Air-raid anxiety: how to defeat aerophobia

If statistics are to be believed, one in three of those reading this text is afraid of flying. The same statistics show that almost all of them could get rid of their fear. Aerophobia can be successfully and quickly cured, if you want to.

What is aerophobia

It is one of the most widespread mental disorders in the world – in one way or another about 30% of the population is subject to it. This percentage is absolutely the same in all countries of the world, regardless of the local statistics on air accidents, because aerophobia, like any other phobia, has nothing to do with the real risks and dangers.

Aerophobia is not about airplanes at all; they serve only as a trigger to trigger panic. Fear is irrational, and there is no more logic in fear of flying than there is in fear of heights, darkness, clowns or mice. If you think it’s okay to be afraid of airplanes because it’s dangerous to fly, you’ve just discovered aerophobia.

Why does it occur?

The reasons for this irrational fear are an unstable psyche and lack of trust in the world, heightened anxiety, perfectionism, mistrustfulness, and other psychological problems unrelated to aviation. Fear of flying is just one of the manifestations of these very problems, caused by psychological traumas, stress, lack of emotional closeness with parents in childhood, errors in thinking and so on. By the way, in about half of the cases, the object of fear for the aerophobe is not the plane itself and its possible fall, but his own condition on board – the fear of a heart attack, loss of self-control and panic attacks, the associated shame and condemnation.

At the same time, with aerophobia, especially in its initial stages, the person does not recognize the problem in himself and tries to find a logical justification for his panic, linking it to “high risks” or “the bad state of affairs in aviation”. Defending his fear, his consciousness finds a counterargument to every argument, passing off the norm as the case, and the case as the norm. This is why aerophobes are not reassured by any reasonable argument.

How It’s Treated

Aerophobia has long been well studied and is perfectly treatable. Moreover, in most cases, it can be cured in a couple of days. The most effective therapy – a complex, it includes three main elements: first, education, during which you explain the laws of aerodynamics, aircraft structure, safety systems and other aviation details; secondly, psychological support, helping to relieve anxiety and to understand what you are afraid of, in fact, and, thirdly, work on removal of the reflex “airplane = fear,” which uses professional simulators for pilots, virtual reality simulators and joint flights accompanied by specialists in aero

In Russia, such programs are offered by the “Flying without Fear” center, founded by Alexei Gervash, an active pilot and aviation psychologist. Here you can take an online or offline course, group or individual therapy. In mild cases, it is enough to watch a video course to get rid of your fear of flying forever.

What’s the problem then?

Mainly that aerophobes avoid not only flying, but also treatment. Because of that very hypnosis and lack of trust, each of them is convinced that nothing will help them. In addition, people who are used to living with fear and giving up interesting work and travel are often simply not ready to admit that they were wrong and have been limiting themselves all their lives for nothing. Paradoxically, giving up your fear is even scarier than continuing to be afraid.

Ways that don’t work

Instead of getting treatment, aerophobes prefer to avoid frightening situations – physically by refusing to fly, or mentally. Alcohol, tranquilizers, and attempts to “talk down” or “read out” their fear go to waste. But what we are trying to hide from immediately becomes a mega-dangerous event for the brain, simply because we are trying to get away from it. The fear intensifies. The circle closes. Aerophobia is like a mutant cat: the more you feed it, the more it grows and the more food it demands.

How to relieve a panic attack

If you really hit, alcohol and sedatives will not help. Panic is a physiological thing. When you panic, you automatically take a deep breath: “Aah!”, and this starts the adrenaline chain. Your brain gets the SOS! signal and releases a batch of adrenaline into your bloodstream. The heart starts beating faster to pump this blood through the whole body, increasing the speed of the reaction. The body tenses, ready to jump or fight. In a normal situation, when you are being chased by, say, a maniac, your brain immediately gets a discharge. You punch the maniac in the eye or run away. The danger disappears. You exhale in relief, and the reverse process begins: the person calms down. On the plane, however, there is no discharge. The consciousness, distorted by aerophobia, continues to signal the danger. The brain releases a new portion of adrenaline. And so, round and round you go into a panic stall.

To get out of it, you need to start the process in the opposite direction. Close your eyes, lean back in your chair, take a calm and shallow breath, and then slowly exhale through your nose, repeating to yourself in syllables: “Loosen-lax-lyaem-is. And really relax, flatten out, releasing the tension from your legs and arms, abdomen and cervical area. And hold the new breath for a while and try again to inhale calmly and shallowly. The exercise should be repeated until your heartbeat calms down. This will not cure aerophobia, but it will help to calm down.

How to help someone with aerophobia

Friends and relatives of people suffering from aerophobia, it is important to understand that what is happening to your companion – not a whim, not stupidity, not coquetry, not a desire to draw attention to themselves or find an excuse for an extra glass before the flight. It’s an illness. Trying to placate an aerophobe with reasonable arguments is like treating the flu with lectures about how getting sick is bad for you. Even worse are jokes and banter that don’t relieve panic, but instead drive you into utter despair. Yes, to you it looks as if he tearfully admitted that he is afraid, for example, a table in the kitchen. But if you treat the aerophobe next to you well, never make fun of his fears the moment you’re on the plane.

About 30% of the population has some degree of fear of flying. About 20% experience serious psychological discomfort on board. 10% reach a state of panic, hysteria and terror. Six percent give up flying altogether.

The calmer you behave, the better will feel the panic in the next chair. It is better to try to distract him from anxious thoughts – ask him questions about the areas in which this person knows well. Try to watch some exciting movies together. Girls perfectly switch the suggestion to leaf through the duty free catalog and choose a gift. And girls in love – an invitation to kiss whenever there is turbulence: then they will not wait for the air pits with terror, but with a twinkle in their eyes. Proven in practice.

What happens if…

Turbulence is the most absurd fear in the world: no airplane has ever crashed because of it in the history of civil aviation. It’s just a slight fluctuation due to uneven air temperature. The overload experienced by an airplane is much less than that encountered by a car on a bumpy road. And air pits do not exist at all. The sensation of falling into a hole occurs when the aircraft only loses a little vertical speed without losing horizontal speed. Our vestibular apparatus, not accustomed to the sensation of 3D, simply perceives this as a sharp fall.

The airplane is not held in the air by the engines, they only create acceleration, and the car flies due to the difference in pressure above and below the wing: about the same force lifts your hand up if you try to stick it out the window of a moving car. If all the engines fail, the plane will not fall down like a stone, but will only begin to slowly descend, sliding on the cushion of air. After all, under the belly is not a void, but a gas that has a certain density – the higher the speed and the lower the temperature overboard, the higher the density. Due to its aerodynamic qualities, the plane can glide slowly down an incline for more than 40 minutes – usually enough time to find an airport and land calmly.

…the landing gear does not come out The plane either lands on a ploughed ground strip or on concrete with special foam, slips for a while on its belly and comes to a stop.

…lightning strikes the plane It happens all the time and does not lead to any accidents. The plane is designed to be struck by lightning, the discharge passes through the aluminum skin and discharges into the air without causing any damage.

…the wing will fall off It’s impossible. The fact that the wing vibrates during turbulence and landing is perfectly normal. Flexibility is exactly what ensures that the wing will not fall off, just like a flexible tree will not break in a storm. The wing, like all other parts of the airplane structure, is designed to withstand loads many times stronger during tests than during real flight.

…the pilot will fall asleep Most of the flight is not controlled by humans, but by the autopilot. Besides, there are always two pilots. They even eat different food – to eliminate the possibility of simultaneous poisoning.

…weather Fog, wind, hail, heavy rain are not considered bad weather. Modern airports are equipped with automatic landing control systems, so that the aircraft can land even blindly, and pilots constantly undergo special training to fly in adverse conditions. If the weather is too bad, the plane will simply not take off or will land at another airport.

Apps for Aerophobes

“Flying Without Fear: This free app provides basic information about the nature of aerophobia and basic knowledge of aerodynamics and turbulence. Ideal for those who would like to begin treatment but are hesitant to purchase the full course.

SkyGuru: It’s like having a professional pilot flying next to you and explaining everything that happens in real time: why the plane shook, what that sound is, are those clouds dangerous, and so on. Provides a professional aeronautical weather forecast for your flight and a forecast of the turbulence zones. Tells you what to do if you panic.

#No_Fear: Fast and clear tool for dealing with irrational phobias and panic attacks. The app has two parts: “learning” and “practicing.” The first part is information about the nature of fear and the causes of phobias. The second part is a gradual immersion into frightening situations with the help of virtual reality.

Take me up: An opportunity to be in the cockpit with a 360° video and get an explanation of all the scary phenomena and situations on board.

Memo for the aerophobe

– Prepare for your flight in advance. Get educated about aviation, fear physiology, and download apps.

– Stop studying crash statistics, trying to figure out the safest airlines, airports, and plane models. Stop reading the details and testimonies of eyewitnesses, and especially the opinions of “experts” about the causes, in 95% of cases, these arguments – profanity and fantasy, having no relation to reality, which only increase your fears.

– Do not study the weather forecast on the eve of a flight, do not try to count the signs of anxiety in the faces of flight attendants, do not listen to the sounds and vibrations. Control yourself and your behavior, not the plane. The plane will be handled by professionals.

– During a panic, don’t let your body tense up. Do not squeeze your head into the shoulders, do not grasp the handles of the chair, do not put your feet to the floor, on the contrary, try to take the most relaxed position and breathe calmly – this is a signal to the brain that everything is fine, and will help to calm down more quickly.

There are approximately 140,000 passenger flights a day in the world, 16,000 of which take place in Russia. The percentage of accidents in our country does not differ from the global rate.

Out of 48 million flights per year only 5-10 crash

The statistics on those who die in accidents is about 300 people per year. If we take into account the annual traffic of 5 billion passengers, that’s less than one in 15 million. The number of people who die of a heart attack while having sex, wringing their neck in the bathtub or choking on a bone at lunch is much higher.

The chance of dying in a plane crash is equal to the chance of winning the first prize at Eurolotto or the chance of getting pregnant with a pole. Any child randomly selected at any U.S. airport has a better chance of becoming president than dying on a given flight.

More than 50% of those involved in plane crashes survive.

Insurance companies do not consider pilots and stewardesses to be high-risk occupations and do not make any premiums for them – unlike, for example, truck drivers, elevators and construction workers.