Conquer Fear of Flying before Travel Season

Increased heart rate, sweaty palms, shortness of breath, “feeling trapped,” the fear of take-off and turbulence – all are symptoms commonly experienced by fearful fliers.  Such sensations and fears keep many people from flying at all, some for years.  Many others continue to fly but experience high levels of distress (possibly taking medications to manage their fear).  It seems intuitive to avoid fear, and it is human nature, but avoidance exacerbates fear and can become a regular pattern.  That is, once one flight is avoided, it becomes very tempting and more likely that the next flight will be avoided, and so on and so on.  The good news is that very effective, short-duration treatment is available to help conquer your fears of flying, and that treatment is offered at The Clinic at Virtually Better.

A work situation (e.g., giving a professional talk, a promotion requiring travel), or a family trip, attending a wedding or a vacation often prompt fearful fliers to address their long-standing fears.  Regardless of the prompting event, people seek treatment because they realize they can no longer run from their fear.  And they are right, because the more they avoid, the stronger their fear becomes.  This is the very premise of treatment using Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) for fear of flying.  The only way to overcome a fear is to confront it, and VR technology allows patients to confront their fear in a gradual way, exposing the person to various triggers (an engine revving, and being pulled back, bells, take off, turbulence, etc.), from least to most fear producing, that are often avoided or endured with much difficulty.  VRET is highly effective in helping people overcome their fear of flying, and persons often react to the virtual environments as if they are real (i.e., they feel anxious, have sweaty palms, increased heart rate, etc.).  Thus, by going through the virtual flights, they learn to confront their fear versus avoid it, and they learn new skills for coping.  Because VRET is part of a Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT), patients learn many skills for managing and responding effectively to their physical and cognitive symptoms of anxiety, versus avoiding or using safety behaviors (distraction, closing eyes, not sitting by a window, having to fly with certain people).  Treatment is a complete “learning program” to help people overcome their fear.

VRET has proven highly effective in helping people overcome their fear of flying, not only by flying after treatment, but also by continuing to maintain the gains they made one year later.  While flying once is a huge accomplishment (for persons who haven’t flown), our clinic strives to to help people continue to fly over time.  Please contact us at The Clinic at Virtually Better to schedule an appointment, and our experienced therapists will help get you back in the air.