Aerophobia—sometimes called aviatophobia or aviophobia—is a phobia of flying.
What Is Aerophobia?
People with aerophobia do not just get a little anxious flying. Instead, they experience an extreme and overwhelming sense of fear associated with being in an airplane, helicopter, or other flying object. People with this phobia frequently avoid flying or, if they have no choice, experience severe panic during flights. The phobia exists along a continuum, with some people being afraid of long flights or experiencing extreme anxiety during flying, and other people being afraid of all flights and avoiding flying even when it interferes with their ability to see friends and family or do their jobs.
What Causes Aerophobia?
A number of factors contribute to aerophobia. Some people feel afraid when flying because they are not in control of the flight or because they fly infrequently. Media coverage of plane crashes can increase the phobia. It can also be learned from parents or co-occur with generalized anxiety. The fear of heights might have a genetic origin, and aerophobia often co-occurs with acrophobia.
How Is Aerophobia Treated?
Aerophobia can be difficult to treat. Exposure therapy is often the method of choice for phobias, but it is difficult to gradually increase exposure to flying; a person is either in a plane or is not. Some researchers have attempted to use flight simulators and virtual reality flying to gradually increase exposure, but treatment has not been very effective. Consequently, people often turn to pharmaceutical treatment such as anti-anxiety medications when they must fly. Therapy can sometimes be effective at treating the phobia if a phobic person is gradually able to reframe his or her thoughts about flying. When aerophobia is the result of another phobia, exposure therapy for the original phobia sometimes reduces the fear of flying.
- Bourne, E. J. (2000). The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.
- Crandall, K. (2012, June 20). How to overcome your fear of flying. Fox News. Retrieved from http://www.foxnews.com/travel/2012/06/20/how-to-overcome-your-fear-flying
Last Updated: 08-4-2015
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