• Do you fear riding on an airplane?
  • Do you avoid trips and vacations because of flying phobia?
  • Do you worry that something catastrophic will happen when you fly?
  • Do you experience panic attacks when traveling?
  • Is your flying phobia negatively impacting your life?
Flying Phobia Treatment Psychologist

A flying phobia, or aviophobia, is defined as experiencing intense fear or anxiety about flying. Over 10% of individuals living in industrial nations experience flight anxiety. This phobia is more common in women than in men.

Even thinking about boarding a plane can trigger worry and panic. Anticipatory anxiety is common when you feel anxious just thinking about flying. Thinking about a specific flying situation can cause significant distress. The anticipation of a dangerous event and the unpleasantness of the anxiety induced by flying normally occur.

Fortunately, flying phobias are treatable. Dr. Mazzei has years of experience helping individuals overcome phobias. She will work with you to identify how your phobia started and how best to treat it using evidence-based psychotherapy techniques.

Signs of flying anxiety include:

  • Feeling extremely anxious anticipating flying on an airplane
  • Experiencing physical tension, such as in the neck or shoulders, when sitting on an aircraft
  • Chronic worry that something terrible will happen when flying
  • Avoiding vacations and business trips
  • Feeling claustrophobic during a flight

Signs and symptoms of a flying panic attack are: 

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Excessive sweating
  • Trembling
  • Difficulty breathing or hyperventilating
  • Chest or throat tightness
  • Gastrointestinal distress
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling of dread
  • Fear of losing control

How Did My Flying Phobia Start?

Phobias may develop for numerous reasons. Your personal life experiences and physiological make-up influence how phobias start.

  • Phobias may trigger due to a negatively experienced event that happened in the past. For example, you may have endured a disturbing flying incident that triggered fear or heightened anxiety. These memories were stored in your brain, along with the associated feelings. Whenever a similar stimulus, such as going to the airport or booking a flight, occurs the same emotions arise. This is referred to as a conditioned response.
  • Driving phobias can develop after a traumatic event, such as a family member dying from a tragic flying accident.
  • Family stress or other trauma in one’s life can trigger a phobia.
  • Having an anxiety disorder, such as agoraphobia or panic disorder, can contribute to the development of a phobia.

Comorbid Disorders with Phobias

Individuals who suffer from flying phobia often suffer other mental health issues, including claustrophobia, PTSD, addiction, panic disorder, and depression. Additionally, phobias are associated with higher levels of GI distress, hypertension, and chronic headaches. Dr. Mazzei will work with you to address all the psychological issues that you are experiencing.

Flying Phobia Treatment

Phobias can cause many problems in one’s personal and professional life. Fortunately, psychological treatments are available that can effectively treat this phobia. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), and hypnotherapy have all been successfully used to help people overcome flying phobia.

CBT and ACTBehavioral and cognitive therapies are the treatment of choice for specific phobias. Systematic desensitization through controlled exposure to the feared stimulus can eliminate the fear of flying over time. The brain relearns and reprocesses negative associations with the feared situations.

CBT incorporates cognitive restructuring, in vivo exposure therapy, systematic desensitization, and interoceptive exposure.

  • Cognitive restructuring facilitates helpful and rational thinking patterns. You will learn how to improve the way you think about flying so that you can retrain your brain.
  • In vivo exposure is used to gradually expose a person to anxiety-provoking stimuli, such as vomit, within a safe environment. Dr. Mazzei, a CBT specialist, will work with you to develop practical coping skills anticipating the exposures. Together, you will develop a hierarchy of exposures from least to most challenging. For instance, you might start looking at flying-related words on a card, then cartoon illustrations of an airport, and then move up to watching videos of people flying on an airplane. You are guided and supported along each step.
  • Interoceptive exposure refers to CBT technique of deliberately inducing physical sensations that are safe but feared. For example, you may spin around quickly to feel nauseous to learn that this sensation is normal and safe. Cognitive reframing helps you identify unwanted thinking and change your thoughts into more helpful thinking patterns. For example, instead of thinking, “I can’t handle the anxiety”, a more helpful thought is, “Although it is not comfortable, I can handle this and I will be safe.”
  • Mindfulness training provides a profound way to alleviate the negative impact of thoughts, emotions, and sensations. Being more present, non-judgmental, and accepting of your experience can lessen internal strife. With mindfulness, you learn to accept your present state without judgment.
  • Values exploration refers to identifying and committing to your values as a helpful way to focus on behavior change and improve your quality of life. Even though your work may be challenging, you can reflect on your values to facilitate motivation and positive, long-lasting change.

EMDR Therapy: Traumatic memories during flight or witnessing a flying accident can trigger a phobia. In earlier experiences, a person who encounters intense fear can induce a phobic response. For example, watching a tragic airplane accident on the news may generalize this fear to all traveling.

The maladaptive storage of phobic memories linked to the emotional part of the brain created subsequent emotional distress and negative thought patterns. EMDR therapy is a well-known therapy used for trauma processing. EMDR involves an 8-phase protocol focused on resolving disturbing life events.

This therapy relies on bilateral stimulation (BLS) to facilitate the resolution of dysfunctional memories that become activated in the present. BLS can take the form of eye movements, tapping, or audio stimulation. BLS is used when the person recalls distressing events and the negative beliefs associated with the memories, such as “I can’t stand this” or “I am not safe.” Once the distressing memories are processed, positive beliefs are then internalized, such as “I am safe” or “I will be okay.” In addition, EMDR therapy can help reduce anxiety related bodily sensations.

HypnotherapyHypnosis for flying phobias relies on using suggestions targeted to facilitate behavior change. Hypnotherapy suggestions are tailored to your specific fears. For example, you may be guided into a trance in which you imagine a pleasant emotional reaction when you are onboard an airplane. These suggestions are given to you while you are in a trance or deep state of relaxation. You will also learn relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation, that you can use anytime to reduce anxiety.

How Dr. Mazzei Can Help You

As a psychologist and phobia specialist, Dr. Mazzei has helped many people overcome phobias. She integrates proven psychological therapies into treatment while focusing on giving you emotional support. She utilizes CBT, hypnosis, biofeedback, and EMDR therapy to provide the most effective therapy for you. If you are looking to start driving with confidence again, Dr. Mazzei is here for you.

If you are suffering from a flying phobia, or if you would like to talk to someone more about how Dr. Mazzei can help you, follow these simple steps:

  1. Text today at (480) 448-6755or email for a consultation
  2. Or, you can book directly online with Dr. Mazzei
  3. Begin your journey towards a fulfilling and healthier life

Dr. Mazzei offers in-person flying phobia treatment in Chandler, AZ, and online phobia therapy for Arizona, Illinois, Tennessee, and PSYPACT residents.