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advice to help a family member through her fear of flying

advice to help a family member through her fear of flying

Mar 28th, 2010, 05:37 AM
  #1  
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advice to help a family member through her fear of flying

Our family has planned a long awaited trip to Italy together this fall. My daughter has always had anxiety problems and has now announced she does not feel comfortable flying. This breaks my heart to think she will not join us I know through past experience that harping on the issue does not help. I would truly welcome some sound advice or personal experiences on this topic to help our family through this.
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Mar 28th, 2010, 06:28 AM
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EMDR, a form of psychotherapy, can be very effective for this sort of anxiety. If you are in a metropolitan area or an area with lots of therapists it should be easy to find a local practitioner. This would be covered by any health insurance and require only a few visits., most likely. I am assuming that if she has had long anxiety problems she has medications that she does not feel will be sufficiently helpful for this purpose.
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Mar 28th, 2010, 06:47 AM
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She has been to drs and had meds in the past (in her teens). For the most part all her anxiety issues have been gone for years (now in her 20's). The flying fear is new because she has never dealt with such a long flight. I am trying to help her see that people who do not have/had other anxiety issues still may experience fear of flying or at least nerves/anxiety before getting on a plane. I am going to research the EMDR you referred to. Thank you.
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Mar 28th, 2010, 09:49 AM
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A little ativan can be a great help too, as well as noise cancelling headphones attached to an ipod with music she finds relaxing or relaxation tapes. I hope she can find a way to go !
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Mar 28th, 2010, 10:21 AM
  #5  
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Now your talking--she may be receptivie to these 2 simple ideas. I lo0oked at the EMDR approach. It would be almost like taking a step backwards and going back to the way life use to be. Again-GRAZIE
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Mar 28th, 2010, 11:33 AM
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My daughter also has anxiety problems, esp with flying. She's struggled with this for many years, now in her mid-30's. A big part of her fear involves issues like 'what will I do if I have an anxiety attack?' and 'I don't know if I can handle the length of time, confinement, feelings of claustrophobia, etc.' - it's in large measure a fear of loss of control.

Ativan has been a great help. It works almost instantly to relax her and calm her. With Ativan in her pocket, she knows from past experience that help is there if she needs it - and she rarely needs it anymore.

In the past several years we've travelled together to London, Italy, Iran, Turkey from Seattle, and I don't think she took an Ativan more than 2 or 3 times over dozens of flights. A side benefit is it also makes her sleepy and she sleeps well on the long flights.

She also plugs herself into her iPod right after take-off and the music helps to zone out.
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Mar 28th, 2010, 12:34 PM
  #7  
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I believe my daughters fears are similiar to your daughters --usually involving the "what if??". The ativan may be our families answer to an awesome vacation together in Italy!
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Mar 29th, 2010, 03:22 PM
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Regulate emotions, hmmm, that's an interesting term. Will check on your site. I had significant flying anxiety in the past but it did not stop me from making plans; the desire to travel was stronger;interestingly, after 9/11 my fear of flying decreased almost totally. Perhaps the older we get the more I realize and acknowledge the lack of control we humans have in many, many situations. dlpiano, hope your daughter decides to go. But anti-anxiety meds definitely do take off the edge, just hope you, Capt. Tom, do not indulge--
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Mar 29th, 2010, 05:09 PM
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Thank you Capt Tom. I will look over your info before forwarding to my daughter.
aliced --I agree with your logic of age & knowledge.
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Mar 30th, 2010, 07:06 AM
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Not sure why Capt tom says EMDR not appropriate as as A therapist also I have sen EMDR help numerous people with this issue ( I do not practice EMDR, but refer often). Many opinions exist.
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Mar 30th, 2010, 08:00 AM
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I would be very, very skeptical of advice from anyone who contends that a single strategy or approach is the answer for everyone with this type of issue.

In my experience, a strategy that's successful with one person is by no means guaranteed to be successful with all.

By the way, "Captain" Tom -- you say I'm an airline captain. Does that mean that you are currently employed as a left-hand-seat flying pilot for an airline, or does it mean that you used to do that at one time?
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Mar 30th, 2010, 09:57 AM
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Anti-anxiety meds work nicely for most people for flights (something along the lines of Valium, Xanax, etc.). Many people would have difficulty flying without them.
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Mar 30th, 2010, 02:21 PM
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Re: airline captain. I'm retired now. The FAA doesn't trust us after 65, which is no doubt a good thing.

Re: why EMDR is not useful. EMDR is for trauma, and flight phobia is not due to trauma, but due to never having develped a normal ability to "downregulate" without some form of security blanket (control, physical escape/avoidance, or psychological escape). Yes, for person unable to calm themselves, flying does cause trauma. But even if the trauma of bad flights is removed, the ability to fly is not restored.

Re: medication. Yes, people swear by it. But research at the Stanford University School of Medicine found in-flight panic increased ten-fold when medicated. During flight, 71% of fearful fliers given alprazolam (Xanax) had panic attacks compared with only 7% of fearful fliers given a placebo.

The increase in panic is believed to be due to impaired cognitive ability when medicated. What the passenger imagines - and fears - is happening is mistakenly believed to be happening. For example, in turbulence, cognition impaired by medication causes passengers to believe the plane is falling.

After the flight, instead of recognizing the experience was based on imagination, belief persists that the flight nearly crashed, but medication enabled them to endure the ordeal. Believing they were helped by medication, fearful fliers person to use medication. Each additional medicated flight increases the trauma, and reinforces the belief that air travel is life-threatening, until flying can no longer be endured. The researchers noted that those taking meds truly believed the meds helped. Thus, we continue to be told meds are effective.
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Mar 30th, 2010, 02:26 PM
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By the way, I am not saying only one thing works. But I studied every method and treatment available before deciding to go to grad school myself. That, plus training at three post-grad institutes and study with Allan Schore, Ph.D (actually three PhDs) on his brain scan research brought the present methods.
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Mar 30th, 2010, 02:46 PM
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Sorry but I do not believe that 71% of people who took Xanax had an anxiety attack on a plane. That makes no sense whatsoever.
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Mar 30th, 2010, 03:06 PM
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I can give my situation. Perhaps it can shed some light. I have been scared of flying for years now. I was able to "deal with it" and still fly until about 3 years ago. Then I spent $800 on a fear of flying class. It didn't help much, if at all.

Then I learned on online about Xanax. I took it on my next flight from the US to Paris. While I had no fear during the flight, the flight was also very smooth (turbulence is what scares me). So, I really don't know how much the Xanax actually helped. Thus, I still had a lot of fear.

I then met with with a psychologist and then another psychologist who specialized in EMDR. After about 6 sessions of EMDR, the psychologist didn't think EMDR was helpful in my case as I still had just as much fear.

I love travelling (once I get to the destination) but I have now reached the point where just buying plane tickets causes such anticipatory anxiety that I can't even do that. Perhaps the solution is a long-term anxiety pill for between I buy the ticket and my return flight. But I really don't want to get into a habit of using drugs. It is really frustrating.
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Mar 30th, 2010, 04:45 PM
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Thank you for the forthright responses, Tom. My comment about "only one thing works" came from your statement that the problem could be addressed only by increasing the ability to regulate emotion. Your clarification suggests that you'd agree there might be several different approaches to increasing the ability to regulate emotion.
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Mar 31st, 2010, 02:35 AM
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After talking to my daughter she remembers in the past just the security of holding 2 pills (can't remember the specific name) in a bottle was all the security she needed. They kept her calm in situations where she was anxious. It was the security fact we are guessing--maybe it gave her back the control issue some of you mentioned? She admitted having these pills for so long that they were 6 years past expiration date! So, with this long flight it may be time for 2 more new pills.
Capt Toms approach does seem like something to look into for frequent flyers approach to anxiety.
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Mar 31st, 2010, 04:26 AM
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She may have hit on the solution for her - since for some it is the fear of the fear (or reaction to it) that is the trigger. No one-size-fits-all solution here. and I also question the 71% panic attack statistic from taking medication.

Since she is going to discuss this with an MD anyway, for some people a beta blocker (Inderal is most common) is also useful without causing sleepiness. It deals with the physical symptoms of a panic attack (shakiness, sweating, racing heart) - that some people fear more than the actual situation. Some performing arts profesisonals even take it to deal with stage-fright type issues.
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Mar 31st, 2010, 08:41 AM
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dlpiano, my daughter has also been greatly helped just knowing she had the pill if she needed it, and she rarely needs it anymore, as I wrote earlier. I do hope this will help your daughter to decide to go to Italy with your family. Best wishes to you both.
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