Overcoming a Fear of Flying With a Positive Experience

Courses, Books, DVDs

Consider a course offered by some of the major airlines and other companies like the Fear of Flying Clinic (fofc.com) to help you overcome your flying anxiety. This usually takes the form of a daylong workshop or a class one day a week for several weeks, where airline crew members discuss the mechanics of flying, what is happening and how you can change your fearful reactions. Many of these courses end with a virtual flight in a simulator or in a real plane, with a pilot talking you through the process and encouraging you to ask questions. If you don't live near a city where such classes are offered, try home study like the Fear of Flying Help Course (fearofflyinghelp.com) or read a book on the subject such as "Flying Without Fear" by Duane Brown.

Tips and Exercises to Try

Use breathing exercises or meditation before and during your flight. Try visualization beforehand to imagine yourself on the plane, exposed to the sight and sounds. When you start having anxiety symptoms, start with deep "belly breathing," then tense and relax in succession the muscles of your jaw, neck, shoulders, back and legs. Pack a travel bag full of interesting books, magazines and an MP3 or CD player to distract yourself while waiting to board. Eat a filling, nutritious meal beforehand, which may help you sleep on the flight and feel better when you arrive at your destination. Avoid sugary snacks, tea, coffee or caffeine-filled drinks, as they may make you more jittery. Book a seat near the front of the aircraft, where turbulence is less noticeable. Introduce yourself to your pilot and inform the crew of your fear; meeting and seeing the people to whom you're entrusting your safety can be comforting.

Drug Therapy

Psychiatric medication such as benzodiazepines or other relaxant drugs can be prescribed to temporarily control symptoms of aviophobia, but they don't treat the underlying disorder and may have side effects. Test any medications on the ground first to make sure you don't have an adverse reaction. Some natural remedies may also help with flying anxiety, including St. John's wort, scullcap and valerian. The American Psychological Association estimates that 10 to 25 percent of Americans suffer from a fear of flying (aviophobia). This is despite studies such as one published in the January-February 2003 issue of American Scientist that concluded it's 261 times safer to fly than to drive from New York to Los Angeles. Fortunately, there are many methods that can help you overcome the irrational fear of flying.