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Fear of flying

I'm looking for practical advice to cope with my fear of flying. I'm wondering if anyone with similiar fears have found a successful method--such as a class, or book, etc. My doctor has prescribed me anti-anxiety medication that did not work a bit. I don't drink. Please don't tell me the statistics about cars being more dangerous than planes because I am afraid of riding in cars, too. Specifially, I am extremely afraid during takeoff and landing. I don't have clausterphobia.

Posted by
689 posts

I have heard hypnosis will work.

I personally find that I am much more comfortable (that being a relative term) when I sit in an isle seat. I also always have the headphones on and volume of whatever movie cranked up loud so I don't hear all the "little noises".

Posted by
1568 posts

Probably the majority of travelers are apprehensive during take offs and landings. I know I am.

There are clinics that deal with fears. Perhaps your doctor would recommend one.

I wish you all the best.

Posted by
576 posts

Matti, Rick on Radio (click on tab at top of page) discusses fear of flying on one of his shows. Look under the Special Interest column. His guest on the show teaches classes on this problem that affects so many people. You are not alone! It sounds to me like you are trying to work on overcoming this fear..maybe this program will help a tiny bit.

Posted by
19 posts

I used to have a fear of flying. Especially after 9/11. I just kind of sucked it up and dealt with it by flying by myself. I still get a little shaky on take off but you'll kick the fear eventually.

Posted by
19 posts

Oh and you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning then anything bad happening on a plane. I like hearing that than the car one.

Posted by
970 posts

Matti, I don't have any magic answers. Pretty certain none exist. As others have suggested, look to your physician to refer you to professional assistance.

Having said that, I'll suggest that every day you do things that depend, like flying, on things you can's see or feel. You can't see the energy that powers your car or the electromagnetic waves that make TV and radio work, but they're there just the same.

Likewise, you can't see the scientific principles that make an airplane work, but they are there.

Does it help to undertstand how dependent we are all on things we can't see or feel? Things we usually just assume will work?

I realize that this is asking you to apply reason to what you know is an irrational fear. Maybe, though, it will help just a bit.

Posted by
80 posts

I dont know if this will help or not, but I was in a near plane crash and had a fear of flying afterwards. I only got on the plane because I love to travel. I was especially nervous during turbulence. In an effort to take my mind off of my fear during a trip, my sister began singing show tunes at the top of her voice, Oklahoma, Bali Hai, selections from Phantom, I was so embarrassed I wanted to die! It definitely took my mind off my fear. Gradually after a few more flights, my fear subsided and I fly everywhere now. Good luck.

Posted by
800 posts

Matti-you might give the drugs one more try but start by talking with your doctor. Specifically ask about the dosage. After bragging to a friend that I was okay to fly with Xanax she got some from her doctor. No help at all. When we "compared" drugs I saw that hers was 1/2 the dosage of mine. She called her doctor and asked for the bigger dose. She uses this now and is fine.

Posted by
808 posts

Flight Attendants deal with fearful flyers at least once on practically every flight. Consider requesting a seat assignment near a Flight Attendant or an emergency exit if that would help to make you feel safer.

If takeoffs and landings frighten you most, sitting near an F/A's Jumpseat is a good idea. They too, will be seated for this critical phase of flight. Let us know that you are fearful. We have training and skill to help you. Even something us simple as chatting, having a conversation can help to relax you.

Or here's a suggestion:

Go to Passenger Services and let them know that you are fearful and they could possibly arrange for you to pre-board the Aircraft. Special emergency related briefings are given to passengers requiring special attention. You don't have to be elderly, vision impared or an unaccompanied minor to request this service.

Flight Attendants deliver life saving information during safety demos so please give them your full attention.

Posted by
808 posts

One final thought...

Perhaps doing some research on the net on "Inflight safety" might help you feel more confident. If you know the type of Aircraft you will be flying on you could look at seat assignments/emergency exits etc.

Even check out the Airline's website as there may be helpful tips posted there. If you know any Flight Crew ask them about their emergency procedures training.

Flight attendants are highly trained Flight safety Professionals. While serving is perhaps their most visible role it is actually less than 5% of their overall responsibility. Safety checks are completed on board the Aircraft long before Passengers even set foot inside. We must cross check and confirm servicability of all emergency equiptment on board the aircraft.

Training is extensive and continuous. F/A's must achieve a minimum 90% on all safety related exams to be awarded employment. Training is annual and if you don't pass, you don't fly. Only the best make it.

Posted by
1455 posts

My friend is petrified of flying. She kept herself busy when she went to London with me last time and here's how we did it.

The plane we took had those screens in front of you. She played the onboard "Trivial Pursuit" with the other passengers, then watched a movie on the personal DVD, and then listened to some music.

This friend does not drink and cannot sleep on planes. She did bring a pocket Sudoku book and also her PDA which she played her favorite games like Bejeweled or tetris.

Keeping her mind occupied seemed to work for the long flight.

Posted by
53 posts

PLEASE don't take the drugs!! They're so bad for you & cause all sorts of other problems!! Instead, try a lavender essential oil - you can simply sniff it out of the bottle. If that won't relax you, NOTHING will!! I also have a lavender eye mask I wear. That helps too! Check out this site for some great lavender products: http://lavendergreen.com/home_pillows.php

And try meditating - just simply take long deep breaths & focus on "hearing" only them. You can also put earplugs or phones in to quiet the plane noises.

Then when I'm up in the air, I have a relaxation CD loaded onto my iPod, so I start listening (& focusing!) to that & in combination w/all the lavender, I usually go to sleep pretty quickly (& I'm definitely NOT one for sleeping on planes!!).

Posted by
204 posts

Matti,
Your type of fear is perfectly common and can be totally debilitating. Altho the drugs do help some, as a Pharmacist I would suggest you ask you doctor for some other type. What helps one, may not help another and vice versa. The suggestions about lavender, etc are pure quackery. This is not the middle ages. Forget them.

A better long range solution, if you have time, is to call your air carrier and ask about the classes most have for controlling you anxiety. They do work, they are usually free and the airlines are very understanding.

Posted by
8 posts

I was the same way but with Xanax and time I'm getting better about it. I don't see it mentioned above but prayer also helps me spiritually.

Posted by
53 posts

Ummm, Charles - lavender used as a relaxation tool is NOT "quackery"!! I used to have extreme tension/migraines & trouble sleeping, and I started breathing it in through a diffuser (or out of the bottle) & placing it beside my bed at night, and now I sleep like a baby! It INSTANTLY relaxes you...

So have YOU ever tried it? Or are you just one of those people who thinks a doctor being a drug pusher is the only answer? In fact, I couldn't take drugs b/c the many known-to-be harmful chemicals in them (of which I'm very sensitive) caused me all sorts of problems! For the most part, your typical doctor-prescribed drugs DO use herbs & other natural ingredients in them, but with a lot of unnecessary "filler" chemicals in them.

There's a reason lavender (& plenty of other herbs) have been used for thousands of years! In fact, it's also a great antiseptic for burns & bee stings & is a natural disinfectant for many types of bacteria, ALL of which have been scientifically tested & proven.

Posted by
2065 posts

To each his/her own! Lavender does nothing for me.

Posted by
91 posts

I've tried lavender and it helped...BUT you have to be willing to let it help you (i.e; if you are a nervous wreck, lavender probably won't help. but if you concentrate on calming yourself lavender can be very beneficial as can drinking mint/chamomile tea). Drugs are so easy to take because you feel immediate relief, but you are simply poisoning your body and allowing yourself to become addicted to something rather than overcoming your fear on your own.

my suggestions:

*fly with some you trust and feel safe with.

*talk to the pilot. have them explain the mechanics of flying. this has helped me because my fear was simply that I didn't understand how a plane functioned.

  • bring comfy things that make you feel at home; slippers, a warm blanket, or maybe even a small stuffed animal.

*concentrate on how much fun you will have when you reach your destination.

I wish you the best of luck and I hope you are able to overcome this fear eventually.

Posted by
808 posts

IMO passengers should not drug/sedate themselves unless it is absolutely necessary.

In cases of emergency ie: evacuation your impaired senses will work against you.

One poster suggested talking to the pilot. Great suggestion, although in my experience as an In-Charge Flight Attendant, I must tell you that the chances of this happening prior to takeoff are slim. Speak to the Cabin Crew. They deal with Nervous flyers practically every Flight.

Posted by
4 posts

MATTI,

I DO NOT KNOW WHETHER YOU BELIEVE IN GOD OR NOT, I STRONGLY DO.

I HAD SAME TYPE OF FEAR IN FLIGHTS PROBABLY MORE THAN YOU IN AROUND FIRST 20 FLIGHTS IN MY LIFE. AS PER ADVICE OF ONE VERY SENIOR MONKS I CONTINUOUSLY TRIED TO CO-RELATE MY OWN HELPLESSNESS DURING FLIGHT WITH THE SAME IN THE EARTH. EVERYTHING, AT LEAST AS PER MY BELIEF, ARE IN THE HANDS OF GOD, LIKE THE FATE OF OUR FLIGHTS IN THE HANDS OF THE PILOT OR OTHER CREW MEMBERS.

NOW I HAVE NO FEAR IN FLIGHT SINCE LAST 15 /16 YEARS.

IF YOU CAN THINK IN THIS LINE.

BEST OF LUCK.

SWARJIT

Posted by
481 posts

Matti, I imagine that being afraid in both cars and planes really limits what you're able to do. Or, at least, what you're able to do comfortably. I agree with those who suggested you check back with your physician about tweaking your prescription. Anti-anxiety medication, when taken appropriately, does not "poison your body" or make you an addict. Nor will it sedate you to the point that you can't function or take care of yourself. I'd also suggest that you talk with a psycholgist about these anxiety symptoms; a few sessions might give you the additional strategies you need to limit your fears.

Posted by
808 posts

SWARJIT

Thank you for aknowledging that the safe operation of the Aircraft is in the hands of both the Pilot and the Flight Crew.

It is amazing how many people fail to realize this. This is shown in many forms. Passengers who refuse to focus their attention on the safety demonstrations often underestimate their importance.

Do we believe that flying is so safe that the only ones concerned with Flight safety should be the Flight Crew?? And even at that, they aren't worth listening to?

Flight Attendants deliver LIFE SAVING INFORMATION! It is well worth the investment of a few minutes of undivided attention. Believe me, your newspaper, book, magazine, conversation can be continued soon after...and without the distraction of multiple languages over the PA!

Posted by
800 posts

Please do not be scared off meds by people telling you not to "drug yourself". Fear of flying - the real true makes you sick to your stomach days before fear of flying is an irrational fear. That means that no amount of "rational" thought helps you. It also becomes a self fullfilling prophecy where each time you fly you feel that fear and become more fearful.

Flight Attendant - I did not take my Xanax for years whenever I was flying with my children as I thought that is WAS something that would impair my judgement. For me, in the proper dosage, Xanax makes me feel the way normal people feel while flying. I am still aware and even a little anxious when there is turbulance. It just makes me stop listening intently for each and every sound, studying the faces of the flight attendants looking for "clues" as to danger! With many non fearful flights now behind me I just had my first non-drug Europe flight. Matti, I hope you find some help from some source - just keep your options open!

Posted by
808 posts

It is a proven fact that OVER MEDICATING with sedatives can in fact impair judgement. I am not totally against anti-anxiety medication when used within reason when prescribed by a qualified health-care provider.

Some people actually want to be TOTALLY sedated which does in fact pose a security hazzard not only to themselves but to other passengers and crew. Some are not satisfied unless they leave their Doctor's office with a higher than really required dose of medication.

In this particular case, Matti stated that his doctor had prescribed for him anti-anxiety medication that did not work abit and was looking for practical advise to cope with his fear of flying.

Matti, check out www.flightattendants.org if you want to gain practical advice fom Aviation Experts. Welcome to my world!

Posted by
3 posts

Psychologists sometimes use "systematic desensitization" to cure anxiety. They expose you to the fear a little at a time until you are used to it. Usually they teach you relaxation techniques first, so when you are exposed to the fear-provoking stimulus, you make yourself calm and your body eventually gets the pattern of "relax when this happens" rather than "fear when this happens."

Figure out what exactly scares you, and write a list from least to most frightening. For example, your list might go:

Least scary: sitting in a parked car
sitting in a car with the engine running
sitting in the backseat of a slow moving car
... in backseat of a car zooming down the highway
... in the front passenger seat (slow, med, fast)
sitting at the wheel with the engine on
driving the car yourself, slowly
driving faster
sitting in a parked plane
... in a plane taxiing slowly
... in a plane midflight
Most scary: sitting in a plane taking off

Your list might be different but you get the idea.

Posted by
3 posts

once you get the hang of the easy step, go on to the next. Keep making yourself relax, and don't go further until your fear is under control. A therapist might be able to help, if you can afford it (or your insurance might).

As the flight attendant said, some airlines have "classes" where they help you overcome your fear, and sometimes they will take you out in the plane little by little. Try learning about the procedures of takeoff and landing, so you know what those strange mechanical sounds mean (oh, that's just the wheels unfolding, nothing to worry about).

I like to watch planes take off and land at airports. There's something magical about those moments of liftoff and touchdown. As you ride inside, visualize how smooth it looks from outside.

Also, on many planes there's a special radio channel that lets you tune in to the chatter between the pilots and the control tower. You might find this interesting to listen to. Notice how calm they sound. They do this all the time.

Posted by
808 posts

Elisabeth

Interesting to learn of this channel that planes have that allows the public/passengers to hear chatter? I've never heard of this. I'm not saying you are incorrect, I've just never heard of this before.

How would a passenger access this? If you know, please post.

Posted by
63 posts

United Airlines has this channel.

Posted by
3 posts

Easy to tune to the pilots' channel, if they've turned it on (they can, at their discretion, open or close the "loop" to let passengers listen). It's just one of the radio channels piped into your little armrest, you can select it when you plug in your headphones. The number of the channel varies. It might be mentioned in the flight magazine, in the back section where they talk about onboard amenities.

Posted by
689 posts

I have often listened to the "chatter channel". It is interesting to hear the conversations.

Posted by
24 posts

Don't know if this will help or not but one of the reasons for this fear is feeling of lack of being in control. We feel helpless unlike a car where we can manuver (?) the vehicle or at least jump out of the car.

Posted by
1 posts

Matti -

As a travel agent, I have flown quite a bit and still have a fear flying - especially at take off, landing, and during turbulence.

Recently, I found a website for in-flight yoga that has helped me relax (great at work, too). If you start as soon as you are seated, you may feel more calm by the time you actually take off.

I also shorten my sleep hours the night before a flight. It actually helps to be tired and groggy - and no meds!

Hope this helps you!

Posted by
4 posts

Fifteen years ago, I was terrified of flying. My grandfather died and I did not go to the funeral because of my fear of flying. I drove my dad to the airport and on the way we talked about my fear of flying. He said, "Julie you are more likely to die being hit by a car when you cross the street than in an airplane crash." I know, I know very cliche. Three days later my father was hit by a car while walking across the street and killed. He died on July 11, 1992, exactly 15 years before you wrote your letter. I had to fly the next day to bury him and I have been flying all over the world since. Turbulance is a luxury and life is too short to miss out on what the world has to offer.

Posted by
7 posts

I find that when flying it helps just to remind youself that it's hundreds of times safer than driving.

Posted by
2000 posts

Ask yourself this -- do you worry about friends or loved ones who fly? You probably hardly give it a thought, and certainly are not in a panic with worry.
There is a reason for this..... nothing is likely to happen at all.

Posted by
932 posts

Matti, I love to fly, but turbulence, take off and landing still makes me nervous. MY trick to calm down is that I watch the flight attendants behavior. Logic tells me that if they're sitting there calmly or conducting business as usual (getting drinks ready, conversing with the other attendants, etc.), then I know everything's probably okay. They fly for a living, and I'm guessing that they would now if something didn't sound or feel right. This tip may not help you if you truly have a phobia...

Posted by
70 posts

I am also petrified of flying and am very anxious while driving or riding in a car or other vehicle. It helped the last time i flew when i had the window seat, and my fiance explained the mechanics of the plane to me. To understand the physics of how the plane stays in the air helped me a little.

Everyone gets nervous when there is turbulence, and there isn't much to be done about that. I'm hoping to sleep on my next flight overseas...

Posted by
1 posts

I have a true flying phobia (diagnosed by my MD). I recently started a fear of flying course by a former pilot who is now a licensed therapist. The course has helped me immensely. I just got back from Europe which is a major accomplishment considering this time last year I got off a flight and drove the rest of the way home because of turbulence & bad flight. I also suffered panic attacks from flying. While these folks here are well intentioned, a true fear such as this requires more than aromatherapy and relaxation techniques. This course helps you break down your fear and work to calm or for some eliminate it. I am not affilated with them at all, just a recent client with huge success which I never thought possible. Check it out: fearofflying.com. Best of luck. You can do it. Oh, you can also meet the pilots which helps. I do it on every flight. Just ask to meet them when you get on the plane. I have never been turned down.

Posted by
435 posts

Thank you all for your most helpful advice. I'm not flying agian until November, and I will post when I return.

For any other fearful flyers, I found a free online course: http://www.fearofflyinghelp.com . It's a little corny, but the information is good.

Posted by
1 posts

Hi Matti: May curiosity and love of adventure overcome your fear of flying! Rick's TV show certainly woos us to travel, despite the worries and frequent inconveniences.

You might also want to try Aromatherapy as a first line of self-treatment for Fear of Flying without the side effects of other anxiety relievers. To see the science on how Aromatherapy works follow the link: http://www.lavendergreen.com/aromatheraphy%20Q&A.php Lavender Essential Oil (E.O.)is a tried and true body/mind therapy for calming and it can blend with other E.O.'s for specific uses, like sleep or protection against airborne viruses. If you would like to try lavender for you next trip, visit www.lavendergreen.com/travel.php to see Aromatherapy Personal diffusers, eye masks and Comfort pillows, in lightweight travel friendly, airline approved materials. If you tell us who you are, we will ship your order for free.
Kind Regards,
Ginna