Conquer Fear Of Flying

How to beat aeroanxiety and more

Desensitization Works For Other Phobias. Why Not Flying?

For most phobias, systematic desensitization, developed by Joseph Wolpe, can be used to gradually expose the amygdala to a phobic situation. By gradual exposure, the amygdala becomes accoustomed to the situation and stops responding with the release of stress hormones. Another type of desensitization, flooding, repeatedly exposes the client fully to the situation. Read More

After reading this article I

After reading this article I looked to see who wrote it and noticed that you are an airline captain. So I'm sure you must repeatedly run into people who on planes to overcome their fear of flying.

My mother died on the Egypt Air crash in 1999. I found after that it was difficult for me to get on a plane. When I was younger, I didn't understand why a couple people I knew were afraid to fly. Then I found out that one of them had been involved in three separate flights where something bad happened, such as the plane catching on fire. (I was once on a plane which caught on fire (on the wing), but luckily it was a small plane and we were still on the ground, and evacuated quickly (in Honduras). This didn't scare me off flying, fortunately. My other friend, an Italian from Sicily, had apparently observed a very bad plane crash. The only way she could fly was to drink a lot and smoke a lot. I didn't have any fears until after my mother's plane crash. But there is only so much you can do. I try to get a seat over the wings and pay attention (counting) to exit rows. But none of this is going to help over the ocean. I live in North Africa these past twenty years, and after my mother's accident I took two trips, one to Britain, and one to France. I found that this did help me, as what I wanted was to be able to get on a plane if necessary, and not be overcome by fear.

However, I have found that there is another issue here which could be mixed into many people's fear of flying. I think all of us, as we get older, become much more aware of, and fearful of, all kinds of transportation safety issues which don't bother us when we are younger. I once traveled in Tibet on a bus which went around remote mountain curves really fast and scared a lot of people. I felt like the bus driver was a good driver and handled the bus well, so it didn't bother me. But I was still in my early 30s. A couple years ago, I crossed a mountain range on a bus with lots of turns and switchbacks and I swore I'd never do it again as I was afraid of the bus plunging off the passes as the driver did a 5-hour drive in 3.5 hours! I called the bus company to complain, and all they said, was, "Don't worry, we never arrive late!" When I was younger, I used to drive fast. Now that I'm older, like older drivers, I keep to the speed limit,and complain about the younger people who drive too fast, even dangerously.

I think some of the people you mention in your article have flying phobias, but part of the reason they can't be cured is because they also have normal increased fears that we all acquire as we age, and I think nothing can be done about that, because it comes from life experiences, and experiences of people we know.

Great article, though.

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Captain Tom Bunn, L.C.S.W., is an airline pilot and author who has dedicated 30 years to the development of effective methods for treating flight phobia.

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