Dear Dr. Hwang:
“Do you think that fears about flying are real or just in our head. After the Asiana plane crash, I’m more afraid to fly than ever?’
I was sad to hear the, Asiana Air Flight 214 crashed as well. I’m sorry to hear you have experienced some increased fears about flying as a result to exposure?
Anytime people view a tragedy, as well as frequent visual images of it, the likelihood anxiety will increase heightens. Most television stations have replayed this tragic incident over and over, creating vivid images and sounds so powerful that it has likely created strong internal feelings or brought up currently present feelings of anxiety.
Your increased fear could be situational. It is possible that you may need some time to recover from the idea of the crash, as well as the relentless images in the media.
While it is tragic, statistically plane crashes are so far down on a list of fatalities, they often don’t have its own percentage. People are more likely to die from a variety of chronic health issues before accidental death.
At the same time, some people have extreme fears of flying for many reasons, which are referred to as, “Aviophobia or Aerophobia.” Fears surrounding flying in a plane are often rooted in anxious feelings. Symptoms related to anxiety, depending on the intensity can be managed in a variety of ways.
There are many coping strategies options available. Some people use therapy as one way to reduce anxiety, which manifests in a myriad of ways, such as a fear of flying. Others talk with a licensed psychiatrist about medical possibilities, treatment options and cognitive choices.
It’s important to try to identify as specifically as possible what is driving the fear, so that you can work to decrease your anxiety about these thoughts. Most methods to cope with thoughts about flying include, learning relaxation techniques prior to flying or learning how to distract yourself. In some cases, people can take classes or see a licensed therapist/psychologist who can help increase a calmer perspective.
Whatever you choose, please remember to be patient with yourself and see if time away from the barrage of relentless media lifts some of the anxiety. Whatever you do, you are wise to recognize that you are having an unfamiliar experience. You are smart to talk about it with others.
We all have fears. They are always real. And, you are correct, thoughts relating to fears can grow in a person’s mind or (head). If the fear helps you to recognize what thoughts are playing in your mind, paradoxically, this is the best-case scenario.
Bringing thoughts to the conscious mind or surface, allows you to identify and deal with the specific thoughts that are bothersome. Once they become real, you are more likely to talk about them with others and consequently obtain the help and support you deserve to move through this.
Kim S. Hwang, PsyD has a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. She is an adjunct professor at the Minnesota School of Professional Psychology.
The purpose of this column is to invite reader questions related to psychological and emotional issues. It is not intended to diagnose but serves as an informal dialogue. Your identity will be protected.