Dear Therapist: How do I overcome my fear of flying?

Prateeksha Shetty/Dubai
Filed on August 12, 2021
headache in the airplane, man passenger afraid and feeling bad during the flight in plane

The weekly column responds to our reader's mental health queries

I am very scared of being in an aeroplane. I get anxious when I step into a flight and when the plane takes off. This wasn’t the case until a few years ago. I’m not taking many flights right now anyway, but just wanted to know how I can overcome this. — Heena J.

Dear Heena, your predicament fits the description of phobia. You may experience panic attacks or palpitations or feel agitated during or before boarding a flight. Sometimes, people with such experiences have anxiety in other life situations or topics — health, death, suffering. If you have had a negative or traumatic experience while airborne, you may have begun to associate airplanes or airports with fear of recurrence of similar experiences. You can benefit from learning relaxation exercises in combination with graded air travel (duration being a key difference), depending on severity of your fear. Behaviour therapy, systematic desensitisation in particular, can help you overcome your fear of flying.