Monday, May 17, 2010

The Fearful Flyer

Do you have travel plans this summer? Any fear of flying? If you do, you are not alone. Many people, especially since 9/11, are very nervous flyers. I know that I never had any issues about flying until I became a mother, at which point suddenly I was convinced I would die in a plane crash and orphan my child.
So what should you do? Well, there are many choices, but suffering in silence should not be one of them. First off, arm yourself with the facts that you are over thirty times more likely to have a fatal car accident than die in a plane crash. Most of the fear is not rational, however, so if the facts don't calm you, keep looking.
Plan ahead- create a diversion packet for yourself with an engaging book, music, or DVD. Get noise-canceling headphones (or at least good earplugs). It's amazing how when you can close your eyes and not hear the plane noises, you can relax much more easily.
Avoid stimulants like caffeine and decongestants- no need to ramp up your heart rate before you even get on the plane!
If you have the luxury of time before you travel, consider biofeedback, hypnosis, or meditation training.
What can your doctor do for you? We have several choices, actually. For long flights, I will frequently prescribe a "sleeping pill" such as Ambien or Lunesta. Some patients do very well with medicines that simply control your heart rate, such as metoprolol (a beta-blocker). Others with more intense anxiety respond well to a rapid and short acting sedative such as Xanax.
Bottom Line: Fear of flying is common- plan ahead and talk to your doctor if you would like to consider a medication to lesson your stress.

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