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What do nervous flyers do to fly?


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I have never flown before and honestly can't see myself every flying. It's a super duper phobia with me. We sail from NJ because we live here which is great, we have great ships and cool itineraries but of course limited. 

I really want to take an Alaskan cruise but that would be quite the flight to Seattle. I read Xanax is prescribed to nervous flyers but I think I might just be the worst nervous flyer. Will Xanax knock me the heck out completely like I had no clue what is going on and thus don't care? This would be a long flights so it would have to last 6 hours or so. 

Any advice? What do you do from experience?

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I'm so sorry - a phobia can be frustrating to deal with if it gets in the way of something we want to do!

I'd start with breaking down what exactly you are nervous about.  Is it the plane in the air?  Is it the small spaces?  Is it being out of control?  Knocking yourself out completely once you're on the plane is only helpful if none of the pre-seat stuff bothers you.  There are podcasts and you tube videos you can search that offer meditations for nervous flyers.  Maybe you would find these helpful.  If it's an information issue, you can watch videos of someone going through all the steps of boarding and sitting on a plane.  If it's general nerves, maybe meds to take the edge off without actually rendering you insensible would be the answer.

Of course, throwing money at the situation might help too.  A flight across country is always going to be more pleasant in the front of the plane.  

I hope you are able to find something that works for you!

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15 minutes ago, RCIfan1912 said:

I have never flown before and honestly can't see myself every flying. It's a super duper phobia with me. We sail from NJ because we live here which is great, we have great ships and cool itineraries but of course limited. 

I really want to take an Alaskan cruise but that would be quite the flight to Seattle. I read Xanax is prescribed to nervous flyers but I think I might just be the worst nervous flyer. Will Xanax knock me the heck out completely like I had no clue what is going on and thus don't care? This would be a long flights so it would have to last 6 hours or so. 

Any advice? What do you do from experience?

Being in NJ, I might suggest taking a long weekend trip somewhere you can take a short flight then easily take the train back home (Boston, DC, Pittsburgh, Niagra Falls).  At least you're not committed to six hours out AND six hours back home that way. If it turns out flying is tolerable to you, go ahead and take the plunge.  If not, at least you were only on a plane for an hour or 2 vs. 12.  As a bonus for you, despite being so close, EWR, JFK and PHL offer some of those flights on some larger narrow-bodies vs. regional jets as some novice flyers don't love being on small planes.  No matter what you decide, good luck!

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If you go the medication route, try a dose before you fly to see how you handle it. It can make you more miserable during and after the flight.

 

Distractions are your best bet. Load up your favorite phone/tablet with lots of shows/movies. The minute you sit in your seat, start watching.

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37 minutes ago, fa-li said:

I'm so sorry - a phobia can be frustrating to deal with if it gets in the way of something we want to do!

I'd start with breaking down what exactly you are nervous about.  Is it the plane in the air?  Is it the small spaces?  Is it being out of control?  Knocking yourself out completely once you're on the plane is only helpful if none of the pre-seat stuff bothers you.  There are podcasts and you tube videos you can search that offer meditations for nervous flyers.  Maybe you would find these helpful.  If it's an information issue, you can watch videos of someone going through all the steps of boarding and sitting on a plane.  If it's general nerves, maybe meds to take the edge off without actually rendering you insensible would be the answer.

Of course, throwing money at the situation might help too.  A flight across country is always going to be more pleasant in the front of the plane.  

I hope you are able to find something that works for you!

It's mostly the being stuck in a small space and the thought of not being able to just step out any time. But I LOVE taking the train which you can't just step out whenever you like? I obviously LOVE cruises and can't just step out anytime I like. And here is the cruise kicker, I love the feeling of isolation on a cruise, out in the middle of the ocean. Of I love it surrounded be all this awesome technology, fun, food, people, entertainment. Of course the largeness of an Oasis ship makes it easier to take than a plane. 

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I had a doctor prescribe meds for a brief anxiety I developed about flying.  The pill itself didn't do too much.  But once I had a drink with it the anxiousness completely disappeared.  I would absolutely recommend going that route rather than miss out on something I really wanted to experience.  Just my two cents.  

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1 hour ago, Hutcherl said:

I had a doctor prescribe meds for a brief anxiety I developed about flying.  The pill itself didn't do too much.  But once I had a drink with it the anxiousness completely disappeared.  I would absolutely recommend going that route rather than miss out on something I really wanted to experience.  Just my two cents.  

I would never suggest drinking on anxiety meds.  Really NOT a good idea.  I am severely claustrophobic.  Tried to put me in an MRI tube and I started screaming like a banshee before I was in past my chest.  I cannot handle the feeling of being trapped, open MRI’s only.  Many airports have programs for fearful flyers to introduce you to what you can expect.  Then, as suggested, a short flight perhaps.  I didn’t like to fly, never got sick but queasy the whole time.  Then my beloved daughter moved from CT to FL and I had to fly to see her.  Now I fly like a champ!

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59 minutes ago, Pattycruise said:

I agree to take a practice run with the Xanax and to keep busy.  Would you be flying with people who are experienced?  They could explain any little noise you might hear.  Also I’ve read sitting over the wing or more forward in a plane is less “motion”.  

Yes, I told be flying with experienced or at not nervous at all flyers. I'm more worried about having a panic attack and the next through ya know a air martial is tasing me 🤣 federal crime follows. 

I think overall it's the claustrophobic part that is most scary. If I could get what they give me at the dentist. It's called conscious sedation or twilight sedation. Man on that I don't give a crap about anything. 

 

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Hmm. Are you claustrophobic on a bus or train?  I would almost equate an airplane with those.  In fact an airplane feels more open to me than a bus. 
I suffer from claustrophobia, like mentioned, the MRI does me in.  I had one bad experience which made it worse.  I take the Xanax.  It really helped me.  I find singing to myself in the MRI or counting, really helps me.  If they could find a way to play me a movie or TV show I’d totally have my mind occupied and not focus on my situation.

consider also packing ginger chews/candy in case you feel a little motion sickness.  It works wonders.

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2 hours ago, RCIfan1912 said:

Yes, I told be flying with experienced or at not nervous at all flyers. I'm more worried about having a panic attack and the next through ya know a air martial is tasing me 🤣 federal crime follows. 

I think overall it's the claustrophobic part that is most scary. If I could get what they give me at the dentist. It's called conscious sedation or twilight sedation. Man on that I don't give a crap about anything. 

 

I fly a lot both for work it comes with the job and vacation one of the perks of the job.  I will say the back end of an aircraft definitely feels more claustrophobic than the front and the longer the aircraft is or the larger the aircraft is the more you feel back end of the aircraft moving and that is because the vertical stabilizer is doing its job keeping the nose on track.  For those two reasons I would advise you avoid anything behind the wings on an aircraft.  If you really want to do an Alaskan cruise my suggestion would be this book a short flight but not on an RJ (regional jet) instead on a mainline narrowbody because you will be on a mainline narrowbody perhaps maybe even a widebody aircraft flying from the Northeast to Alaska.  But more importantly regional jets have a totally different feel than a regular mainline jet. From NYC or NJ I would book a flight to perhaps Boston I believe most airlines are back to flying mainline jets on EWR-BOS and JFK-BOS routes on weekdays and the flight is around an a hour.  

 

Avoiding the back of the airplane also means you will have to pay more money and I'm not talking about first class although that is an option for you.  I'm talking about EconomyPlus, Comfort+, or whatever other airlines are calling it now days. You get more leg room in those sections and you are close to the exit so you don't feel so trapped.  Another thing I think helps with the feeling of being trapped is seat location meaning aisle or window.  I personally like the window I like looking outside for most if not the entire flight, some people prefer the aisle.  What I would advise you avoid at all cost even in EconomyPlus or Comfort+ are middle seats because they tend to increase the feeling of being trapped. 

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2 hours ago, Pattycruise said:

Hmm. Are you claustrophobic on a bus or train?  I would almost equate an airplane with those.  In fact an airplane feels more open to me than a bus. 
I suffer from claustrophobia, like mentioned, the MRI does me in.  I had one bad experience which made it worse.  I take the Xanax.  It really helped me.  I find singing to myself in the MRI or counting, really helps me.  If they could find a way to play me a movie or TV show I’d totally have my mind occupied and not focus on my situation.

consider also packing ginger chews/candy in case you feel a little motion sickness.  It works wonders.

You so need to try an open MRI. It’s like a hamburger bun with you in the middle.  There’s enough space between the top & bottom that you can breathe and it's open all the way around.  A life saver for me!

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I am a nervous flyer, I hate flying, but before COVID I did it a couple of times a year for trips with the family. On a trip to Hawaii (our longest) I did get my doctor to prescribe me two Xanax. I took one on the way, one on the way back. It did just make me feel like everything was fine, no reason to worry, and very sleepy. On shorter flights I will generally get on board, shut my eyes, pray, and think happy thoughts. I wish I had more helpful advice, but I don't. Fear of flying sucks. I hope you can figure out a way to make it happen, Alaska was a beautiful cruise.

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1 hour ago, Pooch said:

You so need to try an open MRI. It’s like a hamburger bun with you in the middle.  There’s enough space between the top & bottom that you can breathe and it's open all the way around.  A life saver for me!

I’ve not been offered such a pleasure for my breast biopsies.  My hospital doesn’t have one.  This is a special kind of hell, face down and viced. I’m glad they updated their machine and got rid of the periscope feature where you can see the room,from face down. Very disorienting.  However the new machine is apparently for shorter people, nearly squished my toes when they pulled me out. Ever try to move your legs while face down  in a vice screaming “my feet, my feet” and trying to free them? Xanax is my friend now for this special hades. They want me back and I’m ready to ask for anesthesia, which I know they won’t do. 

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I'm a very nervous flier and I took meds for a few years before giving them up.

I took various derivatives of Xanax. I found I felt indifferent as opposed to scared. Some of the meds would also leave me quite tired and I'd find myself kind of blacking out. I was coherent and with it, but after the flight I'd have memory gaps of what happened. This isn't a bad thing, but my wife needed me to be helpful on a flight and not a vegetable, so I had to give it up.

I'm still scared, but what's helped me is reminding myself how this flight was completed safely yesterday, the day before that, the month before that, et al.

I hate that I'm so nervous (especially on takeoff), but I promised myself I wouldn't let it stop me. I may not enjoy it, but I can deal with it if it allows me to go to places like Alaska because of how amazing these places are.  

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When i was 15 i was in a glider that almost crashed into a building, it took me another 15 yrs after that to get back up in the air and i hated it!!!

Being honest i had to be half cut before boarding and only did short flights of about 2 hrs max to Paris. 

However i had to bite the bullet and do long haul and take family to Orlando for a vacation. Hated Orlando but best thing i did was a long haul flight! Wish i had done it sooner because being in the air for a longer period of time about 8hrs helped me more than just being up 2. 

Also the more you do it, the more you become accustomed to it, now i can't wait to fly off somewhere new.

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What works for my wife is squeezing my hand/arm hard enough to leave bruises and draw blood with her fingernails

All kidding aside, she is in absolute terror during take off and landings.   I’m not quite sure how she manages to find the courage to fly, but she does.  While I can’t say I understand the fear, I can see it in her eyes and I know there is nothing I can say to take it away….I worked on jets in the military, but she doesn’t care at all when I explain what’s going on.  I’ve learned that all I can do is be there for her.

I hope you are able to find a way to conquer the fear.  I know it’s a tangible thing.

 

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I don't know if it would help you in your particular situation, but sometimes it helps to talk with someone knowledgable about the situation, i.e. a pilot. I've talked to several people about their fear of flying from a pilot's perspective, and I like to think it helped them somewhat.

Full disclosure, I am a pilot and also have an overwhelming fear of heights and roller coasters.

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And the thing that drives me crazy is I'm a statistics guy. Thousands of plans take off every hour, millions of plans take off every day and all make it their destination without incident. Why do the few crashes ruin it for me? Why am I obsessed with the show "Air disasters" and that ruins it for me, I don't know. ☹️

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20 minutes ago, RCIfan1912 said:

And the thing that drives me crazy is I'm a statistics guy. Thousands of plans take off every hour, millions of plans take off every day and all make it their destination without incident. Why do the few crashes ruin it for me? Why am I obsessed with the show "Air disasters" and that ruins it for me, I don't know. ☹️

This is me walking around in a strange city.....they could have had 40 years of low crime but all I can remember is the news story from 1978 about a random assault.

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To all the folks mentioning using pills - just please be careful. While it's exceedingly rare, there are times when evacuation is necessary, and being on certain meds/pills/drugs can definitely hamper this and cause issue to yourself and those around you. 

48 minutes ago, Auto said:

I don't know if it would help you in your particular situation, but sometimes it helps to talk with someone knowledgable about the situation, i.e. a pilot. I've talked to several people about their fear of flying from a pilot's perspective, and I like to think it helped them somewhat.

Full disclosure, I am a pilot and also have an overwhelming fear of heights and roller coasters.

I am an aerospace engineer who is also a private pilot. I have had many conversations with people who were clearly nervous flying, and have said that my explanations have helped. I really do try to hammer home the point that we spend years and years (literally) designing and testing new aircraft, as well as creating incredibly sophisticated and all-encompassing maintenance routines. Sure, we're not perfect, but one look at the number of commercial aviation deaths in the developed world over the last 20-30 years goes to show that it works pretty damn well. 

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Phobias... They can be tough to deal with, and even tougher to explain.

Since I don't play a TV Doctor, I will not prescribe any cures, but, I have seen first-hand the effects of some phobias.  One in particular, claustrophobia.  A fellow worker had an aversion to close spaces.  He thought he could handle working inside a confined space vessel, until he couldn't.  When he decided to escape, had anybody been in his way they would have been hurt.

My point... When a feller thinks he has his phobia under control, but he really doesn't, it can be disastrous.  A person better know for sure he's able to handle being in an airplane.  There can be very little experimenting.  Once the plane is away from the gate, it would be very difficult to escape. 

Another thing.  Folks that can't imagine a phobia of any given thing can be very detrimental to phobic folks around them.  A close relative to remain nameless, has a couple phobias.  It's sad how many people thru the years have ridiculed this person, and even attempted pushing this person towards the things this person  fears.

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You could go the cruise route - cruise through the Panama Canal to the west coast. 😉 Voila, no plane! 

All kidding aside, I was terrified as a child, especially because I would always vomit while landing. Learning controlled breathing helped a TON. I also like the other suggestions about taking a plane tour, shorter flight, etc. to build your confidence. Good luck! 

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23 hours ago, RCIfan1912 said:

I have never flown before and honestly can't see myself every flying. It's a super duper phobia with me. We sail from NJ because we live here which is great, we have great ships and cool itineraries but of course limited. 

I really want to take an Alaskan cruise but that would be quite the flight to Seattle. I read Xanax is prescribed to nervous flyers but I think I might just be the worst nervous flyer. Will Xanax knock me the heck out completely like I had no clue what is going on and thus don't care? This would be a long flights so it would have to last 6 hours or so. 

Any advice? What do you do from experience?

Hi, I live in NJ as well and I am terrified of flying. I went over 10 years without getting on a plane. I take Xanax and it helps. I find that I need it more beforehand then actually on the plane. Definitely try out any medication before you get on a plane as you never know how it will effect you. I recently booked an Alaskan Cruise and I have to fly to Vancouver and home from Alaska. Not gonna lie, I'm low key freaking out about that part. I fly to Florida once a year to visit relatives but this will be something else.

I follow this guy on Youtube, he's a United pilot based out of Newark! I really like this video as it helps explain different things. 

 

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3 hours ago, RCIfan1912 said:

And the thing that drives me crazy is I'm a statistics guy. Thousands of plans take off every hour, millions of plans take off every day and all make it their destination without incident. Why do the few crashes ruin it for me? Why am I obsessed with the show "Air disasters" and that ruins it for me, I don't know. ☹️

That's what makes it an irrational fear. It drives me nuts too, especially when I have zero concern driving on the highway and the amount of fatalities on the roads every day.

 

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I am claustrophobic too. This phobia gets worse as you get older I hear. With me it's true. Things I never cared about, all of a sudden is an issue. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is effective, but in the short term medication may be the only thing that prevents a panic attack if that is what you fear may happen. 

Flying doesn't bother me as much but the irrational fear can pop up anywhere and that's what we need to quell.  So if i focus on that fear, it will get worse.

Distraction and breathing exercises is what you need to practice when the fear enters your thoughts. 

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I once got my watch safety chain caught in the clasp & could not get it off.  I clawed my wrist bloody.  Hubby had to pin my arm down to get it off!  Got the zipper stuck on a ski jacket and could not get it over my head.  Took a pair of scissors to it.  Beyond unreasonable!!!

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On 9/25/2022 at 10:32 PM, Pooch said:

I would never suggest drinking on anxiety meds.  Really NOT a good idea.  I am severely claustrophobic.  Tried to put me in an MRI tube and I started screaming like a banshee before I was in past my chest.  I cannot handle the feeling of being trapped, open MRI’s only.  Many airports have programs for fearful flyers to introduce you to what you can expect.  Then, as suggested, a short flight perhaps.  I didn’t like to fly, never got sick but queasy the whole time.  Then my beloved daughter moved from CT to FL and I had to fly to see her.  Now I fly like a champ!

Herein lies the answer. 

Feel that fear and do it anyway.  

The fear of flying is worse than flying. 

 

I'm in the same situation, and my attitude is "I fly or die".  I've got two kids wanting a holiday, if that's not worth dying for then I don't know what is.  My personal 'comfort' isn't a reason to stop doing things.  It's hard, the worst, terrible, but it's not fatal, it's not a real fear, it's not a lion, it's a sky-train, and Xanax or drinking will help (in the short term).  Long term, if you mask your fear it will be there every time, so it's the same fight/fear cycle.  

 

It can only be a fear of two things

 

(A) crashing

(B) enclosed spaces

 

I dont fear crashing.  It's almost unheard of these days. 

 

I fear a panic attack in an enclosed space.  And I know it's stupid.  It's a panic attack, it'll pass.  7-11 breathing will stop it even becoming a panic attack. Even if it was a full blown panic attack, it'll pass, and I'm not in danger. It's adrenaline being pumped without a good reason, and your body can only pump it for so long before resting. 

 

you've got this. 

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2 hours ago, D Alt said:

you should also research herbal supplements or alternatives to Xanax.

here's one article from Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/generalized-anxiety-disorder/expert-answers/herbal-treatment-for-anxiety/faq-20057945

Nope. 

Aside from narcotics, they aren't strong enough to remove the very powerful feelings experienced.  Meds can work very well.  Herbals may take an edge off for normal slightly anxious flyers, but not properly petrified flyers. 

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2 hours ago, D Alt said:

I am claustrophobic too. This phobia gets worse as you get older I hear. With me it's true. Things I never cared about, all of a sudden is an issue. 

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is effective, but in the short term medication may be the only thing that prevents a panic attack if that is what you fear may happen. 

Flying doesn't bother me as much but the irrational fear can pop up anywhere and that's what we need to quell.  So if i focus on that fear, it will get worse.

Distraction and breathing exercises is what you need to practice when the fear enters your thoughts. 

 Breath out for a count of 7, breath in for a count of 11.  

That's regulating your breathing.  If you control your breathing then you control fear full stop. 

 

Alternatively, have a panic attack.  It's not fatal, it feels very scary but it's weak, it can't harm you and it will pass. 

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