According to a survey by EuroDap – European Association for Panic Disorder, conducted in 2019 among 568 people aged 25 to 65, it appears that theaerophobiathat is to say the fear of the plane, affects 67% of Italians. Andrea Castiello d’Antoniopsychologist and psychotherapist, expert in aviation psychology (flight crew assessment, crew training and management), author of The fear of flying (Franco Angeli), explains the causes of this phobia and how we can intervene.
What are the causes of fear of flying?
You can live forever with the fear of flying or start to deal with it from a certain point, for example after a trip with strong turbulence. The memory of negative experiences in flightindeed, it can give rise to a feeling of helplessness, suggest that accidents are more frequent than what the real data report and therefore generate anxiety and anguish.
The phobia of flying, however, can also have a deeper origin. This is where the irrational fear, completely disconnected from the elements of reality (turbulence, breakdowns, annoying passengers). The aircraft represents the ideal “container” for many sources of stress that humans can experience: you cannot personally control the movement of the vehicle, you cannot enter and exit the cabin freely, you are forced to be with strangers you can be afraid of discomfort, you have little individual space, you are “stuck” at 10,000 meters above sea level.
What are the symptoms?
Aerophobia is manifested by palpitations, shortness of breath, tremors, frozen hands and feet, sweating, blurred vision, mental confusion. You may also fear getting sick, going crazy, and dying. There are those who start feeling ill a few days before departure: in addition to the typical anxiety disorders, there is also the nagging thought of having to go to the airport, go through checks, wait for the door to open, get on the plane, etc. Those who experience the fear of flying are convinced that they are the only ones on the plane who are restless and anxious, thus feeling judged and with the eyes of the other passengers on them.
How can we intervene to overcome the fear of flying?
When the phobia is triggered by objective and technical elements, such as acoustic signals, turbulence, vibrations, one can benefit from comfort and rational explanations, provided for example by the many online courses provided by the airlines themselves. These lessons, generally given by specialists, crews and captains, are a valuable aid.
If, on the other hand, the anxiety of air travel is not strictly linked to the practical and technical characteristics of the flight, it is more useful to undertake a psychotherapy course to identify the deep roots of the anguish, which are certainly located elsewhere, certainly not within the plane. Many people try to anesthetize the fear of flying by taking psychiatric drugs or drinking alcohol: two practices that I advise against because they reduce lucidity and do not allow the problem to be resolved definitively.
the supplements based on valerian, hawthorn, chamomile and passionflowertake at least a week before departure, which can help you arrive at the airport a bit more relaxed.