors and airline staff.
A good therapist will work with you to find the root cause of your fear. Some people are afraid of flying following a bad experience, for example, a terrifying near-miss or rocky landing in a thunderstorm. In other cases, the fear is largely irrational and based on a perception that flying is dangerous or the sense of claustrophobia and lack of control caused by enclosed airplane cabins.
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If your therapy session includes hypnosis, it will feel as if you are asleep yet still awake. Most people describe hypnosis as strangely relaxing, like they are on the verge of consciousness, but slightly detached from reality. Your therapist will teach you useful visualization exercises to help you deal with anxiety and fear. These may not feel important during your sessions, but their usefulness will become apparent when you need to get your fear under control.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
CBT works by deconstructing your fears and teaching your techniques to regulate anxiety. The technique won’t work with all anxious flyers, as many people are too adept at conjuring a hundred and different doom-laden scenarios. CBT relies on training the left brain’s ability to rationalise and overcome fear, but when anxieties are very strong, they take over, executive left brain function is shut down, and CBT techniques fail.
Some therapists have found success with non-cognitive regulation. By establishing a link to the calming presence of another person or a pet, they can control their nonconscious anxiety response. This technique harnesses the power of the right brain, which operates unconsciously, even when cognition has been disabled.
Fear of Flying Workshops
Anxiety coaching and fear of flying workshops are a relatively new approach to helping nervous flyers conquer their fear. Trained therapists work with small groups of people to help them understand their fear and learn to handle it better.
Anxiety workshops typically involve therapy sessions where patients learn breathing techniques and other desensitizing strategies that help calm the body and mind. You will learn about the mechanics of flying and spend time on board an aircraft. You may also have the option of sitting in a flight simulator or taking a short flight. These courses can be expensive, but most people find them very effective.
If a fear of flying is negatively affecting your life, take control. You can beat this!