Fly Anxiety

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Picture of plane flying into the sunset

Those holidays are on their way! As lockdown ends and travel restrictions are eased, many people will be looking forward to taking their first holiday abroad for a few years. As the sun and the sea and the good food beckon you, some of you may find your self developing anxiety about the flight.

You are not alone. Around one in three people develop some form of anxiety when they fly. Most of them can manage a small bit of anxiety by themselves – either they put up with it or maybe have a drink or two to take the edge off it. But there are a small percentage of people for whom the anxiety is really bad.

Flying is actually one of the safest forms of transport. You are more likely to crash while driving to the airport than crashing in the airplane. But this does not stop a lot of people getting nervous about the flight.

33% to 40%People who have some anxiety about flying
2.5% to 5%People who have a crippling anxiety about flying
1 in 3.37 billionThe chances of actually getting killed in an aircraft crash
Fear of Flying in Numbers

Why do people fear flying, even when it is so safe?

The fear comes from that subconscious part of the brain that controls your fight-flight-or-freeze response. That part of your brain is not particularly clever, and once it gets an idea – it tends to stick with it – even if it is wrong. So it’s no good telling yourself that flying is safe – the fight-flight-or-freeze part of the brain doesn’t listen – it just goes ahead and makes you afraid anyway.

Where does a fear of flying come from?

For every person with Aerophobia, it is different. Some people just overthink it, for some it is the lack of control, and for others it is a bad experience of flying in the past. Where it comes from actually doesn’t matter – it’s what you do about it that counts.

What can you do about a fear of flying?

Some people just put up with it. If the anxiety levels are relatively low, they just sit tight and maybe have a drink or two, or take some over-the-counter medication. If you don’t want to do that, some form of therapy can help.

Many forms of therapy use “graded exposure” to help sort out phobias. This gradually introduces you to the source of your fear in small steps at first, exposing you to small parts of your fear, and then, as the fear reduces, expose you to a bit more. This is more complex with flying – because you cannot “fly a small amount” at the start of the process.

How does Hypnotherapy deal with a fear of flying?

Hypnotherapy uses a very different approach. Hypnotherapy recognises that a fear of flying starts with the fight-flight-or-freeze part of the brain. You are not aware of your response until the fear and anxiety hits you. This fear has somehow been programmed into your brain, and you need to “unprogramme” it. So the hypnotherapy starts with a process of scrambling your response to flying – in order to “unprogramme” it. Hypnotherapy then goes on to “reprogramme” the brain so that it can remain calm before and during the flight.

I like to tackle fear of flying in two sessions. The first is a week or two before the flight (to “unprogramme” the brain). The second is a few days before the flight (to “reprograme” the brain). In between the two sessions (and also for the flight itself if they want), my clients listen to a hypnosis audio that helps embed the changes into the unconscious part of their brain.

Tim Maude

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