Sometimes referred to aviatophobia, aviophobia is a fear of flying, usually associated with flying in any type of airplane or jet. The incidence of this phobia is a specialized form of aerophobia, in that it focuses on the act of flying while aerophobia is a broader condition that has to do with a fear of leaving the ground and being suspended in mid-air. Many people who are diagnosed with aerophobia are in actuality suffering with the more specific condition of aviophobia.
As with many different types of phobias, aviophobia manifests itself with a number of physical and emotional symptoms. When faced with the idea of boarding a plane and making a trip, the aviophobic is likely to break out into a cold sweat, feel lightheaded, and experience heart palpitations. In extreme cases, aviophobia symptoms may include an episode of regurgitation, lose of bowel control, and losing consciousness. A strong sense of shame and being a failure is often present in people suffering with this type of phobia.
Attendant phobias may merge to create this condition of aviophobia. For example, acrophobia (a fear of heights) may merge with claustrophobia (a fear of being in a small enclosed area) to form an extreme fear of being trapped in the confines of the seating area of a plane and not being able to leave the space because the plane is in flight. It is for this reason that aviophobia treatment strategies often break down the components of the condition and attempt to defuse each one as part of the healing process.
Professional counseling is often an important part of the recovery process for aviophobics. Because of the extreme physical and emotional discomfort experienced, it is not unusual for medication to be used to assist individuals in overcoming their fears. A sedative or anti-anxiety medication may allow the aviophobic to board a plane and make a short trip. When the trip takes place without incident, the phobic begins to amass real time experiences where their worst fears do not come to pass. When coupled with ongoing therapy, these experiences help the individual to begin reprogramming their thinking and cause the phobia to lose its hold on the patient.
As with many phobias, aviophobia rarely develops overnight and will take time to conquer. Factors such as the severity of the symptoms exhibited by the individual and the root causes for the development of the condition will both play a role in the rate of recovery. However, when the individual strongly wishes to be actively engaged in overcoming the phobia, the chances for a successful recovery are excellent. In the interim, loved ones should consult with healthcare professionals to understand what they can do to offer loving support without enabling the patient to give in to the aviophobia.