Fear of Flying: Phobia Definition

The Fear of Flying (FOF) has psychological and physiological symptoms. It makes people avoid boarding planes. According to Clark and Rock (2016), this highly common phobia affects about 2.5-40 percent of the global population. These authors associate the misconceptions raised regarding aviophobia with inadequate research in the area of cognitive-behavioral anxiety disorders. They also identify fields such as mental imagery, safety-seeking, worry, and attention as insufficiently researched. Scientists have not managed to identify the underlying causes, although they believe it is related to general depression and anxiety cases. Hence, it is crucial to investigate its predisposing factors, possible triggers, symptoms, and treatment approach. This study then provides an annotated bibliography of all sources used.

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Predisposing Factors

The causes of flying phobia have been disputed since fear arises from a combination of different factors. According to van Gerwen and Koopmans (2018), anxiety and depression are important predisposing elements. From their study of 200 participants aged between 21 and 50 years, these researchers conclude that embracing adaptive strategies and avoiding counterproductive approaches to coping with aviophobia decrease the long-term relapse of flight anxiety. People experience nervousness, which can become depressive whenever they fly. However, others encounter extreme fear that may lead to flying avoidance (Mavromoustakos, Clark, & Rock, 2016).

The manner in which individuals use cognitive approaches to process different life-threatening stimuli elicits anxiety, which may lead to aviophobia. As Busscher and Spinhoven (2017) reveal, inadequate coping mechanisms, including self-blame, faulting others, cogitation, catastrophizing, and cognitive evasion, are its critical predisposing factors. They study these mechanisms in the pre-treatment stage and during the process of managing the situation using cognitive-behavioral approaches. Data was collected after two months, five months, and 41 months after the administration of therapy using a sample of 59 participants. Biological dispositions, poor information about flying experiences and their dangers, and stressful life encounters are additional risk factors.

Possible Triggers

Forces that cause fear are regarded as potential triggers of flying phobia. According to Mavromoustakos et al. (2016), causes of fear that have the highest probability of leading to FOF are contested. However, van Almen and van Gerwen (2013) identify the commotion associated with taking off and the landing of airplanes as stimuli that lead to aviophobia. These researchers measured the fear of flying among 9,166 participants using Flight Anxiety Modality and Miller Behavioral Styles Scale frameworks. Women participants reported higher FAM scores compared to men. Those with elevated levels of MBSS also scored high in FAM. People without past flight experiences reported higher FAM scores. The flying experience is characterized by loud noises and turbulence arising from changes in pressure, which may induce fear. People who are overexposed to news regarding plane crashes and terrorist hijackings develop negative perceptions of flying (van Almen & van Gerwen, 2013). Other triggers include acrophobia (the fear of heights), emetophobia (being afraid of vomiting), and claustrophobia, which refers to the apprehensiveness associated with being in enclosed spaces.


The symptoms of aviophobia vary among different people depending on the underlying causes. Physiological indicators and reactions include trembling, panicking, muscle tension, abdominal distress, faintness, chest soreness, vomiting, and intense breathing. Psychological signs range from pessimistic expectations and clouded opinions to impaired recollection of events (Busscher & Spinhoven, 2017). It is crucial to point out that both physiological and psychological signs are experienced when one is about to board a plane, in the journey process, or thinking about the flying experience.


The fear of flying can be managed through cognitive-behavioral therapy and the implementation of individual training programs that highlight issues associated with flying, such as turbulence and various flight sounds. Self-education lowers FOF levels among passengers because they are already equipped with knowledge concerning events that unfold while on the actual flight. This strategy is crucial for persons who have never used airplanes because they have higher flight anxiety modality (FAM) scores compared to those who have first-hand flying experience (van Almen & van Gerwen, 2013). According to Busscher and Spinhoven (2017), improving maladaptive cognitive strategies for coping with aviophobia entails a key approach to attaining positive outcomes after deploying cognitive-behavioral treatment methods. Other FOF management options include virtual reality programs, which stimulate one’s flight experience, and using anti-anxiety prescription such as Benzodiazepines (van Gerwen & Koopmans, 2018). Medicines and alcohol abuse are maladaptive treatment approaches. They are viewed as avoidance behaviors that do not enhance passengers’ coping abilities.


The fear of flying is a highly prevalent phobia whose negative effects include distress and other life interferences. Although processes, which can be implemented to deal with the underlying psychological and physiological problems, are not well understood, many aspects trigger FOF during a flight. Women are likely to suffer from this phobia, although affected persons experience reactions, irrespective of their gender. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been deployed as an effective FOF treatment method.

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Busscher, B., & Spinhoven, P. (2017). Cognitive coping as a mechanism of change in cognitive‐behavioral therapy for fear of flying: A longitudinal study with 3‐year follow‐up. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 73(9), 1064-1075.

Clark, G. I., & Rock, A. J. (2016). Processes contributing to the maintenance of flying phobia: A narrative review. Frontiers in Psychology, 7(754), 1-21.

Mavromoustakos, E., Clark, G. I., & Rock, A. J. (2016). Evaluating the perceived probability of threat-relevant outcomes and temporal orientation in flying phobia. PLoS ONE, 11(8), 1-14.

van Almen, K. L. M., & van Gerwen, L. J. (2013). Prevalence and behavioral styles of fear of flying. Aviation Psychology and Applied Human Factors, 3(1), 39-43.

van Gerwen, L. J., & Koopmans, T. A. (2018). Self-help treatment for fear of flying. Aeronautics And Aerospace Open Access Journal, 2(3), 184-189.

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