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Fear of Flying

Dear Dr. Expert, 

I have a problem. I’m in the band and we’re going to a big music competition next year in Montreal. But we have to FLY there and I’m totally freaked out! I really don’t want to miss out, but I just can’t imagine getting on a plane. Every time I’ve been on a plane I feel trapped and panicky.  When the plane starts to take off, I just know it’s going to crash. I can’t miss the band trip, but I’m too scared to fly – please help! 

Stuck in Saskatoon

Dr. Expert: Dear Stuck in Saskatoon, 

Definitely sounds like you have a phobia of flying! The important thing to remember is that phobias can be managed and you can overcome your fear! The first step is to make sure that your thoughts are realistic and balanced.  It sounds like you are afraid that the airplane is going to crash.  Ask yourself, how likely is it that the plane is going to crash? Think about how many planes take off every day and how many planes actually crash. In fact, the likelihood of being in a plane crash is 1 in 9 million! The second step involves learning some ways to relax so you can ride out feelings of anxiety.  Try learning relaxation techniques like calm breathing and tense and release (Click here to learn about these strategies). Armed with your new tools, you are ready to start confronting your fears. The key is to start small, look at pictures of planes, go on You Tube and watch airplanes taking off, and then go with a friend or parent to the airport and watch the planes take off and land. If possible, try to take a shorter flight with your parents or someone else for support before the band trip. With each exposure, you will begin to realize that although the anxiety you are feeling isn’t pleasant, flying is very safe.  Every time you face something related to flying, your confidence will grow, and you will be better able to cope with your fear of flying!