Skip to content

The No. 1 Best Way to Cure Your Fear of Flying, Says Expert

This helpful tip can help treat your aerophobia so you can get out and see the world.

Everyone is afraid of something. However, "uncontrollable, irrational, and lasting fear" is categorized as a phobia and can often be debilitating. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, millions of Americans suffer from one or more phobias. Some of the most common? Acrophobia, a fear of heights, agoraphobia, a fear of public places, and claustrophobia, a fear of closed-in places. Since flying involves all three, it isn't very surprising that aerophobia, an extreme fear of flying in an airplane, is also common.

Whether you suffer from an extreme case of aerophobia or simply feel amplified anxiety on a plane, psychologist Dr. Sydney B. Miller, Ph.D, C. Psych, associate professor at the Department of Psychology at Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec and former host of the popular iHeart radio program "On-Call with Dr. Syd", maintains there is a great way to quell your fears for good.

Keep reading to find out how to cure your fear of flying, and next, don't miss these 6 Tricks to Cure Your Seasickness, According to Experts.

Millions of people are afraid to fly.

Woman with a Fear of Flying on a Plane

The Cleveland Clinic estimates that 25 million Americans, most commonly between the ages of 17 and 34, are afraid of flying. People are afraid of flying for one of two reasons, according to Dr. Miller. The one that immediately comes to mind is the fear of there being a plane crash or "of the plane falling from the sky leading to death," he says.

However, the other reason, which is as common as the first one, is the fear of having a panic attack in the enclosed space of the plane with no exit or escape possible. "This is the anxiety that comes from feeling trapped, and is similar to the fear that some feel if they are in the middle of a large crowd or stuck on an elevator," says Dr. Miller. "The thought that if I were to experience anxiety I would be unable to escape actually brings on the panic."

RELATED: For more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.

The symptoms of an aerophobia-related panic attack are…

Woman Holding Her Stomach
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

The Cleveland Clinic explains that symptoms of aerophobia-related panic attacks can occur before or during a flight. They may include:

  • Chills
  • Dizziness and lightheadedness
  • Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Upset stomach or indigestion (dyspepsia)

Here's the no. 1 best way to cure your fear of flying.

Plane Taking Off

Just because you suffer from aerophobia doesn't mean you shouldn't fly. According to Dr. Miller, the condition is treatable. "The best way to treat fear of flying is to learn anxiety-reducing skills and techniques and then apply them as you visualize the various components of the flight," he says.

"Try to visualize in detail every step of the journey, from driving to the airport to going through security, getting on the plane, and taking off. Go through these steps one by one and as your anxiety rises during the visualization and use the anxiety reduction techniques you have studied to bring that anxiety down. Go over each step multiple times in this way, and by the time you actually get to the day of the flight, it will be as if you have successfully flown many many times, and the anxiety will no longer be there."

READ THIS NEXT: If You're Offered This on a Plane, Just Say No, Flight Attendant Says.

Another trick? Try taking baby flights.

International and Domestic Departure Signs

He also suggests taking baby steps, or more specifically, flights. "If you can, start off with some smaller flights to nearby destinations before you take on a long haul flight," he says.

In earlier times when security did not need to be as strict, airlines would often run fear of flying programs where they would take nervous passengers on little flights just around the airport to get them more familiar with the experience. "As this is no longer possible, planning your own short flights may be an option, though the visualization approach described above is as good as actually being there!"

There are other ways to keep calm during air travel, too.

No Alcohol Sign

While medication isn't very effective for treating aerophobia long-term, anti-anxiety medication may be able to help minimize anxiety during a flight, the Cleveland Clinic emphasizes. They also suggest avoiding alcohol, caffeine, or drugs prior to a flight, as they tend to worsen anxiety.

For more travel news, check out 9 Must-Have Items You Should Always Bring to the Airport.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more
Filed Under