Fear of Flying Solution

There are things that make even the least anxious among us get sweaty palms, a racing heart and a concern that they are in grave danger.  For some, this is a panic attack, caused by no specific set of circumstances.  For others it is very specific cause and a very specific concern.  And for some, it’s both.


Often patients with anxiety or panic attacks will fear flying due to its inherent loss of control and escape.  It’s not just control about what’s going on the cockpit.  Your every move is limited.  Not only by the cramped seats and the person next to you (Is their tray down?!  What if I need to go to the bathroom!  How will I get past them?) but also by the seatbelt sign.  For an anxious person, the bathroom can be a refuge, a way to escape a social or anxious situation without feeling revealed, without feeling ridiculous.  “Excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom.”  How bad can that be?  Everyone needs to go to the bathroom.  But on a plane, you’re on display; you’re in a confined space, and regardless of any additional concerns about flying you may have, (Like how is this big metal thing staying up in the air?  Is turbulence really normal? Of course it’s safer than driving, except for the people who are on the plane that crashes.) that space inherently limits your options of escape.  Escape that is the refuge of so many who suffer from anxiety or panic attacks.


Enter a patient who has both.  A fear of flying that existed long before symptoms of generalized anxiety appeared, long before their heart raced in meetings, their head spun at the checkout line, their flight fears kicked in at a restaurant at the least opportune time.  This person, who we’ll call Beth, did not come to me for flight anxiety, rather for generalized anxiety that seemed exacerbated by their job.  That being said, with an upcoming trip to explore a town they may likely relocate to, anxiety was a primary concern with the impending flight.  If bouts of overwhelming anxiety had reared their head in meetings, traffic, restaurants and lines at the grocery store, surely anxiety would overcome them on the plane, something they were anxious about long before anxiety was a state of being.


Beth was very proactive about her anxiety, open to different methods and seeking options that weren’t pharmaceutical.   When our appointment ended, the topic of which was not fear of flying, it was a passing comment, I realized that EFT would be a great resource for her to utilize both before and during her upcoming flight.  EFT combines self administered tapping of specific energy meridians along with neuro-linguistic programming via affirmations.  But knowing that Beth was receptive and resourceful, I sent her several online resources that would allow her to explore tapping before her flight and gain enough familiarity to use it during the flight as needed.  Of course, as a therapist, you always hope that the tools you offer patients are used and useful.  Each person is different and will connect with treatment modalities with varying degrees of success and adoption.  Regardless of what tool you’ve offered, there is nothing more satisfying than knowing that it worked, that in some way it increased joy, confidence, strength or decreased anxiety, fear, panic of depression.  In recapping her trip, Beth relayed the following after I asked if she tried EFT:


“Yeah, I looked up what you sent me, and then found a bunch of videos on YouTube, so I tried those.  I am very curious about how it works.  Or why it works.  Because it does work.  I found myself, maybe three sets through, feeling less anxious.  I chose to focus on turbulence since being in the air is the part I hate the most, and I experienced the idea of turbulence without anxiety, or at least such a decreased level of anxiety that it didn’t even register for me.  And then, when I was on the plane, I had an association to flying, to turbulence, that involved a state of calm.  I had a resource that felt real to me that I could connect to.  When I felt my anxiety rise I would visualize myself tapping and felt myself calm down.   I was fortunate enough to have relatively smooth flights but usually that doesn’t stop me from a fear of what’s about to happen.  I would really like to know more about why this works.”


Which is exactly what we will explore in future posts.  For now though, hopefully knowing that someone else found relief offers you hope and healing for whatever causes you anxiety.   And in the meantime, here is a demonstration of a guided EFT session that addresses the fear of flying…

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