Fear of flying, also known as aerophobia or aviophobia, is very common among children and adults alike, and like many phobias, it can have a marked impact on people’s lives. Being too afraid to fly means having to take slower modes of transportation or even never traveling abroad. Although airplanes are the safest form of mass transportation, with the likelihood of being in an aircraft accident hovering around 1 in 11 million, phobias do not always listen to the cold logic of statistics. Luckily, psychologists and other mental health experts, as well as generations of savvy travelers, have found many ways to mitigate or eliminate fears of flying.
The first thing to do is admit the problem, both to yourself and to those around you. Simply confessing your fears often helps you feel better, and several experts recommend letting flight attendants and other crewmembers know. In addition, distraction can be an excellent tool, so bring books, movies, or other activities to keep your mind occupied. You will also feel more in control if you know the facts. Pay attention to the safety briefing and visualize yourself performing the actions described. You might also consider doing some research ahead of time in aircraft mechanics and safety profiles.
Naturally, many people find it easier to control their fears when their body chemistry is cooperating. Avoiding both caffeine and alcohol can be crucial, as these substances will both impact your ability to feel well on the airplane and will likely magnify the negative effects of jet lag. Some deep breathing exercises or meditation may help, but many doctors are happy to prescribe medication for those who feel unable to conquer fears on their own. Ideally, you would use medication as a last resort—many fliers feel better simply knowing the pills are available—but, if you know you’ll take them, remember to test the effects of the drug before you fly. Most anti-anxiety pills will cause drowsiness, which can compound jet lag issues and may affect your first day at your destination.