Fear of Flying (Aerophobia): Questions, Causes, Symptoms, Treatments, Therapies

The fear of flying , aerophobia , aerophobia or aviophobia is very common in adults, adolescents and children, many experts say that this fear can ruin a vacation or even make them stop flying forever. If you are one of those people who is afraid of flying, you may think it is inevitable.

Studies by renowned psychologists are in error. To overcome these blockages, the help of specialists should be sought. Many people have managed to overcome their fear of flying through therapies and treatments that have given very positive results.

Questions to be resolved

  • Why am I afraid of flying?
  • Training courses against the fear of flying?
  • Avoid anxiety attacks
  • Going back to the plane

For some, it is a slight apprehension that turns the nights before a flight into sleepless nights . For others, it is a real fear, which forces them to squeeze their armrests and jump at the slightest turbulence. For some unfortunate people (like me), it turned into a phobia.

Fear of flying is not uncommon, it is estimated that it affects around 30% of the population, to varying degrees. Of these, 20% do not take it at all (14% have never taken it and 6% have already taken it but can no longer take it). These are ” avoidant phobias .” The remaining 10% continue to take it, but reduce their trips as much as possible. These are “confrontational phobias.”

Why am i afraid to fly

You can answer once and for all to those around you that no, it is not by taking a small pill that you will get better. The misconceptions about the fear of flying are legion and unnecessary guilt.

What we need to know is that there are as many different airplane phobias as there are phobias, as explained by psychologist Sophie Thibeaudeau:

  • “The fear of flying can be related to many factors, some of which have nothing to do with the plane itself.

In the course she co-leads (fear of flying.fr), the expert in the treatment of phobias explains that there are 6 large families among people who are afraid of flying:

  • Earthlings (who fear the void);
  • Decision makers (who are afraid of losing control);
  • Victims of flight trauma (whose fear was born after a difficult robbery, which represents only 25% of cases);
  • Anxious people (who have an anxious ground in all situations);
  • Those who are afraid of being afraid (focused on their physical sensations);
  • Phobias (who have associated phobias).

Related phobias

Among the associated phobias, we can find:

It is very important that people handle the following information from experts:

  • “Even within these phobias, very specific fears can develop, such as the fear of turbulence, storms, breakdowns, attacks …”, continues Sophie Thibeaudeau.
  • As you may have understood, the anxieties associated with flight can be manifold.
  • You may find yourself in one or more of these descriptions.
  • Rest assured, however complex it may be, fear can be “cured.” Whenever we decide to act.

The difference between fear and phobia

Many specialists assure that one word is the synonym of the other, however some psychologists differ from them and do it in the following way:


  • “Fear is an alarm system linked to our survival instinct,” explains psychologist Sophie Thibeaudeau. “It is a reflex mechanism that draws our attention to a real danger so that we can better deal with it.”
  • The fear center is in the amygdala of the brain, which can cause us to react if the fear is justified.
  • If it is not, our brain has a control circuit (prefrontal cortex / hippocampus) that will analyze the situation and signal to our amygdala that there is nothing to worry about.


  • In the case of a phobia , this control circuit is like “disconnected.” Our amygdala is no longer regulated and fears are no longer controlled “Phobia is an intense and irrational fear caused by a particular situation or object, not dangerous,” explains the psychologist.
  • Information to hit your loved ones who do not understand your phobias: no, it is not a fear that you can calm just by trying to reason!


  • Some travelers develop such a phobia after an unpleasant flight experience, which can have a negative impact on future experiences.
  • Other causes are related to the overestimation of the risk of accidents.
  • Indeed, air transport is one of the safest means of transport, much more so than the car or the train.
  • Unfortunately, this is sometimes difficult to remember in light of the extensive media coverage of air crashes, airport incidents or other terrorist attacks involving airports or aircraft.
  • Another common cause is the fear of lack of control.
  • For some, it can be quite scary to entrust their lives to someone else, even though flight safety is the top priority for pilots.

You could also read:  Fear Of Vomiting: Origin, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment


  • Finally, the fear of flying can also be part of a larger underlying problem.
  • It is then a symptom rather than an independent phobia.
  • Therefore, a person suffering from claustrophobia might be afraid to fly because the cabin is a confined space.
  • Another person with an anxiety disorder may also feel an irrational fear of being the victim of a panic attack on board.

In addition, people can also experience:

  • Palpitations;
  • Dizziness;
  • Short of breath;
  • Feeling of suffocation;
  • Hyperventilation;
  • Tingling sensation;
  • Sweats;
  • Nausea;
  • Shaking chills;
  • Depersonalization.

Once this crisis is triggered, it cannot be stopped. We must wait for the body to finish releasing all the adrenaline it had in stock.

Training courses against the fear of flying

  • Like many people who have developed apprehension about getting on an airplane, I have decided not to let these fears ruin my life.
  • Easier said than done, I admit.
  • After many failed attempts, I turned to internships for people in my situation.
  • Several companies and private organizations offer them.
  • The best thing about these courses is that they end with a real flight experience, to evaluate the results.

Most common fears

The double engine failure

  • A plane does not crash if its two engines fail mid-flight, it can glide up to 350 km to reach an airport, or 45 to 60 minutes.
  • If you fly over Europe for example, know that you are always less than 10 minutes from an airport.

Low cost airlines

  • No, these companies do not have the most outdated fleet, on the contrary.
  • The 5-year overhaul of an aircraft corresponding to more than 40,000 hours of work, these companies often prefer to buy new aircraft and resell them within 5 years.

Air holes

  • It’s simple, they don’t exist. “Just as there is no well of water in the oceans, there is no well of air in the sky,” Nicolás Coccolo assures us.
  • The sensations are undoubtedly ten times greater in an airplane, but it never “falls” several meters.
  • To test it, put a bottle of water in front of you when you fly and you will see that it barely moves, even if your stomach feels like it is jumping 1 meter.


  • The second part of the day is designed to better understand and deconstruct the mental blocks that cause fear.
  • “To overcome a phobia, it is necessary to act on several dimensions, the cognitive dimension (acting on thoughts), the emotional dimension (acting on fear), behavior (avoiding)”, the psychologist analyzes.
  • The best cure for a phobia is confrontation (in this case, getting back on the plane), but not in any way. It must be gradual and repeated.
  • “If you force yourself to get on a plane in a panic attack, it will only aggravate your fear and complicate your situation.”
  • Before facing yourself, it is therefore essential to review your false beliefs about the plane, its associated negative thoughts and disaster scenarios.
  • This step allows us to introduce, little by little, a new way of looking at feared situations.

Treatments and therapies

To better calm the brain center linked to fear, several therapies can help:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapies ;
  • Sophrology;
  • Relaxation;
  • Meditation;
  • Breathing techniques, especially those that work on cardiac coherence.
  • Among these different techniques, it is up to each person to find the equation that allows them to better overcome their stress and fears.

Tips to avoid the fear of flying

Avoid anxiety attacks

  • Those most affected by the fear of flying know it well.
  • An anxiety attack or a panic attack is the last level of phobia. You can no longer control anything and you are overwhelmed with fear.
  • “It is a state of stress at its peak with extreme psychological and physical suffering, which occurs brutally and for a few minutes. We are exhausted, ”explains Sophie Thibeaudeau.
  • These anxiety attacks can be more frequent in situations that are a bit stressful in themselves, such as flying.
  • Therefore, if air travel is to stop being torture, it is essential to learn to control these fears and prevent the onset of the anxiety attack.

Some useful tips:

  • Minimize “stressors”, those external factors that can increase your nervousness: exciting things like tea or coffee, arguments or conflict situations, stress at work.
  • Think about “emptying” regularly to avoid accumulation of stress when flying.
  • Prepare your trip as best as possible to avoid last minute stress: for example, pack your suitcase several days in advance, fully plan the trip, roundtrip airport transfers, leave well in advance the same day.

Regularly practice abdominal breathing techniques that will help you reduce stress quickly just before or during the flight; The more trained you are, the faster you can reduce your anxiety when faced with difficult situations.

Georgia Tarrant
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Hello, how are you? My name is Georgia Tarrant, and I am a clinical psychologist. In everyday life, professional obligations seem to predominate over our personal life. It's as if work takes up more and more of the time we'd love to devote to our love life, our family, or even a moment of leisure.