Aerophobia is a fear of flying. It’s very common, affecting more than 25 million adults in the U.S. Psychotherapy can usually help people overcome their fear and fly without extreme anxiety or panic attacks.
Aerophobia is an extreme fear of flying in an airplane. People with aerophobia may be scared about different aspects of flying, such as take-off, landing or getting locked in the plane. You might know that your fear is irrational — statistics show that air travel has the lowest death rates among other forms of transportation — but you can’t reason your way out of the anxiety. Another name for this condition is aviophobia.
Most people with aerophobia aren’t actually afraid of the plane crashing. Instead, you might fear the overwhelming anxiety that comes with being on the plane. The anticipation of flying, or thinking about flying, is often as troubling as being on the flight itself.
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A phobia is severe worry or panic about certain activities, objects or situations. A specific phobic disorder is a type of anxiety disorder.
Fear of flying is common. Research suggests it affects about 25 million adults in the U.S.
Aerophobia is most common in people between the ages of 17 and 34. This is a time in life when significant changes occur, such as graduation, marriage or childbirth. People may be scared that flying jeopardizes their life at such an important time. It’s possible for someone to fly without anxiety for years, and then develop aerophobia.
Aerophobia usually doesn’t have a specific cause. It’s very rare for aerophobia to stem from a traumatic experience on a flight. Specific triggers might include:
Other phobias can also make aerophobia worse:
If you have aerophobia, you might avoid flying at all costs. This could mean missing family vacations or refusing to travel for work. You might insist on other modes of transportation, such as cars, buses or trains — even if they’re less convenient than flying. If you have aerophobia, you might also avoid movies, books or news stories that relate to air travel. Or you may become obsessed with learning about security measures at airports and on planes.
It’s also possible for people with aerophobia to have panic attacks before or during a flight. Symptoms may include:
There isn’t a specific diagnostic test for aerophobia. Your healthcare provider will carefully review your symptoms and ask you a variety of questions about your fear of flying. Aerophobia can range from mild (you’ll fly if you have to, but it makes you anxious) to severe (you’ve refused to fly for more than five years).
Your healthcare provider may diagnose you with a specific phobic disorder, such as aerophobia, if you:
Many people can work on overcoming their fear of flying with psychotherapy. Your healthcare provider may recommend:
Psychotherapy may be one-on-one with a therapist or in a group setting. Some cities in the U.S. have group therapy programs at airports that include a “graduation flight” at the end of the treatment program.
Medication isn’t very effective for the long-term management of aerophobia or other specific phobic disorders. But if you have to fly and worry about having a panic attack, your healthcare provider may recommend anti-anxiety drugs on an as-needed basis.
There isn’t a way to prevent aerophobia. But you can reduce its effects on your life by:
Most people with aerophobia respond well to treatment such as psychotherapy. One study suggests that some people’s symptoms improved for two to three years after CBT. It’s possible for aerophobia to return after treatment, so some people may need ongoing therapy.
Contact your healthcare provider if you experience:
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Aerophobia is an extreme fear of flying. People with aerophobia might feel intense anxiety before or during a flight. This condition can interfere with your ability to travel for work or pleasure. If aerophobia is affecting your quality of life, talk to your healthcare provider. With psychotherapy, most people can conquer their fear of flying.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/24/2022.
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