Top 10 Reasons People are Afraid of Flying
Scared of flying? Well you're not alone. Millions of people avoid air travel each year because of their fear of flying. I'm afraid of flying myself, and there's been many times where I've either asked doctors to prescribe anti-anxiety medications for it, or I've avoided travelling all together because of it. But not everybody has the same reasons for being afraid. In fact, many people's fears of being in an airplane are actually just symptoms of a much larger phobia. Some of these phobias may not be a problem while a person is on the ground and outside of a plane, because it's not noticeable until a person is actually up in the air or inside one. Interestingly enough, many people who may not be aware that they have a disorder, may suddenly realize it after they are inside an airplane and thousands of feet up in the air. So in case you've never flown before, or if you were wondering why you have a deep-seated fear of flying, below are the top 10 reasons and one or two of them may even be related to your situation.
Fear of Accidents
Dystychiphobia is the fear of accidents happening. This is probably the most common fear of amongst air travelers. The fear of an accident happening is an understandable fear, since there have been many aviation accidents throughout history. Some people may have a fear of the plane having some type of malfunction or breakdown, while others may have a fear of the weather or turbulance affecting the plane. While it may help put your nerves at ease to look at airplane crash statistics and realize how rare they really are, there will always be some people who think "what if that rare accident happening happens to me". This is why you should consider speaking to a doctor about whether or not medications such as Xanax or Lorazepam will help you get over this phobia, assuming you can't find any natural way to get your mind off of it.
Fear of Heights
A fear of heights is probably one of the top 3 reasons that people are afraid of flying. I once had a friend in middle school that was scared of the high diving board at the public pool we would go to. Every summer we'd return to this pool, and every time we did, he would make an effort to try to jump off the high dive. He'd always climb the steps very slowly and make it to the top, but then he'd become paralyzed with fear and would have to climb right back down. For people like my friend, a high diving board can be pretty scary. Being in a plane that is 20,000 feet off the ground is probably terrifying for people like him. Even if someone's not afraid of the high dive, it can easily be a scary experience for lots of people. The medical term for a fear of heights is acrophobia. If you suffer from this particular fear, it may be best to talk to a doctor about getting some type of anti-anxiety medicine or by choosing seats that are not near a window.
Fear of Enclosed Spaces
Claustrophobia is a fear of being in small, enclosed spaces. Is it any surprise that claustrophobic people are usually scared of flying? Most commercial jets have small cabins where the floor and the roof are only about 8 to 10 feet high. So it's not uncommon for a claustrophobic person to suddenly feel trapped while inside a jet plane. This fear often coincides with a fear of an accident happening, because a person may not only be worried about dying, but dying in a small enclosed space. If you think you may have this phobia, it might be a good idea to choose a window seat, so that you can get a sense of all the open air around the plane. Taking sleeping aids to sleep through most of the flight may even be a good idea, or even having a drink or two to relax and get your mind off it. Just don't get carried away if you do decide to drink, as there's been a few situations in the past where drunk passengers have caused passenger planes to make emergency landings.
Lack of Being in Control
Many people can't stand knowing that they are not in control. This is the one of the most common reasons as to why people on planes are afraid, and I can personally attest to how scary it can be, since I myself suffer from this particular phobia. I can't stand the fact that somebody other than me, the pilot, is in charge of my life and my personal well-being. As I board an aircraft, I will often see the pilot greeting the passengers who are boarding the plane. I think they probably do this because they realize many people have this fear and would like to get a look at who is flying the plane. It does help me feel a little better after I see the pilot, and I've noticed that I often make a point to notice if the pilot is smiling or not. It's strange how I care about these minor details, but people with phobias don't always think or act rationally.
Fear of Terrorism
After 9/11, it's only natural that some people are afraid of a terrorist attack happening on an airplane. The shoe bombers from the UK and Nigeria definitely haven't helped to ease people's fears. But this is probably one of the easier phobias to overcome and you shouldn't worry too much about this one. After the 9/11 incidents, passengers on planes are much more aware of what is happening and more prepared to take action if they see suspicious things. The two shoebombers were unsuccessful because passengers noticed something was wrong and did something about it. So have faith in your fellow passengers and if you're really paranoid, just do some internet research to learn about how to recognize problems and keep an eye out for them.
Fear of Being Over Water
Hydrophobia is a fear of water. A person who is afflicted by this disorder doesn't have to be submerged in water or even touching it in order to fear it. This fear is often caused by bad experiences in a person's past or childhood that involved water. For example, a person who nearly drowned in a bathtub or at the beach as a child, may have a persistent fear of water afterwards, even after they grow up and become adults. So for some people with this fear, being in a plane directly over large bodies of water, such as oceans and lakes, can instantly trigger symptoms of this phobia and cause anxiety, emotional outbursts, and even temporary paralysis. To try to avoid these symptoms from occuring, a person suffering from hydrophobia should look at alternate flights, to see if there are any that avoid flying over water. If this is not an option, then an aisle seat may be best, as it's far from a window, and in addition to medication prescribed by a medical doctor, a person should bring along things to keep their attention off of the water below, such as music and a pair of headphones, or a crossword puzzle book.
Fear of Crowds
Some people have a general fear of being around others. I suppose you could call this Social Anxiety, though it may not even involve any aspect of socializing. It could simply be a fear of being around large groups of people. The technical name for this specific type of phobia is Enochlophobia. Is it any surprise that people suffering from this illness are afraid of being stuck between rows of people in a crowded airplane? The best way to combat this phobia is to speak to a doctor and see if they can prescribe you something to "take the edge off". In addition to this, you should purchase your plane tickets in advance, so you can choose which seat you will be sitting in. It's probably best if you choose a seat near the aisle or near the window, so that you will only have 1 person directly next to you.
Fear of Being Sick
Nausea is a common complaint amongst air travellers, usually because of air sickness or motion sickness (not to be confused with jet lag, which is a completely different type of illness that a person experiences after the actual flight). Some people who have been on planes before and who have gotten nauseous may have Emetophobia, which is a fear of getting sick. There are specific over-the-counter medications that a person can take that will help with this type of nausea, such as Marezine, Motion Eaze, and Bonine Motion Sickness Tablets. Anti-anxiety pills such as xanax and lorazepam may also help, so you may want to talk to your doctor if over-the-counter remedies just don't do it for you. To deal with the phobia itself, a person would probably have to take a flight and not get sick, to overcome their fear. If you suffer from air travel sickness and want to try to deal with your problem naturally, try drinking ginger ale or maybe even a warm glass of milk before the flight.
I don't think there is an official name for this type of fear, so I'm just going to refer to it as technological doubts. It's the sceptism that a person has, in regards to modern technology and airplanes. It's mostly in relation to human purpose. People who have this type of fear will often find themselves on an airplane, questioning the technology of the situation. A common thought that someone with this type of fear might have is "Humans are not meant to fly. We were not meant to be this high up in the sky. What are we doing up here?". This fear often coincides with the fear of an accident happening, because the person having those thoughts is worrying about the consequences of humans going beyond what they were meant to do, and nature stepping in and causing havoc in the sky.
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