Don’t let fear of flying ground you

By • Published: March 9th, 2011
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Filled with fear at the thought of flying? Does your heart drop with each pocket of turbulence the plane hits? Don’t worry, you’re not alone — even some flight crew members admit to being nervous about things that might go bump in a flight.

In a Norwegian study of more than one thousand commercial airline personnel, just under 10 percent of crew members reported feeling anxious or fearful of flying once a month or more often. Almost three percent felt afraid or anxious every day or every week. And many who fear flying have accompanying psychiatric disorders, including depression, anxiety and personality disorders.

Still, it’s heartening that pilots apparently are not as aviophobic as other crew members. In a separate Spanish study that evaluated flight-phobic crew members who had received psychiatric treatment, 37 percent were pilots, compared with 63 percent of cabin crew. The difference, researchers speculated, might be because pilots are in control and trained to handle various types of emergencies, whereas other crew members, hard work aside, are more often along for the ride.

A number of factors can cause people who fly for a living to dread being aloft. Some become fearful after experiencing aircraft accidents or critical situations, or even seeing media coverage of such incidents. Those who do not adequately work through their experiences with psychological treatment appear to be more prone to anxiety than those who do get help.

The next time you fly, rather than fretting about the crew, focus on helping yourself stay calm. Listen to music, read a book or talk to your neighbor — just make sure that person isn’t trying to get to sleep as a way of coping with his own fear of flying.