For some, boarding a plane can be a terrifying experience. Sometimes this fear is made worse by news coverage of aircraft disasters, or a major event such as a bereavement, job loss or childbirth, can kick-in aviaphobia. A bad flight experience, such as turbulence, also can trigger fear and anxiety. That fear can be so consuming that sufferers will not even consider getting on a plane, whilst others use tranquilisers or alcohol to get them through the flight.

Firstly, let’s look at what we mean by a phobia, as there is a big difference between a fear and a phobia. Generally speaking, a phobia is an irrational fear of an object or a situation. If your palms sweat and your heart beats faster when you just think of an airport then you may have a phobia. Perhaps you feel a little anxious when you check-in and you are walking out to the aircraft, so maybe you don’t have a flying phobia, but you may have ‘flight fright.’ Now, many may say that it's irrational to have a fear of flying, so that must be a phobia, mustn't it? It's actually quite rational to have a fear of climbing into a small, pressurised aluminium tube, and ascending into an atmosphere with no oxygen, an outside temperature as low as -50 Celsius, and relying on somebody else who we’ve never met to keep it up there. Of course, it's an altogether unnatural, but rational thing to do. However, as it’s become more acceptable over the years, and more and more people seem to be flying more often, it must be OK, and if we are scared of doing it to the point where we just will not get into an aircraft then we clearly need help, as no rational thought process has helped us to overcome that fear.

It is vital to understand that in the treatment of phobias that we do not have to spend many hours trawling around for the root cause of that phobia. Perhaps your fear or phobia was caused by a traumatic experience on a flight, but it may well be that there are less obvious reasons. For example, it’s not uncommon for mothers to develop ‘flight fright’ in the months and years following the arrival of motherhood, even after years of carefree flying, as nature has helped them develop great defence mechanisms to help them in their new role.

Whatever the cause, techniques have been developed in recent years that allow the vast majority of people to overcome their phobia or fear quickly and effectively. Much of the real cause of both phobia and fear is the underlying misuse of the imagination, and gentle treatments such as Clinical Hypnotherapy, Neuro Linguistic Programming, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy are powerful tools in overcoming many different phobias, including flight phobia. Sometimes the rational mind can be engaged to help, by understanding all the simple logical reasons why flying is actually very, very safe indeed, and many of the courses run by major airlines in the UK are useful in helping to overcome that kind of rational fear.

Perhaps the most important thing to realise is that any learnt fear, such as aviaphobia, can be unlearnt. Effective courses are available in overcoming ‘flight fright’ or aviaphobia successfully, so you can happily make plans to fly to your holiday destination or on your business trip, and even enjoy the flight.

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