The Role of Anxiety in Fear of Flying

by David Lanzas

For many people, even just thinking about getting on a plane can trigger a host of emotions, including anxiety. This reaction is natural – and in small doses can even be beneficial, as it helps us to be alert and ready to face any difficulty. However, when anxiety becomes excessive, it can become a hindrance.

Anxiety can be explained with a metaphor of a storm. Imagine that you’re on a boat in the middle of the ocean when suddenly a storm starts to appear. The wind is blowing hard, the waves are rough, and the boat begins to rock. You may be feeling scared, worried, and anxious. Probably at that moment you fear the worst and your mind generates very unpleasant images.
Now imagine that every time you go sailing and a pleasant breeze blows, one of those that everyone loves in summer. But your mind begins to wonder if that breeze might herald a storm. Despite the fact that the sky is clear, as you sail away from port, you start to wonder if it really is a good idea to go out on the water today, and even though all the signs are positive, you can’t stop imagining how unpleasant it would be to be shipwrecked on the high seas.
Anxiety, like the storm, can make you feel as if you’re in imminent danger, even if there’s no real threat, as is usually the case with airplanes.
When it comes to fear of flying, it’s important to remember that anxiety is often related to anticipating something negative that hasn’t happened yet. For example, before boarding a plane, you may worry about things like the weather, the safety of the plane, or even other passengers’ behavior. These worries can become a source of anxiety, even before you’ve gotten to the airport.
As anxiety puts the focus on the future, it’s easy for statistical data about how safe airplanes are as a means of transport to not reassure you, since this data is based on past events, and when you’re anxious you’re we are “pre-experiencing” the future catastrophically.
It’s important to keep in mind that fear of flying is a real problem and that it can have negative consequences in your lives. If you don’t beat this phobia, you may miss out on many important experiences for your professional and personal development.
Therefore, if you feel that anxiety is preventing you from enjoying air travel, it’s important to seek professional help. It’s so much easier (and more enjoyable) to fly when your mind is your ally instead of a source of problems and difficulties.

Happy flying!


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