Fear of Flying

Q: My anxiety is for air travel.  What could cause me to be afraid of flying?

A:  Fear of flying is mainly anticipatory anxiety – active worry about the future.  In our minds, we “ride the time machine”:  We envision boarding the airplane that will transport us to our destination; but then we become afraid that a catastrophe will occur during any or all of seven different events that normally or very likely will occur during a flight.

  • When the flight attendant turns that big wheel and seals the plane, many people with this phobia feel trapped.
  • The plane completes its leisurely taxiing tour of the airport and is cleared for takeoff.  Suddenly, the huge jet engines are gunned and roaring at speeds of ninety miles an hour, and many people’s panicky feelings go right through the roof.
  • While the plane is in flight, many fearful flyers become acutely anxious about squeezing through to the aisle and the long walk to the tiny bathroom.  How often they plead with Mother Nature, “If only I can hold it til we land!”
  • Glancing out the window and viewing the landscape below from seven miles up in the sky.
  • The sharp, loud, mechanical thud of the emerging landing gear spikes a number of people’s anxiety.
  • Finally, landing and feeling trapped by the crush of people between you – the really really frightened person – and the exit.

These anxieties can lead to feeling panic, a sense of being immobilized, and urges to avoid flying.  All are treatable:  through psychological treatment they can be overcome, and we can gain the upper hand over fear of flying.

David Mellinger has successfully helped many hundreds of people overcome fear of flying and fear of freeway driving.  Come do therapy with David Mellinger at his office in Woodland Hills.