• Wednesday July 15,2020

Fear of flying (aviophobia)

As fear of flying is generally a phobia against flying by aircraft called (aviophobia). However, it can already occur when entering an airport or at the sight of a plane. The fear of flying is one of the mental illnesses.

What is fear of flying?

People with fear of flying experience certain physical symptoms, behaviors and thoughts whenever they are confronted with an airplane or flying.
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Fear of flying expresses itself with panic-like or disease-typical symptoms usually when a flight is imminent. Those affected respond with considerable stress, with loss of control and anxiety attacks or panic attacks.

The fear of flying shows next to it in sweaty hands, stomach upset, vomiting or headache. The heart rate as well as a far higher heart rate belong to it, if the affected ones visualize the alleged dangers of a flight.

Fear of flying is one of the most prevalent mental illnesses, but in many cases it can be completely cured by therapy. Nevertheless, the lives of those suffering from fear of flying are always significantly negatively affected.


What the fear of flying is based exactly, flat rate can not be said. Especially with those people who first board a plane, the symptoms may be a warning of the unknown. Another fear of fear of flying is the experience of emergency situations that can not be influenced.

These include turbulence during the flight or a rapid drop in altitude. In general, fear of flying is characterized by a loss of control in the narrow aircraft. It is also realized that accidents almost always lead to tragic consequences and regularly end in the death of the passengers.

In addition, the fear of flying can also be based on mental preloads. Especially the phobia before the imprisoned (eg claustrophobia) or the height (eg fear of heights) are typical features of fear of flying.

Symptoms, complaints & signs

People with fear of flying experience certain physical symptoms, behaviors and thoughts whenever they are confronted with an airplane or flying. The symptoms of this anxiety disorder can range from mild discomfort to panic attacks. The anxiety that occurs often feels life-threatening for those affected. Often, the first signs already appear after the flight has been booked.

The respective fears of the affected persons may differ from each other. For example, some Aviophobics fear the narrowness or lack of escape available on the plane, while others are afraid of a plane crash. The knowledge that their fellow human beings do not perceive the situation as threatening does not ease the fear. Many sufferers outnumber the physical symptoms.

Thus, aviophobics often suffer from sweats, damp and / or cold hands, palpitations, abdominal pain, diarrhea, severe urination, nausea, loss of appetite or tremors. Many sufferers get palpitations and subsequently dizziness and suffocation. The symptoms usually appear weeks before the upcoming flight and are getting more and more intense.

An important sign of aviophobia is a pronounced avoidance behavior. Affected people avoid their fear of flying by not booking air travel. Some aviophobics fight their anxiety with alcohol or narcotics.


The course of fear of flying is always dependent on each case. Often, however, the realization of a pending flight will be accompanied by malaise and anxiety. The closer the departure day comes, the more symptoms occur in those affected by the fear of flying.

First sweats usually follow upset stomach and headache. The last one to two days before the flight increases the intensity of the panic attacks. They begin with increased stress, but then turn into naked fear of flying.

The sufferer has the feeling of inevitably heading for the greatest conceivable threat and being literally absorbed by it. Auswege he does not see in the fear of flying. On the day of the journey and while sitting on the plane, the person is in many cases unresponsive, cramped and seems almost completely out of his depth. A loss of control thus symbolizes the fear of flying.


Fear of flying can cause a variety of complications. These are usually psychological in nature and do not lead to any health impairments or disadvantages. However, fear of flying can have a negative impact on social life. Due to fear of flying, the mobility of the affected person is limited.

While there are other ways to get around, traveling to other continents is more difficult. This can lead to the termination of social contacts or relationships. This causes mental health problems and depression for many people. Not infrequently the fear of flying is not understood by other people and described as harmless.

Again, there may be social disadvantages. A targeted treatment of fear of flying can not be carried out. However, patients with the same symptom may meet for talks. Also, conversations with people who have overcome the fear of flying help.

In many cases, the patient can not completely overcome his fear of flying, but still trusts in an airplane. As a result, short flights are sometimes possible. Whether the fear of flying can be cured, unfortunately can not be universally predicted. No medication is used during the treatment and there are no complications.

When should you go to the doctor?

Fear of flying does not have to be treated in every case. However, a therapy is useful if the person suffering from the fear of flying suffers greatly. An anxious patient who frequently travels by plane usually suffers more from phobia than a person who flies once or twice in their entire life.

Fear of flying can be associated with other anxiety or other mental symptoms. Also in this case, it is recommended to contact a doctor or therapist for the symptoms of anxiety. In addition, it should be clarified whether the symptoms are actually due to fear of flying or whether they are physical. Anxiety symptoms such as sweating, rapid heartbeat, palpitations or hyperventilation can also be due to an organic cause and, for example, a cardiovascular disease.

Affected individuals can contact their problem directly with a psychotherapist. For this purpose, no transfer is required in Germany. If, apart from fear of flying, there is no other mental disorder, fear of flying can usually be treated well. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is considered to be particularly effective in treating anxiety disorders.

A doctor or psychotherapist must work with the person concerned to find out if the fear is specific to the flies or any other factor. In particular, fear of heights, agoraphobia and social phobia are considered as differential diagnoses.

Treatment & Therapy

How a fear of flying is to be treated depends on the course of the disease and its strength. For mild symptoms, the intake of medicines and sedatives can already improve. However, if the phobia is deeper, only psychotherapy will relieve the suffering. Thus, the fear of flying is first diagnosed by a psychologist as such.

In the further course of their causes are to be fathomed. Here it is different, on which the inhibition threshold is based, to enter an airplane. In many cases, however, unconscious and negative experiences already made at a young age are a sign of fear of flying. Exposure to uncontrollable situations often manifests itself when locked in a room, when trimming the possibilities or even when teased by friends.

Likewise, the phobia of high altitude follows this pattern. Again, the way of thinking typical of fear of flying is characteristic: when it comes to the accident, the chance of survival is low. Therefore, specialist advice should always be sought in detecting fear of flying. Only by a therapy that often requires a few years, the fear of flying can be cured.

Outlook & Forecast

As such, fear of flying has a good chance of being overcome by therapy. Most people who suffer from aviophobia, however, make no use of the therapy option. This may be due to the fact that it is very easy to completely avoid flying. Accordingly, fear of flying persists for people who can not be treated, usually a lifetime. In many cases, this means virtually no restrictions for those affected.

A comprehensive treatment of aviophobia, which relies mainly on cognitive behavioral therapy and confrontation therapy, has a success rate of up to 95 percent. Accordingly, the chances of recovery are very good. Almost all therapists are thus able to climb and fly an airplane without fear. Even participants in a seminar on fear of flying and how to approach it seem to be partially cured of their phobia.

In addition, it has been shown that large aircraft disasters have always reduced the number of passengers for a certain period of time. People who suffer from aviophobia sometimes refer to individual events that they may have experienced only indirectly. Accordingly, the development of this phobia also seems to be linked to actual flight safety (higher than for all other modes of transport).


Preventing fear of flying will be part of the therapy. Here breathing exercises, muscle loosening or the presentation of such a flight can often release tension and control fears. Autogenic training can be very effective here.

However, this prevention against fear of flying should be done only under medical supervision. To what extent a medication for the first symptoms is helpful, must also be left to the specialist. With it, the person concerned can get the fear of flying, however, under control.


After fear of flying has been successfully treated, usually no further complaints are to be expected. The disease disappears completely. There is no justification for follow-up care. However, the same does not mean that immunity arises.

Affected persons can suffer from external influences again and again at the aviophobia. A diagnosis takes place in a detailed medical consultation. The therapy is relaxation techniques and a discussion of anxiety. A psychotherapist helps in several sessions. In a large number of cases, patients refrain from consulting a doctor.

Alcohol, nicotine and tranquilizers should then relieve the symptoms, but this demonstrably leads to no lasting success. Rather, the signs can make it worse. A therapy always aims to give the patient behavioral tips. The attitude before and during the flight can be controlled cognitively.

It is therefore essential to apply the acquired knowledge from the initial treatment in practice. These include breathing techniques. Under no circumstances should affected people avoid airports. This seems to be the wrong strategy for most doctors. Complaints continue to solidify and can also emerge in other perceived as threatening situations.

You can do that yourself

The most important basis for combating aviophobia is the expansion of knowledge. Extensive information on the functioning of aircraft, flight behavior and, above all, safety measures can help to reduce the fears of approaching a flight. It is helpful to experience the flight several times in the head before it actually takes place. This makes it easier to deal with turbulence or aircraft noise.

A seat in the corridor counteracts a feeling of tightness and loss of control. In a place directly above the wings, the movements of the aircraft are less noticeable.

During the flight conscious relaxation plays an important role. It is advisable to avoid stress factors and to wear comfortable clothing on the day of the flight. Already in advance a breathing technique should be learned, which can be used during the flight. Also meaningful are affirmations, that is, positive reinforcing sentences, with which the focus is directed away from anxiety and to a relaxed state. Also movement - as far as possible - provides distraction.

The use of alcohol or pills for reassurance, however, is not recommended, as they can have unwanted side effects and offer no long-term solution.

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