We have all heard the tragic news of the AirAsia flight, the missing Malaysia Airlines plane, the flight MH17 horror, and most recently the small plane crash in Kentucky that left a lone seven-year-old survivor. The past year has been a disastrous one for flight safety advocates, making it no surprise that roughly 20 million people suffer from aviophobia (the fear of flying).
Aviophobia is an anxiety disorder that is marked by an increase in heart rate, overwhelming stress, nervousness and avoidance of flying or airplanes all together. Many adults with aviophobia choose to self-medicate using alcohol or prescription medications to relax their fear of flying high. Phobias like aviophobia are often complicated to move past because the many components that form this fear, including fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia), fear of crowds (agoraphobia), fear of heights (acrophobia) and an overall lack of control. However despite the fact you may reach 30,000 feet in the air while jetting across country, air travel remains the second safest form of travel, right behind taking the escalator.
For those like my sister, who are brought to tears every time a plane takes off, the irrational fear of flying may be best managed through the art of distraction. And of course what is more distracting to us than our smart phones? With more relaxed cell phone restrictions on flights, phone companies like Apple and Samsung have finally created an app that aims to reduce our in-flight anxiety; in fact, there are quite a few apps for that. These smartphone apps, including SOAR and VALK Flight, use therapeutic intervention such as cognitive behavioral therapy, distracting games and educating users on the facts of flying and what to expect during takeoff and landing.
Even though air travel is safer than driving, biking or walking, approximately 6.5 percent of the population suffers from aviophobia. And as long as every flight crash, scare or minor incident continues to make front-page news, that statistic is likely to stay. But that doesn’t mean you have to give up family vacations, business trips or romantic getaways, instead try turning off the news and turning on your smartphone.