Overcoming Fear of Flying

Psychologist Marion Bilich, PhD, answers the question, Will I ever be able to get on an airplane again?

Question

It seems as if every time I start feeling brave enough to fly somewhere, there's another frightening airplane-related incident. Sometimes I think I'll never be able to get on a plane again! My heart literally races and I feel sick to my stomach at the thought of having to take a plane. Will I ever feel safe about flying?

    Answer

    Many people -- even seasoned travelers -- feel particularly uncomfortable about flying when upsetting images and news reports are fresh in their minds. That fear usually subsides as time goes by without any new incidents. Next time you fly, you might consider deep breathing or relaxation exercises.

    If you were afraid of flying before, your fears may be heightened when you hear about a worrisome or tragic event involving an airplane. But the intense reaction you describe may represent a more serious problem. You may have a phobia associated with flying called aviophobia or aerophobia, and may need some help in overcoming your problem. Your local bookstore will have a number of self-help books on overcoming fear of flying. If you seek professional help, a number of mental health professionals specialize in treating fear of flying. In the past few years, several airlines have instituted programs to help people overcome their fears. The final class in these programs often includes a short plane trip.

    The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.