How to stop being afraid of flying?

Clammy hands or clutching the armrests, rapid breathing, a lump in your stomach... These are just some of the symptoms of fear of flying. If you've ever experienced any of them, read on. This page will help you understand where this fear comes from and how to find a lasting cure. We offer advice, therapy and training courses to help you stop being afraid of flying - and enjoy your travels to the full, right from the moment you board the plane!

Understanding the fear of flying

What is the name of the fear of flying?

The phobia of flying is called aviophobia, or alternatively aerodromophobia. These two terms are synonymous: they refer both to the fear of flying and to the phobia felt at the mention of air travel. The term aerophobia is sometimes mistakenly used to describe fear of flying. This is a misnomer: aerophobia actually refers to a fear of fresh air or wind.

Where does it come from?

Like some phobias, it's a composite fear. Its origins vary greatly from one individual to another, making it impossible to establish a common diagnosis. The phobia or fear of flying is triggered by the situation of flying, but in reality it involves other fears or phobias. These are associated disorders activated by the situation of a flight in the cabin.

Some disorders associated with fear of flying

Aquaphobia (when flying over water)
Social fears
Agoraphobia (particularly the fear of not being able to escape)
Acrophobia (fear of heights)
Astraphobia (fear of lightning) and brontophobia (fear of thunder)
Cumulophobia (fear of clouds)
Emetophobia (fear of vomiting)
Irrational fears
Problems with loss of control
Fear of death

Sometimes, a slight fear of flying is fueled by exposure to disaster movies or a high level of receptiveness to information about air accidents. In other cases, a bad experience during a flight can be the starting point for irrational anxiety: turbulence, a delay on the tarmac deemed abnormal and therefore worrying, a turbulent take-off, a thunderstorm... The passenger will then extrapolate by supplementing the unknown data with erroneous beliefs. What is in fact a trivial, controlled event becomes a cause for fear and anxiety. Finally, in rare cases, fear of flying is linked to physiological malfunctions that occur during air travel. These may be linked to physiological problems that are independent of air travel. Answering a fear of flying questionnaire or consulting a therapist may be necessary to establish a diagnosis. More than any other phobia, the fear of flying is different for each individual. Identifying the origin of your anxiety is fundamental to understanding it and overcoming it, so that one day you'll no longer be afraid of flying!

How to stop being afraid of flying?

Quick tips to control your fear of flying

Before moving on to therapies and courses for a lasting cure for your fear of flying, here are a few easy-to-implement solutions to make air travel less stressful. If you have a low-grade fear of flying, these tips may help. In a nutshell, these tips are designed to help you reclaim your plane and airport by transforming it into a caring place. They give you control over the course of your travel day: arrive at the airport early so you have time to pass through all the check-ins and admire the ballet of planes as they take off.Choose your seat in advance, so you can sit in your favorite chair (possibly on the aisle side for greater freedom).Inform the cabin crew if you feel apprehensive about flying (they're trained to do this, and will know how to reassure you in case of turbulence).But perhaps the most important tip is this: to avoid letting your mind spoil your flight, eliminate erroneous beliefs and negative ideas by replacing them with reliable information on air safety.

Defusing preconceived ideas about airplanes and air safety

Defusing erroneous beliefs is fundamental to eliminating fear of flying. Fears are often fuelled by negative intuitions or preconceived ideas. One of the most widespread of these concerns air holes. They're said to be responsible for jolts during the flight. In reality, the opposite is true: air holes don't exist. Turbulence is a mini-shock that only has an effect of a few centimetres on the aircraft - the equivalent of a pothole in a car, but much less dangerous. Worried about breakdowns? Actually, they shouldn't. Air safety is better than ever. The more you know about aircraft, the less you'll have to worry. Every part of the aircraft undergoes a double or triple check before, during and after the flight. Air safety has learned a great deal from past events. In 2018 alone, over 38 million flights arrived safely. Air travel is by far the safest mode of transport!

Get the information you need to take the fear out of flying

Reinforcing your knowledge of airplanes and air traffic is one of the keys to controlling your fear or phobia. It means you can stop 'filling in the blanks' by imagining the worst as soon as an unknown event occurs during the flight. It's this 'cognitive' part that lies at the heart of CBT (cognitive-behavioral therapy), on which the courses are based. The informative part is inseparable from the behavioral part, and together they form a proven and effective method for eliminating fear of flying.

CBT, the most reliable method for eliminating fear of flying

Cognitive-behavioral therapies are the method of choice used by psychologists for the lasting cure of phobias, and in particular the fear of flying. This is what the courses have been doing since 2011. As their name suggests, cognitive-behavioral therapies (or CBT) consist of a cognitive component to learn about oneself and the object of one's fears; and a behavioral component to acquire automatisms to be applied in real-life situations. The cognitive part includes reinforcing knowledge of aircraft and air safety. It means being ready to provide the right interpretation in the event of an unexpected signal. A storm, turbulence, a delay on the tarmac? It's expected and normal, and now you know how it's handled by the pilot. The behavioral part helps you defuse the mechanisms that induce fear of flying. You learn to short-circuit negative thoughts by replacing them with other thought circuits. It is calibrated to the nature of your fear and the situations that trigger it. It can involve relaxation and cardiac coherence exercises to send signals to your body that all is well. Finally, CBT can be complemented by VRT (virtual reality exposure therapy). This phase uses the technological possibilities of virtual reality simulation headsets for gentle exposure to the causes of your phobia, supervised by therapists.