Fear of Flying

Thanksgiving is the start of the holiday travel season, a time to get together with family and friends. Traveling by air for the holidays this year will be hard for some and impossible for others. The fear of flying has taken hold of many Americans. After the September 11th attack on America the airlines saw a dramatic decline in passengers despite some bargain fares and just when the nation's confidence was rebuilding the air crash in Queens, New York was another setback. So it's not hard to understand why many Americans are trying to cope with a fear of flying.

The true fear of getting on an airplane for business or pleasure is a phobia described in the dictionary as persistent fear of some thing or some situation. Doctor Paul Bradley with Candler Group describes it this way, "an overwhelming sense of panic that literally they feel like they're going to die, their heart races they'll break into a cold sweat."

Aviophobia often referred to as aerophobia, what we call the fear of flying is one of the most common phobias. It includes several fears such as claustrophobia, fear of heights, fear of giving up control, and fear of the unknown. The events of September 11th have added a new dimension, an anxiety. Triple A reports there will be a six percent decrease in people travelling this year most of that attributed to people choosing not to fly because of "fear of being hi-jacked and losing their lives, " say Savannah Psychologist Dr. Adelle Burnsed-Geffen. "Some people who flew even with discomfort, now are not flying."

One in three Americans admit to some fear of flying, that amounts to 50 million people who have given up flying, fly with anxiety or have never flown. "Most people who have a really bad fear of flying can't just talk themselves out of it and get on an airplane," says Dr. Bradley. For those who don't want to be or can't afford to be grounded by fear there's comfort in the fact that many experts believe flying has never been safer because security is top priority at U.S. airports. Triple A, the people who help us stay safe on the roads, says flying is eight times safer than driving and each day the number of people killed on the road could fill a 737. "If you look at our statistics it does not make a lot of sense to abandon the airways for the highways."

But anxiety may still have you questioning your air travel plans for the holidays ahead, you're not alone, and psychologists say your fears are not irrational.

"Probably the whole nation is in state of anticipation, you know, we're worried because we don't know what is going to happen next and that type of anticipation anxiety, that type of concern, is normal at this point." For those truly fearful of taking to the skies-- you probably didn't fly before and you'll need professional help if you're ever going to fly, but for those suffering simply from anxiety linked to recent events there is help to get you up in the skies and on your way to holiday reunions with family and friends.

You can find several Fear of Flying programs on the web simply by doing a search of fear of flying or you can call toll free 1-800-FEAR FLY for more information on a program called SOAR.