What are the symptoms of aviophobia and fear of flying?
That’s it, your plane tickets have just been purchased. You’ve decided to go to the other side of the world for a well-deserved holiday. The only problem is that you have a fear of flying. Your flight is still several weeks away and you are dreading the situation. You feel your anxiety gradually rising and you won’t feel better until the trip is over… You are not alone, the symptoms of fear of flying affect thousands of people.
Anticipatory anxiety about flying
Although your next flight is still days or even months away, your thoughts are focused on this event. You feel a certain anxiety arising and this tends to increase as the deadline approaches. This is called ‘anticipatory anxiety‘ and for some people it can become so intense that it causes sleep disturbances and problems concentrating at work… These anxiety states vary from person to person.
You may experience high anxiety only during the flight and have panic attacks there. You may also be hyper-vigilant to the environment and your anxiety only increases when specific events occur (bad weather, suspicious or unfamiliar noises, feeling watched, etc.). You look for the slightest clue that something might happen while trying not to let your discomfort show.
The symptoms of aviophobia, the fear of flying
When you can’t help but confront your fear, a whole range of physical manifestations take over. The following symptoms are the most common:
- You feel palpitations, a strong acceleration of the heart rate
- You start to sweat excessively, have sweaty hands
- You have difficulty breathing, shortness of breath
- Your legs and arms are shaking
- You have dizziness, nausea, vomiting and difficulty swallowing, dry throat
- You have abdominal pain
- You are irritable, nothing gets on your nerves
- In the worst case, you may lose consciousness, have diarrhoea or be incontinent
These symptoms are those of aviophobia and are the same as those found in any other specific phobia. They become quite difficult to manage when they occur. For some people, even the prospect of planning a plane trip can trigger these symptoms. This can limit leisure options and can be a problem for those who need to travel for work.
Because the causes of aviophobia are multiple, several specific treatment solutions are needed to address the particular fear involved. To get rid of it, you can be prescribed medication, choose to undertake analytical psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy. Finally, some companies may offer you the possibility of an adaptation course to overcome your phobia.
In addition to the ideas already constantly present in the mind of the aviophobic person, such as the fear of having a panic attack or of the plane crashing, there are other intrusive thoughts, this time about our behaviour or that of other passengers once in flight. Indeed, one of the most recurrent symptoms of fear of flying is the thought that we could at any moment feel an irrepressible need to get up and open the door of the plane or to break the window for no particular reason. It is the intense feeling that one could very well succumb to an impulse, a fit of madness or even cause a tragedy by accident putting all the people in great danger.
These kinds of systematic thoughts tend to become real obsessions that terrify you and prevent any possibility of air travel. They may stem from what is known as an impulse phobia which is an obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and corresponds to the fear of committing violent acts against oneself or others in any type of situation, causing great anxiety in the individual. Traumatic events such as witnessing suspicious behaviour by passengers can also generate such anxieties, which are then reinforced by avoidance behaviour.
In all cases, the risk of acting out is extremely low or nil without any other pre-existing disorder. These recurring ideas are in fact mental images on which you are particularly focused, but they do not in any way reflect your deepest desires or real urges.
Overcoming the symptoms of fear of flying
Because the causes of aviophobia are multiple, several specific treatment solutions are needed to address the particular fear involved. To get rid of it, you can be prescribed medication, choose to undertake analytical psychotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy. The use of virtual reality offers the possibility of putting people with aviophobia into realistic flying situations that are much more accessible than in vivo exposures and, in this sense, is a major asset in the treatment of aviophobia. Finally, some companies may offer you the possibility of an adaptation course to overcome your phobia.