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By Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, MSc

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What is Aviatophobia?

Aviatophobia represents the fear of flying. Other names by which it’s known include aerophobia, aviophobia, and pteromechanophobia. Individuals who suffer from it experience episodes of intense anxiety during air travel transportation and often become stressed out even when the idea of going up in the air appears.

Even though it is regarded as a symptom rather than a disorder in itself, aviatopobia may seriously affect certain features of a person’s life, from personal relationships with friends and family to career opportunities that may imply travels with air-transportation. Although in some cases people may be unaware of this problem, as soon as the thought of air-traveling kicks in or they’re put in front of a situations that implies it, they become anxious and mostly desire to get out or start to imagine cases in which the plane or helicopter crashes and become frightened by the idea.

There are circumstances in which two or more phobias merge and as a result this one is created. For instance, a combination between claustrophobia which is the fear of being in enclosed areas and acrophobia or the fear of heights may lead to an apprehension. This is mostly determined by the fact that the area around the seat of the passenger is limited and people may become conscious of their inability to leave the space due to the plane being up in the air.


The causes behind this condition vary are multiple and vary depending on the individual who is suffering from it. Among the most common there are claustrophobia, acrophobia, agoraphobia (fear of open spaces), fears due to flying at night or over water, intense worrying about dying, panic due to potential hijacks and terrorism, control-loss, and previously failed attempts at flying. Sometimes, the condition may have been determined by combination between some of these possible causes and, as a result, it may be difficult to deal with or more like a superficial worry which can easily pass if the person is alongside a good friend or a relative throughout their attempts of travelling towards the sky.

Signs & Symptoms

The symptoms behind this condition are linked to the person’s emotional and physical features. However, in most of the situations, things like heavy breathing, dry mouth, sweating, dizziness, vomiting, nausea, chest pains, heart palpitations, shaking, tremors, and muscle tension or soreness may be observed in an aviatophobia sufferer. On the other hand, there are more serious cases in which the person is affected in a psychological way through distorted memory, negative expectations and clouded judgment which means that in those specific moments they shouldn’t be considered in their full mental capacities and they shouldn’t be let to make important decisions or trusted with serious things.

As a result of the person’s past which includes education, previous experience or possible other medical conditions like anxiety or fatigue, the symptoms vary and even though some may experience sweating and dizziness for example, others may only feel chest pains and vomiting sensations. When one of the above-mentioned signs is directly link with the idea of flying, it is clear that the person has this condition and it shouldn’t be let unnoticed, but be treated as something important which may aggravate in time.

Diagnosing Aviatophobia

Aviatophobia may be tricky and in some situations difficult to be observed because the person may not experience a case in which flying is involved throughout his or her lifespan so it can pass unnoticed. However, for those who had difficulties when air-travelling was involved and experienced some or all of the above mentioned symptoms, it is more likely to suffer from this condition. A doctor can be consulted as well if there are uncertainties regarding the possibility of its existence.

There are certain conjunctures in which some flight-related conditions are stimulated and if any sign is noticed throughout the entire time, the person is diagnosed with it. Furthermore, some types of anxiety are also linked to its development so in order to avoid it, the individual who has anxiety should thing about a serious treatment and try to stop worrying about ways in which one can die up in the air because planes or helicopters and other ways of transportations are in the majority of cases safe. This is why this problem is generally viewed as a psychological one and there is an increased difficulty in being aware of it. On the same note, it can be stated that there are people who are aware of its occurrence, but are incapable of surpassing it and often decide to avoid transportation by air. One of these is the singer for the band Breaking Benjamin who actually wrote an entire album about it called “Phobia” in which he explains his aviatophobia. Listening to songs or reading about other people’s experiences may help an individual understand more about what’s happening when this type of issue is present and can also ease the transition. Even though it seems impossible at first, people should be aware that the pyramids weren’t built in one day and persisting on overcoming this situation is the key to getting rid of it.

Treatment for Aviatophobia?

If an individual is diagnosed with this phobia, a type of anxiety linked to it or he or she suspects it may suffer from it, the first step in getting healed is therapy. Because it’s more of a psychological issue that manifests in a physical way, there is a wide array of behavioral therapies like systematic desensitization, hypnotherapy and cognitive behavior therapy which can help a person go pass the fear of flying, as well as other feelings of fear and anxiety they may be triggered by it. Another way of letting this condition be just a bad dream is through education of aircrafts due to the fact that most of the fears linked to flying are because of information lacks.

Moreover, there is some prescribed medication that can be utilized in a temporary way and includes anti-anxiety drugs. However, they don’t always represent a good approach because there are high chances of developing some side-effects like disorientation or grogginess. It is of increased importance that people don’t mix these drugs with alcohol in an attempt to ease anxiety or relax because instead of helping, they generally cause more harm to the organism which can be irreparable. For instance, a double-blind clinical study conducted at the Stanford University School of Medicine points out that the medication generally prescribed as anti-anxiety treatment might help an individual become more accustomed to the flight. During the research, there were two flights conducted. In the first one, patients who took alprazolam or Xanax reported a decrease in anxiety levels in comparison to the ones that consumed a placebo, but a stress increase. The heart rate of individuals that took alprazolam situated at 114 and the other was 105 beats per minute. Furthermore, the people who got alprazolam had enhanced respiration rates which were approximately 22.7 breaths per minute as compared to the others who had only 18.3.

During the second flight, there was no medication given and the ones who took alprazolam in the flight and approximately seventy percent experienced panic. Only twenty nine percent of the people who took placebo in the first flight showed signs of panic. As a conclusion of the study, the participants who weren’t medicated benefited from a degree of desensitization which helped them overcome the fear and don’t focus that much on their current situation. It is recommended to take between 0.5 and 1 mg of alprazolam one hour before the flight and an additional 0.5 to 1 mg throughout the flight if any problems occur and the person can’t seem to handle the situation. Another approach would be a psychological therapy in which no drugs are consumed and individuals are encouraged to fly being aware of their problem and constantly trying to overcome it via self-exposure.

On the other hand, those who are too afraid to try prescribed medication, fear the possible side-effects, or just prefer some natural approaches, can try homeopathic and herbal remedies. The purposes behind these natural supplements are usually linked to a stress relief and an induced relaxation. For instance, dietary supplements that feature ingredients such as Argentum nitricum, Aconite, or Ars. Alb tend to alleviate nervousness, heart palpitations, feelings of control-loss, and sweating, which are some common aviatophobia symtpoms. Moreover, tissue salts and herbs like Mentha Piperita, Ginger, Coccolus, Pulsatilla vulgaris, and Kalium phosphate address possible queasiness which is brought due to motion sickness. The treatment behind aviatophia is to be chosen by the person who suffers from it. However, it shouldn’t be left untreated and if a person notices a loved one that may have it, he or she should take measures for helping him or her.
Another popular therapy is the hypnotherapy which involves helping the person understand the reason behind their fear. Things like uncovering the event and the emotions that surround are the main principles behind this therapy. Allan Shore, a neurological researcher, suggests that the fear may manifest as a follow-up from a turbulent flight and it generally represents a repercussion of a sensitizing effect. This is why it is important to find out the cause behind its appearance before trying to treat it in any way.

On the other hand, the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child state, as well as Harward University, states that “Genes provide the basic blueprint, but experiences influence how or whether genes are expressed. Together, they shape the quality of brain architecture and establish either a sturdy or a fragile foundation for all of the learning, health, and behavior that follow.” Therefore, it is possible to be prone to developing this phobia if you’re exposed to certain events. In comparison to other people, there are some whose trigger can be pressed with ease and once the aviatophobia appears, it is rather difficult to overcome it without the proper care and determination. The approach may differ depending on one’s personality and should be carefully chosen in order to receive the desired efficiency.


Ben Burnley, Breaking Benjamin interview on jodileib.com
“Experiences Build Brain Architecture” Harvard University Retrieved September 1st 2013
“The nature and treatment of anxiety disorders. New York: Free Pass” by Taylor C.B and Arnow B.A (1988)
“Trauma information Pages, Articles: Allan Schore” (2002)