Fear of Flying

It does seem to defy logic – a 175,000 pound tube of metal filled with people moving hundreds of miles per hour through the air. Add to that memorable disasters like TWA, Malaysian Airlines, 9/11, and countless movies and t.v. shows (‘Lost’ anyone?) about plane crashes and disasters. It’s no wonder that fear of flying, or aviophobia, ranks very high in the list of most common phobias.

Safety data have shown that commercial air travel is by far the single safest way to travel, and something catastrophic is literally hundreds of times more likely to occur on the road than in the air. You are thousands of times more likely to die by choking on tonight’s dinner than flying in an airplane. Other things more likely than dying in a plane crash? Being killed by a meteorite, bee sting, drowning in your bathtub. You are also more likely to win the jackpot twice in a row.

So why are 70% of people who even make it onto the plane anxious about air travel? Well several reasons. We tend to overestimate the risk of catastrophe when it stands out in memory, (availability heuristic described by Kaheneman and Tversky). Additionally, there is an illusion of control. In an airplane, you are at the mercy of the pilot, the weather, geopolitics, etc. In your own car, you are literally the one at the wheel, so it is easy to overestimate our ability to avoid obstacles.

None of this is meant to make you scared of driving in addition to flying! They are both very safe activities overall, but flying is by many magnitudes safer.

You might be wondering why considering these statistics doesn’t necessarily make you feel any better about flying. That makes sense because aside from whatever thoughts you might be having that support the anxiety, there are other factors as well, such as emotions that are triggered by the activity without there necessarily being a rational basis.

Studies have shown that exposure therapy is one of the most effective treatments for fear of flying and other phobias, and can be incorporated in a wider plan of treatment. The goal is not to get rid of the anxiety altogether, but help reduce it to a manageable level so you can travel for pleasure, business, family commitments etc without unnecessary distress.

Call us today for a free consultation to see if we can help!

1226 West Broadway, Suite 5
Hewlett, NY 11557


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