Fear of flying?

Dec 28th, 2007, 06:27 PM
Original Poster
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Fear of flying?

Okay, I have a serious fear of flying but am just not willing to let that fear keep me from doing the things I want to do. This year, flights from Florida to Barcelona, from Istanbul to Budapest, and from Frankfurt back to Florida are in my future....and though I'm excited as all get out about the trip, the fear is beginning to take hold. Does anyone else have this issue to deal with, and what have you found to help?
fsufan1 is offline  
Dec 28th, 2007, 07:33 PM
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I don't have a fear of flying, but my husband does. So, he stays at home while I see the world.
scatcat is offline  
Dec 28th, 2007, 07:57 PM
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I am in my 35th year of flying as a flight attendant for a major US carrier. While I understand people's fear of flying, I want you to realize that you are going to miss out on some wonderful trips if you let the fear take over your mind.You mention that you don't want that fear to keep you from "doing the things I want to do" so that is half the battle.

There are several threads from previous posters on the fear of flying and what they have done that you should look at.

On a personal note-I was involved at 5 months old in a horrible car accident which killed my dad and maimed my mom for the past 50 years.I think that you have a better chance of seeing tomorrow and enjoying life through airplane travel.Good luck!
dutyfree is offline  
Dec 28th, 2007, 09:01 PM
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People with a strong fear of flying suffer from a phobia—an irrational fear. As such, it must be treated much like any other phobia. Saying "get over it" or calling it irrational generally doesn't have any effect at all.

There are innumerable organizations and specialists who claim to be able to cure or mitigate a fear of flying, with varying degrees of success. Some airlines operate elaborate (and expensive) programs with plenty of hands-on experience that enjoy reasonable success. Psychologists may be able to help as well. Some people try hypnosis. Sometimes just learning about how aviation and airplanes work can substantially reduce or eliminate a fear of flying. A few people cannot get over their fear and must take tranquilizers or resort to other extreme means if they are absolutely required to travel by air.

In any case, it's a very common fear. The reasons why it is so common remain a subject of great speculation.

I'm sure it won't make any difference to say things, but flying on commercial airlines in the developed world on regularly scheduled flights on large airliners is extraordinarily safe. Most other types of flying are extremely safe as well. The least safe type of flying as a passenger is flying in a small aircraft with a private pilot, which is about as risky as riding on a motorcycle, statistically.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Dec 28th, 2007, 09:42 PM
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My mom has a significant fear of flying. To her defense, it was exacerbated by a terrible first flight, some years ago.

In years past, she took a train and met my dad at their destination. So when we went to Europe together, I sat by her and chatted up a storm while she sat white knuckled during takeoff. That seemed to be the worst part for her. I think she also had a glass of wine before we boarded, but nothing major drugwise. She felt she would panic even more if she didn't have all her wits about her. For landing we talked about all the things she was going to see.

I wish you the best in resolving this....

5alive is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 02:49 AM
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I've been very afraid to fly, and did a fear of flying class with Northwest airlines about 12 years ago, which was helpful. But the most helpful thing for me was a small amount of xanax. After a number of flights feeling fine instead of sweating with fear, I've retaught my body to be okay with flying and now I don't need the meds.
rickandpat is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 02:53 AM
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Have a look at www.fearofflyinghelp.com - I managed to conquer quite a severe fear of flying a few years ago with the help of this website.

Many people swear by medication like Xanax but I have found it much more helpful to address the root cause of the fear rather than just the symptoms.
hanl is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 02:57 AM
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Hi fs,

You have my sympathy.

I won't try to be a pop psychologist, but a fellow I know who has a similar problem says that he can overcome it if he doesn't put his full weight down.

ira is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 03:51 AM
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When I first began traveling, I was also afraid of flying. I informed a friend of mine (who is a flight attendant)of this fear and asked her the age old question "Aren't you afraid of crashing"? She laughed, since she knows my profession, and asked me if I was afraid of being killed...Ok got the point...
She quickly pointed out that my fear came from the fact that my profession requires me to be in control of dangerous situations and that when in a plane I have absolutley no control.
Her words of wisdom that got me over my fear: "Just remember the crew wants to land just as much as you do. Trust them!"
parisnow is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 04:07 AM
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I have a certain amount of fear of flying and have had to deal with lots of phobias & vertigo too ( plus claustrophobia) for most of my life. I understand paralyzing fear from an insiders perspective...not fun.I feel things very strongly which is great for joy, but beyond painful when it comes to fear and terror.

There was a long time that I would not take elevators or planes, but do them now when I have to. I still do not like them ( & I force myself to not show the fear for my daughters sake as I do not want to pass it on).

I was even a flight attendant for years, so mind over matter can work.( You would be surprised how many flight attendants get fear of flying!). I also hate the dentist, but go when I have to & even have done it in Europe.

You might try Beck style behavior modification or NLP.I have tried about everything over the years, but I still deal with irrational fears. In my case, some of it is due to past trauma and Post tramatic stress. There is a treatment with rapid eye movement that is interesting and could help.

Some people take a valium, but I am also too sensitive to meds for that.

It helps me to remember that fear has an acronym...false evidence appearing real. A certain amount of it is just mind over matter and one step at a time. Meditation helps ( but not completely as I have been doing it daily for 30 years).

If you close your eyes and imagine that you are on a cliff, you will feel the vertigo...but it is not really there. Use your imagination to envision a positive and soothing image. I like to go to the hot baths at Esalen on the cliffs of Big Sur during sunset which is my idea of heaven.

Use all the tricks you can and just go! Breathe and focus on something else than the fear. Part of the joy of traveling is getting past fear and uncertainty and getting out of comfort zones.

I can not even tell you how many times I have been smack up against my fear during this 15 months of travel, but it has helped me really appreciate my strength.

Your strength and positive vision is stronger than your fear! Carpe Diem!!

WTnow is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 06:06 AM
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My sister has an intense fear of flying but took her first European-bound trip with me in April after doing a few short (1 hour) trips to NYC from here in Boston. We split the flight to Amsterdam up, so it was about 4 hours to Iceland, then another couple to Amsterdam. The walk, fresh air and bite of food on solid ground in between flights helped her immensely.

I left her alone during the boarding and take-off. I sat next to her, but her wish was to be alone with her thoughts and deep breathing, so I read magazines until she was ready to talk. Then once she's allowed to do so, she puts on her iPod with her favorite music and tries to imagine she's not on the plane.

She also feels safer on larger planes, so puddle-jumpers are out.

What I'm getting at here is that you have to decide what's going to make you comfortable enough to fly, and then do that. Ask your companion to cooperate however they can, but it's up to you to decide what works for you and put it into action.

Good luck, I know you will be fine! It worked out fine for my sis, so we just booked the same type of trip to Paris, adding a few days in Vienna as well, so more flights for her this time!
amyb is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 06:34 AM
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Personally I have a fear of not flying, of being crammed into one of those narrow constricted seats and not going anywhere. Coach class is only tolerable if it's getting you somewhere faster than you could go otherwise. If you're stuck on the ground with no departure in view -- and no food and overflowing toilets, coach class is torture.
Mimar is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 08:57 AM
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"The least safe type of flying as a passenger is flying in a small aircraft with a private pilot..."

When you factor out the impaired* pilots and the ones who challenge the weather or exceed their skill, private flying is safer than driving a car.

* Drugs, alcohol, fatigue, or what I like to call the "Kennedy Factor" - unrealistic confidence in one's ability because of who one is. This syndrome seems to affect doctors more than any other professional group.
Robespierre is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 09:44 AM
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Dear fsufan1,

I have a few phobias myself - my mother did too - almost every one of my 5 siblings has them too. I have tried to keep them to myself like WTnow, but one of my children does not like bridges or heights. The other hates to fly. I have studied phobias a lot and there is a strong genetic link to phobias. Funny, I hated bridges as a child (no problem now at all) and had forgotten it until my daughter started having a problem. Then I remembered when I was pregnant with her, I had a panic attack driving across the Bay Bridge in Maryland. Weird. I don't have the bridge fear anymore and haven't since I delivered her, but still don't like heights, flying or very long tunnels. I did not enjoy the catacombs in Rome!!

My mother, a severe phobic, did the airplane phobic courses and made it to Europe and back twice in her life. I swore my fears would never keep me grounded, but I have been a white-knuckle traveler since my mid-twenties. After 9/11 I didn't fly for over a year.

A few years ago I was prescribed a mild sedative (Klonopin) for another purpose. OKay, I swear I'm not a total nut but I'm also afraid to take pills so it took a lot for me to actually take the Klonopin, but it worked for the one cause and I asked my doctor about taking it for flying. She recommended it for me. I have been using it for flying for a few years now. It works very well for me - just enough to take the edge off although I still don't love to fly. If there is a lot of turbulence, I take a little more medicine but still usually need no more than one small dosage pill. I still always listen for the flight time and believe me I know if we are landing a minute later than planned!

When we moved overseas I was thrilled to be closer to so many places I've always wanted to visit - I can take a one hour flight to most European cities or I use the trains. You can bet I am traveling like crazy while it doesn't involve the 8 hour flight.

When I have to do the trans-atlantic flight, my husband springs for business class for me. Sometimes his company pays and sometimes they don't. I don't love jewelry or clothes shopping or fancy cars and so this is my splurge, but I can take the pill and put my seat back and sleep for a few of the hours and it really, really makes it a lot better - sometimes it's almost fun. Seriously, it has been life changing. My husband hates to spend money but this is one thing he is willing to do.

This year I've taken a number of trips that challenged my various fears hoping by doing the continuous exposure my fear would lessen. Sadly, I'm still afraid of lots of things! But I keep going and I use the pill when necessary because I just don't want to miss out.

A few of my siblings don't fly at all, but the ones that do use medication. We saw our parents miss out on too many things to be a slave to phobias. My father is not phobic but never traveled because my mother was also afraid to be left alone!

Alcohol is generally not advised for phobics as it heightens anxiety in most cases.

I hope this is helpful and would be happy to answer any more questions you might have. I shared my story because I think it's helpful to know others go through this. Over the years I've met a lot of people who hate to fly. One psychologist made me feel better when she said, "fear of flying is kind of healthy - what makes us think we're supposed to like being thousands of feet up in the air?"
gruezi is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 10:02 AM
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Absolutely, Robespierre, if you factor out the human errors (bad piloting, occasionally shoddy maintenance), flying in small aircraft is very safe indeed. The problem is that, unless you're something of an aviator yourself, how do you recognize a bad pilot, or an unsafe aircraft?

Airliners and their pilots are safe because truly draconian regulations force them to be so. Pilots in small planes can get away with a lot more in practice and in theory, and so human error and carelessness account for a lot more accidents. Be careful about accepting invitations to fly in small aircraft with private pilots.
AnthonyGA is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 10:07 AM
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Medication. Seriously you'd be surprised how many people routinely use an anti-anxiety prescription to be able to fly more comfortably. See your doctor.

suze is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 12:28 PM
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A number of years ago when my fear of flying went into overdrive, but my desire to travel strengthened, I took a rare trip to the doctor who prescribed ativan, an anti-anxiety pill. I don't abuse drugs -- usually avoid them in fact -- but it enabled me to get on the plane without having a panic attack. In fact, it made the whole experience pretty darned good!

I'm the type who about a week before a flight, starts getting anxious -- purely psychological, like the feeling most people have when they have to speak in front of an audience. Even though I understand it on an intellectual level, I am unable to control it. And yes, I've tried meditation and relaxation techniques, and nothing works but the darned pill.
Surfergirl is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 12:40 PM
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ativan, xanax, valium - all mentioned are anti-anxiety drugs. while they have potential for abuse, when used only for traveling (plane flights and to get over jet lag the first couple nights used for sleep) work well for many.
suze is offline  
Dec 29th, 2007, 02:21 PM
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I don't particularly like flying either.

Things that I find helpfulbr />
Getting to the airport in plenty of time (you might think arriving and boarding last would help - it doesn't - it just adds fear of missing the flight to fear of flying!).

Having something to do on board eg a puzzle or crossword. Reading a book doesn't help - you won't be able to concentrate for long enough, wheras a puzzle can be done in multiple short instalments.

Small to moderate amounts of alcohol. Contrary to popular belief, prescribed anxiolytics are not very effective against phobic anxiety - they work best on generalised anxiety.

Having an aisle seat, and occsionally walking around.

The larger the aircraft, generally the less terrifying it is. I do not recommmend prop or turbo-prop type aircraft for nervous flyers - too small, too low (bad weather!) too loud!

Courses work best on people who've never flown - not those who have and already know they hate it!
RM67 is offline  
Dec 30th, 2007, 06:14 AM
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If you have a true "fear of flying" phobia, it is not something that is rationally overcome. The whole problem with the phobia is that it IS irrational. I used to LOVE flying, love airports and didn't develop my fear until my late 20's. My irrational fear made it seem safer to be in a small plane (even in the cockpit) than in a large plane. The fact that I could see the pilot meant in my irrational mind that I had some sort of control over what was happening - it was big commercial planes that scared me!

So, what to do with these irrational fears? I did hypnosis, deep breathing, postitive thinking, talking to seatmates and alcohol. I still white-knuckled for 10 years. Finally I asked my doctor for something to help me sleep on our overnight Europe flights. I didn't realize that he gave me an anti-anxiety drug - Xanax, as opposed to a sleeping pill. After a few years I finally clued in and started taking the Xanax on even short domestic flights. I would get an Rx for the number of flights I planned to take that year.

I can say that after doing this for another 10 years I am more or less over the fear. I have done several flights now without any meds at all, including our last European flight. I still have the pills in my purse, just in case, but just as my fear was intensfied each time I flew afraid, I became less afraid each medicated trip because my body wasn't freaking out!

FYI - the Xanax does not make me feel "high" in any way, just normal and slightly relaxed. I am able to wake up during the flight and go to the bathroom, walk around, etc. It is NOT a sleeping pill, but I don't have trouble sleeping almost anywhere as long as I'm not panicked. Hope this makes sense, and hope you find it helpful. I really recommend anti-anxiety drugs for true fear of flying.
AtlTravelr is offline  

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