The Reasons Why Fear of Flying Can Develop

by guest blogger David Lanzas

Why do many people enjoy travelling by plane and seeing the world while a few are afraid to set foot in an airport?
  Despite the fact that air travel has been proven to be the world’s safest form of transport, many people develop such crippling fear of flying that they won’t even go on short trips. Knowing how such a fear develops can help you be more aware of how your mind works when you face the prospect of getting on a plane, so here’s a look at the main sources of aerophobia: 

Having Gone through a Negative Experience 

This is usually the most common. When you have an experience on board an aircraft that you perceive as dangerous (whether there is real danger or not), your mind equates fear and helplessness to flying or to aircraft.  And since your nervous system’s main objective is to protect you from possible harm, it’s easy for any stimulus connected with flying to generate an almost automatic anxiety response because of that first bad experience.  Over time, in order to escape the discomfort of anxiety, you may start to avoid travelling by air, or at the very least, to feel extra safe before boarding you may excessively check the weather. When this pattern is repeated over time, you end up developing aerophobia. 

Witnessing or Hearing About Someone Else’s Negative Experience

Do you need to have lived through a difficult experience to fear taking a plane? Absolutely not. Because of your ability as a human being to empathise, it is sometimes enough to have witnessed someone having an anxiety attack in flight or becoming very upset in turbulence to develop a fear of flying. A part of you may come to question that if something bad has happened to someone else, it could happen to you too. Depending on several factors, such as apprehensiveness, your life circumstances, and a certain tendency to show anxiety, that may generate enough emotional impact to affect your own psyche and behaviour.

Undertanding your own motivations and psychological state can go a long way toward restoring a healthy attitude toward flying as something that brings positivity rather than negativity into your life. Happy trails!


It is clear that there is no single cause for the fear of flying, but fortunately, whatever the origin, everyone can benefit from the restorative effects of therapy to resolve it and enjoy flying peacefully again. 


David Lanzas is a psychologist specialising in anxiety and trauma, and the founder of the Lanzas Institute.


Photo | globalmoments