Overcoming the Fear of Flying
Treating the fear of flying is a problem that cognitive behavioral therapy is perfectly suited for. Probably more people who are afraid to fly force themselves to fly anyway than force themselves to do almost any other feared activity. They will take medication or just hold on tight. For many people flying is a necessity and for others it’s an essential part of their vacation. The more often an individual is in contact with whatever is making them anxious, the easier it is to treat. Fear of flying is more complicated because flying is usually not a frequent occurrence. Also, the patient knows that once they are on the plane, they are unable to escape. Escaping from extremely anxiety provoking situations is a favorite maneuver of anxious people. Cognitive behavioral therapy has a number of techniques to reduce anxiety to the point where a patient will feel confident enough to get on a plane.
How will Dr. Schwartz help me get over my fear of flying?
First, a story. A number of years ago a woman came to me about 3 months before she was scheduled to fly to Hawaii. Her husband was a frequent flier who got free tickets. She told him that she didn’t think she could go. His response was, “Oh, you will be going”. I asked her what she was afraid of and she said that she was afraid the plane would crash: a common response. This patient was also afraid of elevators. I asked her if she was afraid that elevators would crash. She was actually afraid of being trapped and then having a panic attack. We worked on reducing that fear and I gave her a positive sentence to say about getting on the plane. She was actually becoming less fearful as the trip got closer. Two weeks before the flight she said that the sentence I gave her was working great, but that it would never work on the plane. I assured her that it would. When I saw her in my office with a pineapple for me, I knew that it worked on the plane and that I would not need to do marriage counseling.
It’s important to find out what, exactly, you are afraid of. Almost everyone says that they are afraid the plane will crash, but the real reason often takes some exploring to discover. It could be fear the plane will crash, but most often it’s something else. Once we know the real reason for your fear, and what you are saying to yourself, we can design a treatment plan. If you have a flight coming up we will prepare you to deal calmly with that. If there is no flight in the near future, I will use other techniques that use imagery as well as positive sentences. Most often the fear of flying results from generalized high anxiety that has attached itself to a number of things. Reducing your undercurrent of anxiety and eliminating any panic attacks, is essential.
Dr. Merny Schwartz is a dedicated and caring licensed clinical psychologist and certified school psychologist serving patients in Brooklyn, NY for more than 35 years.
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Our practice offers a warm and inviting environment for our patients to meet with Dr. Merny Schwarz. Our office is conveniently located off the B & Q subway lines in the Flatbush-Ditmas Park area of Brooklyn, NY.
Dr. Merny Schwartz, PhD