Will Fear of Flying Hit New Heights?

"Fear of flying has to do with the fear of a plane crash, turbulence, something going wrong," Ross says. "It is the fear of being on a plane and feeling something is going to happen to you. With a phobia, a person's fear is really a fear of the fear."

For those with severe phobias, it doesn't matter whether the latest news involving an aircraft is positive or negative; the idea of flying will seem just as petrifying.

In fact, Seif says that out of the total number of people who seek treatment for some form of flying fear, he believes only a relatively small number -- perhaps 5 to 8 percent -- are legitimately concerned about something going wrong with the plane on which they are traveling. And for this group, frightening reports could reinforce their fears.

"These people will say they know that flying is much safer than other forms of transportation. They all know that in their heads," he says. "But they get so filled with fear at the idea of something going wrong that the figures really don't matter that much to them."

Seif adds that the reports could also have an effect on those who may not have a full-blown fear of flying -- but who might still feel weak in the knees during takeoff and landing.

"There are a bunch of people who are mildly fearful of flying," he says. "For these people, those of them who hear of these so-called close calls, it raises their anxiety by a notch."

Bringing Fears Down to Earth

For those who harbor flying fears, Ross says that a bit of perspective can often help make their experience as relaxing as possible.

"The first thing I would say is that flying is probably the safest mode of transportation available," she says. "If you take the number of people who die in plane crashes every year and compare it to many other causes of death, it is very minuscule."

Ross also recommends a few other tips to keep anxiety in check:

An alcoholic drink may be helpful in calming nerves. But throw back more than one, and you could be compounding the problem. Ross says that too much alcohol can make a flyer feel even more out of control of the situation, which could in turn make them much more nervous.

You might want to take it easy on the coffee as well. Too many caffeinated beverages can make you jittery and unable to relax.

When planning your trip, allow yourself enough time to get to the airport without having to rush. As Ross notes, "You don't want to add anxiety on to anxiety."

For more tips on conquering flight anxiety and other fears, check out the Anxiety Disorders Association of America Web site at www.adaa.org.

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