Fear of flying: How to overcome the psychology and new technologies

Fear of flying
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Fear of flying is much more common than you can imagine. 13% of the population presents and an additional 14% say they suffer it, although it presents discomfort to climb by plane. There is no clear pattern that applies to these people: anyone can be afraid, for various reasons, and their way of coping is different. This fear may influence many aspects of our life, so it is important to try to find a solution to overcome it.

Avoid prolonged fear flying

When we fear something or situation we tend to avoid it. Sometimes it’s impossible not to get on a plane (more if you live on an island) and other behaviors appear: alcohol, tranquilizers, occupying a specific seat, only fly in good weather … The consequences of these behaviors can be very problematic.

But this fear has no solution?

“Overall”, according to the Dr. Carles Lupresti psychiatry, for all types of phobia integrating various psychological strategies are needed: systematic desensitization, imaginable exposure, psychology and especially in those agoraphobia cases associated with prudently use psychopharmacology as an instrument to approach the fear and convert flight exposure to something reasonably acceptable to allow the person connect with their feelings of fear and loss of control.

“Most importantly,” he continues is detected in a first interview who actually suffers from fear of flying and who are sufferers of agoraphobia undiagnosed. Courses overcoming phobias are effective only in the first case.

What does it consist of?

Fear of flying is manifested by unpleasant physical sensations (sweating, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, tremors, etc.), negative thoughts (“I’m having a panic attack,” “will lose control,” “going to die” etc.) and escape or avoidance behavior (drinking alcohol or tranquilizers to get on the plane, fly only in good weather or only in certain types of aircraft, or directly does not fly, choosing other means of transport if possible).

The consequences of fear of flying can be very important, especially if the failure to do so means not normally go by what vacation spots or not access according to what jobs.

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What kind of people affected by this issue?

We can all feel this fear. There is no disease or a symptom of any personal imbalance. It does not mean being a coward. Although it has flown frequently and normally, at some point in life unpleasant sensations experienced while traveling through the air and, sometimes, a persistent fear is triggered.

There is no specific profile of people who have more risk than others to exhibit this problem. In any case, all we know is that it affects slightly more women and people in general are nervous or prone to worry more easily.

An efficient, effective and efficient treatment

The Computer Assisted Fear of Flying Treatment (CAFFT) is a treatment program assisted by computer and developed by a research group at the UIB, in which is psychologist Joan Miquel Gelabert Mir. It is based on the exhibition, a procedure scientifically supported and that today is the treatment of choice for specific phobias. The rate of intervention protocol efficiency is 80% (a very high percentage compared to other treatments of other behavioral disorders).

Obviously, to succeed does not mean that the person enjoys the flight, but it can usually do, for example, without taking alcohol or sit in a particular seat. The program adapts to different contexts and languages ​​and applies to distance through Internet. Today it is offered in person at hospital and can be made ​​of semi-self-administered (with therapeutic support remotely via messaging) and self-administered via the Internet.

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The intervention protocol is formed by a set of sequences of images and sounds synchronized, representing an airplane flight, from ticket purchase to landing at the destination airport, to each and every one of the intermediate steps. The images and sounds are taken in natural conditions in different airports and airplanes inside in flight.

The aim is that the person is afraid to expose these images and sounds as if he/she was really living the flight situation and learns to control anxiety.

The program automatically sorts the sequences for each person based on the questionnaire responses of fear of flying (a test empirically validated by the research group of the UIB in 1995). It will also prompt the user feels discomfort during exposure and through responses controls the rate of exposure. Thus, the therapist’s role is limited to the support and treatment control. This enables the CAFFT applied over the Internet, performing the therapeutic contact through email, internal messaging or video conferencing systems.

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