If you have a fear of flying, you are not even close to alone. Studies have shown that as many as four in 10 people have anxiety about accelerating into the sky aboard an airplane. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that for nearly seven percent of the population, the fear is so high that they will never step foot on a plane.
For these people, the anxiety qualifies as a disorder, alongside ones such as generalized anxiety disorder, panic attack disorder, and social anxiety disorder. The name of this one rolls off the tongue: aviophobia. This is the fear of flying at its most intense. Would you believe that the eventual cure for it is to go flying?
Across the country are treatment programs that expose a person to his or her worst fears. This one is basically airborne therapy. Patients who seek these programs out haven’t flown for many years, and sometimes decades. They come trying to bury their anxiety, which can literally put the mind under its panicked control.
For aviophobia, fear of flying is more than just being frightened. It can usher in panic attack symptoms: sweating, numb hands or feet, rapid heartbeat, possible fainting, and vomiting. Whatever horrible visions the mind is creating are so vivid, they feel real.
Airborne therapy means people can meet their fear head- on, using baby steps. First, maybe, a group meets at an airport to discuss their condition. Then they have several meetings aboard an airplane that just sits on the tarmac. Eventually, when ready, they can take a short flight.
There is a technological alternative to actually flying. People can sign up for virtual-reality flying, which simulates an airplane’s flight. Overall, these programs are quite successful and offer a very useful tool for those wishing to conquer aviophobia. The success rate, according to anxiety disorder experts, hovers near 90%.
That means people may be able to take a flight and visit other states and countries without falling victim to anxiety’s imagination. The wings won’t rip off. The pilot won’t have a heart attack. The door won’t bust open. Nothing will collide with the plane in midair.
Air travel will always remain immensely safer than automobile travel. With airborne therapy, aviophobes can learn to actually believe that.