Fear of Flying: Choosing the Right Treatment

Conquering fear of flying with education, medication, and therapy

If you’re anything like me, you probably tried a few do-it-yourself treatments when your fear of flying went from bad to worse.  I rationalized that air travel was statistically safe, scolded myself for being ridiculous, and pretended I was on a bus.

This got me nowhere.  Here are some of the things I tried next.

Medication

Getting a prescription for a sedative (Xanax in my case, or the generic Alprazolam) was as simple as picking up the phone and explaining to my doctor that I was a travel writer who was afraid to fly.  She called it in to my pharmacy without so much as remarking on the irony.

I was hoping for total relief, but I got total drowsiness instead.  I still felt the usual stab of terror when the captain barked, “Seatbelts!” during unexpected turbulence, but I felt a lot less anticipatory anxiety leading up to that moment.

It’s worth noting that .25mg of Xanax doesn’t knock me out either.  I can still read, eat, talk, and take care of my children—I just yawn a lot when I’m doing it.

Education

When it comes to conquering fear of flying, a little education can go a long way.  Knowing why jet engines go so suddenly and terrifyingly quiet after take off (to comply with local noise abatement laws)  can help you avoid imagining worst case scenarios (the plane is about to drop from the sky).

Some people go so far as to study aviation and flight safety data to deal with their anxiety of the unknown in the hope that logic will trump imagination.  This can backfire though since the media is full of stories about plane crashes.

If you’re afraid of flying, be very careful with your reading and viewing materials.  I was a wreck after reading a chapter called “The Ethnic History of Plane Crashes” in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success.

Therapy

The final treatment option is therapy, and that’s where I arrived after having lukewarm results with the other two.  It seemed extreme, but after landing in a thunderstorm in Dallas and weathering a bout of severe turbulence en route to Denver, I was ready to take the next steps.  An online search revealed several options.

First I considered a Fear of Flying Clinic in San Mateo, California, which included two consecutive weekend classes and an optional orientation flight.  It was geographically convenient, but it seemed to focus more on education than anxiety.

Next I considered working privately with a psychiatrist on ways to face my fears and control my anxiety, but this seemed expensive and time-consuming.

Finally I found a self-paced online video course called SOAR taught by an airline pilot and licensed therapist.  The program offered everything from video instruction and personal phone consultations to rapid relief courses and MP3 downloads.  I decided to give it a try.

Check back next week for the next post in the series about the SOAR video program and how it worked for me.

This is the second in a five-part series about conquering fear of flying.  Topics will include:

1.  Symptoms and causes
2.  Choosing the right treatment
3.  The SOAR video course
4.  Understanding turbulence
5.  How flying works and why it’s safe

Fear of Flying TreatmentToo busy to read all that?  Flying very soon?  The online video-based fear of flying program I tried (and highly recommend) has recently published a book called SOAR: The Breakthrough Treatment for Fear of Flying.  It’s available on Amazon for much less than the cost of the full program.

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Comments

  1. Seana says

    I love reading your blog. I, myself, am not afraid to fly but almost everyone else I know is (including my best friend and my husband). I am really enjoying this series and am looking forward to the next installments. Thank you for exposing your fears so the rest of us can benefit, it is much appreciated.

  2. says

    Fear is nothing more than an illusion it is of the onknown.
    One simple little trick is to simply trick your mind. If you like rollercoasters just think you are on a rollercoaster. Remenber also that you have flown before and you are still here.

  3. says

    I imagine a lot of the tips could apply to anxiety attacks on subways etc. I know this has been a problem for some people in London since the 7/7 bombings.

  4. says

    First time i got on airplane i had big aviophobia and all what i think about is that we will crash. Hopefully everything was ok and now i flight regularly. Only important thing is to beat your fear first time. Every other flight will be easy :)

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