When you suffer from a fear of flying, other people often tell you to shrug it off. But it's no simple ailment, and overcoming it isn't as easy as taking a sleeping pill. That's because the "fear of flying" is actually a combination of specific phobias... and a serious combination at that.
"Think of flying as the perfect storm for anxiety," said Dr. Martin Seif, a psychologist who specializes in flight anxiety. "The fear of flying is a confluence of a number of fears that all intersect in an airplane."
Perhaps you have a claustrophobic fear of tight spaces, for example. And you have obsessive-compulsive tendencies in germ-y places. And you have a general anxiety of being high above the ground. All of these anxieties come together in a plane, making for a "fear of flying" that's actually multiple fears in one.
Worse, you can't just talk yourself out of it. You'll need to cope with your fear of flying like any other phobia, Seif says. The first step is usually learning about how your fear works and pinpointing the parts of flying that trigger anxiety for you. Then, expose yourself to those triggers: If takeoff scares you, then go for a ride in a flight simulator, and practice staying calm. Then move on to a short flight, and slowly build your way up to longer trips.
But even if you know that your fear of flying is a legitimate concern, there will always be those friends, fellow passengers and innocent bystanders who offer their "expert" take on how to "cure" your fear like it's no big deal. And frankly, we flight-fearers are sick of hearing it. Please stop telling us that...
1. “The chances of an accident are one in a million!”
If we had a dollar for every time...
2. "Just take deep breaths."
No, because then we might throw up. And if we throw up, you will NOT be happy. Trust us.
3. “Why don't you take a sleeping pill?"
Because then we wouldn't be awake when the plane lands. NO WAY ARE WE DOING THAT.
4. “You don’t need a sleeping pill. Just have a glass of wine!”
Did you say only ONE glass of wine?
5. “Flying is safer than driving a car.”
Oh, is a car SUSPENDED 35,000 FEET IN THE AIR?! Didn’t think so.
6. “Turbulence is normal!”
Tell us about the last time you bumped around in a tiny, winged box on a cloud.
7. “Don’t worry, the most dangerous part is the takeoff.”
…and the landing. And the flying. And the shooting through the air at unthinkable speeds. You're right, it’s no big deal.
8. “Just talk with me. I’ll distract you!”
Thanks, but we’d rather just sit here and try to survive.
9. “What’s the part that you’re afraid of?”
10. “Take a sip of water."
…do deep sips of vodka count?
11. “It’s gonna be okay.”
We understand, but we do NOT feel okay right now.