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fear of flying
Old 10-18-2009, 09:23 AM   #1
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fear of flying

No, not the book.


I have always been an uncomfortable flyer. Then some years ago I became irrationally afraid to fly and just couldn't do it anymore. About 10 years ago I tried to work my way out of it by doing some relaxation exercises after taking to a psychologist and then took a short flight. I quietly had a panic attack on the plane, which is a highly unpleasant experience I do not want to repeat. I couldn't get back on for the return trip and spouse had to drive 160 miles to come get me. I know the physics of how planes stay in the air, but my body just doesn't seem to believe my head.

Anyway, I want to work through this. Anyone overcome a fear of flying? Would taking a xanax or two get you through a flight?
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:47 AM   #2
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From UpToDate:
Fear of flying is common, affecting 10 to 20 percent of the general population, and can be associated with significant career and social repercussions. It has been estimated that 50 percent of affected persons have a specific phobia and fear crashing, while 50 percent have agoraphobia and worry about panic attacks. In an observational study comparing 66 subjects with fear of flying with 21 controls, 27 percent of affected individuals met current criteria for panic disorder with agoraphobia, 17 percent met these criteria in the past, and the remainder of affected subjects met current criteria for specific phobia. All three affected groups were more concerned about external dangers, such as mechanical problems or the airplane crashing compared to controls, but individuals with current panic disorder were also more afraid of appearing mentally ill, being humiliated or losing emotional control of themselves as compared to either individuals with specific phobia or in the control group.
Multiple behavioral techniques have been used in the treatment of fear of flying, including systematic desensitization, relaxation, flooding, and in vivo exposure. Visual reality exposure has been proven effective in randomized trials, and outcomes may be enhanced when this technique is combined with cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques.

Antianxiety medication may also be used to block anxiety, although behavioral treatments are the preferred care for patients who are seriously impacted by this condition, or who must fly frequently. In an observational study examining patterns of coping with flying phobia, over half of individuals with flying phobia had taken anxiolytic medication during air travel but reported that anxiety levels were only reduced one-third or less.
Anxiety Disorder Treatment has some helpful general information.

While xanax-type drugs may have limited effectiveness with the fear of flying itself, it might be helpful if a panic reaction does start to occur again.

Hats off for posting this. You have plenty of company -- phobias are common and often hidden from view.
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As if you didn't know..If the above message contains medical content, it's NOT intended as advice, and may not be accurate, applicable or sufficient. Don't rely on it for any purpose. Consult your own doctor for all medical advice.
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Old 10-18-2009, 09:51 AM   #3
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This isn't advice, Martha, ok??

I had a student hand in a really interesting essay - she was utterly phobic, and getting worse, about heights.

To shorten it considerably - She went skydiving in a tandem rig.

"Now I can go out on balconies and not worry!"

I think she fried the phobic brain cells...

ta,
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Old 10-18-2009, 10:06 AM   #4
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So I have this one specific phobia. For some reason, I think that I might have better luck trying to fly in a small plane first. (Though that is somewhat contrary to what the psychologist told me about flying and is technically less safe). Take a tranquilizer (MD is willing), go up on a nice day, fly around a bit, and land. I might feel more in control if the flight is only 15 minutes.

Kind of an expensive test though.

I know that no one here can really give me advice on my specific situation, I am just curious as to people's thoughts and if anyone out there has overcome this issue.
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Old 10-18-2009, 10:25 AM   #5
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Some small plane pilots will let you put your hands on the yoke (steering wheel) of the plane while in fact (s)he controls it. But allowing you to initiate some slight up/down or roll maneuvers.

I venture to guess if you have experienced some control over the flight's attitude, your body might accept your brain's confirmation of flight.

Just a thought.
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Old 10-18-2009, 10:46 AM   #6
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I flew a small plane myself. To tell you the truth Martha, if you experienced a panic attack in a large commercial airliner, a small plane could be much worse. You feel way, way more exposed. And it is definitely less safe.

It's like riding on a motorcycle versus in a Greyhound bus. Do you really want to try the motorcycle?

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Old 10-18-2009, 10:49 AM   #7
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I guess it is different for different folks.

My wife will fly the world (and we do, several times a year).

However, our trip on the interstate to our airport (in NJ) will throw her into a panic.

If we have a trip scheduled and it is more than 3 hours (via car), she will always ask if she can fly.

We all have our "fears".....
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Old 10-18-2009, 10:58 AM   #8
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I think I donīt have phobias. All my overwhelming fears are rational: dentists, surgery, dogs that bite, bikes you fall off.....well anything that might end up in pain!
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Old 10-18-2009, 11:10 AM   #9
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I had fear of flying and I would just sit in my seat in a panic for the whole flight . When I started to find ways to avoid flying my husband found a relaxtion tape made for this purpose . You listen to it every few days . The first few times you hear every word and then I would start hearing the first word and go to sleep and when I woke up the tape was ending . It worked . I'll never be someone who loves to fly but I travel a lot and except for the really awful turbulence it does not bother me . The tape was made my a former pilot . I will look on the net and see if I can find it but that was in 1988 .
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Old 10-18-2009, 11:29 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Martha View Post
For some reason, I think that I might have better luck trying to fly in a small plane first. (Though that is somewhat contrary to what the psychologist told me about flying and is technically less safe). Take a tranquilizer (MD is willing), go up on a nice day, fly around a bit, and land. I might feel more in control if the flight is only 15 minutes.
I know that no one here can really give me advice on my specific situation, I am just curious as to people's thoughts and if anyone out there has overcome this issue.
I have a couple relatives who share your "phobia". As Spock would say, your fear of falling out of the sky (perhaps in an explosively decompressing subsonic fireball) is highly logical.

The only "adverse" impact on my relatives is that they won't visit Hawaii, and that's the only reason I know about their fear of flying. Otherwise it doesn't have any impact on their lives. They drive, rent an RV, or take the train.

I've found that the smaller the aircraft, the more I feel the need to become personally involved in its successful completion of its mission-- and I don't enjoy that one bit. I can sit in a cabin seat in a passenger jet and happily look out the window as the plane approaches the runway. OTOH I don't enjoy sitting in the cockpit watching the runway racing up to meet the nose of the aircraft. Smaller aircraft also tend to be a lot more "lively". If I enjoyed rocking & rolling, either afloat or airborne, then I would've become an aviator or a surface warrior instead of a submariner.

Another potential issue is that you may have no need to solve the problem. Does the fear of flying prevent you from doing anything that you really really care to do, or is it more of an annoyance that doesn't significantly impact your life? If there's no compelling reason to "solve the problem" then you may, quite logically, lack the resolve to deal with it.

As interesting as it might be to take yourself to the air in a small plane, perhaps another approach would be to pay for time in a flying simulator where you can pause (or even abort) the action. But I'd stay away from Disney's "Star Tours" ride...
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Old 10-18-2009, 11:36 AM   #11
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I flew a small plane myself. To tell you the truth Martha, if you experienced a panic attack in a large commercial airliner, a small plane could be much worse. You feel way, way more exposed. And it is definitely less safe.

It's like riding on a motorcycle versus in a Greyhound bus. Do you really want to try the motorcycle?

Audrey
I ride a motorcycle.
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Old 10-18-2009, 11:39 AM   #12
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Although I am afraid of heights, I am not afraid of flying and it is difficult for me to imagine how that must feel. (To me, flying seems unreal and like a movie - - if I was outside the plane where I could fall, I would be a basket case, though).

I wonder if the fear would persist if:
1) you reserved an aisle seat, not a window seat, and went alone
2) you took a DVD player with a peaceful sort of movie that you like
3) you took the maximum allowed dosage of Benedryl and then just dozed and watched the movie

I have no idea if this would work, but it sounds like it would.

My fear of heights has actually been helpful at least one time in my life. The only room available for my dissertation defense was on the 12th floor, in a corner room that had floor-to-ceiling windows on two walls. I didn't even know beforehand if I would be able to speak at all in that room! It turned out that the adrenaline arising from my utter terror was actually very helpful in keeping me on my toes. Who wouldda thunk?
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Old 10-18-2009, 11:41 AM   #13
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Another potential issue is that you may have no need to solve the problem. Does the fear of flying prevent you from doing anything that you really really care to do, or is it more of an annoyance that doesn't significantly impact your life? If there's no compelling reason to "solve the problem" then you may, quite logically, lack the resolve to deal with it.

As interesting as it might be to take yourself to the air in a small plane, perhaps another approach would be to pay for time in a flying simulator where you can pause (or even abort) the action. But I'd stay away from Disney's "Star Tours" ride...
I want to go to the Galapagos Islands. I want to go birding off of Antartica. I want to see my sister in California more than once a year. I want to visit my friends in NYC.

I wonder if the flight simulator might be helpful. You folks are talking me out of the try the small plane thing.
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Old 10-18-2009, 11:48 AM   #14
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I wonder if the fear would persist if:
1) you reserved an aisle seat, not a window seat, and went alone
2) you took a DVD player with a peaceful sort of movie that you like
3) you took the maximum allowed dosage of Benedryl and then just dozed and watched the movie
When I did my prior try I used an aisle seat. I also like crossword puzzles so I brought a book of them to focus my mind. No drugs. The thought of being able to doze and watch a movie seems like a long ways down the road.

If I am motivated to do this I think I might have to talk to a therapist again. Bleh--a tough shopping issue. Or maybe I can find a helpful book or tape, as Moe suggested.
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Old 10-18-2009, 11:54 AM   #15
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If I am motivated to do this I think I might have to talk to a therapist again. Bleh--a tough shopping issue. Or maybe I can find a helpful book or tape, as Moe suggested.


Tape $24.95 Endless sessions with a therapist trying to find out what happened to trigger this . Exhausting !
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Old 10-18-2009, 11:57 AM   #16
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Tape $24.95 Endless sessions with a therapist trying to find out what happened to trigger this . Exhausting !
Yup. I don't care what triggered this. Who cares if mommy let go when spinning me around by my arms. I just want to fly!
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Old 10-18-2009, 12:12 PM   #17
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I had what I guess was a minor panic attack. It felt like the whole darn plane was closing in on me. My breathing got really weird. Took quite a bit effort to calm myself down. I never want to experience anything like that again.
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Old 10-18-2009, 12:13 PM   #18
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Talk about fear of flying reminds me of one of my favorite movies: "French Kiss". And I like Meg Ryan.
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Old 10-18-2009, 12:14 PM   #19
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I never want to experience anything like that again.
Me either.
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Old 10-18-2009, 12:21 PM   #20
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Martha,

What part of flying do you fear? Takeoff/landings? Claustrophobia? Turbulence? Crashing? Is it just a single item or all of the above?

If it makes you feel any better, I do not like roller coasters and I am an ex fighter pilot that enjoyed the extreme, violent maneuvers that we did and still do with my own acrobatic airplane. If it is crashing you fear I am also a retired commercial pilot with 37 years of active flying and 15,000+ hours and have never had a close call. If you can visualize the hundreds of flights a day from your nearest commercial airport and multiply that by the thousands of airports around the world, airline safety is incredible in this day and age.

We go to extremes to avoid turbulence but having said that, I cannot recall an aircraft ever breaking up because of it.

Someone mentioned flying in a light aircraft. If you do that, make sure you go on the smoothest of days with little or no surface wind as you might come back more frighten than when you left from the bumpy ride.

When you board an airplane go into the cockpit and talk to the pilots. Yes you can still do that on the ground even with all the security issues. I used to stand at the door greeting passengers and if I spotted a "Nervous Nelly" I would invite them into the cockpit and explain our aviation experience, route and weather. That alone seemed to calm most. Of course being charming and dashingly handsome may have helped with the ladies. :-)

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