Experts have suggested that as many as one in 10 people in the UK experiences a fear of flying, or 'aerophobia'.
If you suffer from it, you don't need us to tell you how unpleasant the symptoms are: anything from mild anxiety to full-blown terror, sweating, shaking and severe palpitations, often weeks before you're due to fly. Most commonly, passengers either fear aeroplanes or find that air travel sparks symptoms of psychological problems such as claustrophobia, agrophobia, post-traumatic stress disorder or panic attacks.
Although most of us might see fear of flying as a rational fear (human beings weren't designed to hurtle through the air at 35,000ft in a metal tube over which they have no control), clinical hypnotherapist David Samson believes that a fear of flying can have its roots in early childhood memories: "A traumatic incident, and not necessarily anything to do with flying, that took place normally before the age of six years, becomes lodged in the subconscious mind."
Sometimes this fear will remain un-triggered in the subconscious for years, but a trauma in later life, such as a bad experience on a flight, or feelings of anxiety related to plane journeys, can cause this fear to awaken.
"Another client developed a fear as a child when her doll was searched at an airport and no one explained to her what was happening. Other people have been affected by the fear of people they were travelling with and so 'caught' their fear," she explains.
The most common catalysts for feelings of fear are a dislike of feeling out of control, a fear of being in confined spaces, worries that stem from news reports, previous bad experiences such as extreme turbulence, a lack of familiarity with the new surroundings and a fear of heights, says Stiles.
Captain Chris Foster, who runs a Fearless Flyer course for Easyjet to help people overcome their anxieties, says: "It's really quite common to come across passengers who are anxious about flying and the fear can range from just mild discomfort to genuine terror. Some people just need a little reassurance that a sound is normal and they are content with that.
"At the other extreme end of the spectrum, I have come across a chap who associated flying with his recollection of being flown into a 'hot' war zone in the back of a military aircraft as a war photographer in the Middle East. His phobia was more akin to post traumatic stress. It was an emotional moment when he completed the course and got off the aircraft with a smile on his face."
Need help in overcoming your fear of flying? Check out our slideshow for some top expert tips. If you have any tips off your own, add them in the comments below and we'll include them!
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