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Conquering a fear of flying by ‘retuning’ the brain’s ability to calm itself

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Fear of flying, or aviophobia, is an anxiety disorder. About 40 percent of the general population reports some fear of flying, and 2.5 percent have what is classified as a clinical phobia, one in which a person avoids flying or does so with significant distress.

[Former pilot Tom] Bunn has worked with fearful fliers since 1980 after becoming curious about the psychological and physical components that produced anxiety and panic in situations that he as a pilot knew to be safe.

Cognitive behavioral therapy, often used to treat anxiety and panic with measurable results, was helping people on the ground, they found, but left them vulnerable to feelings of panic in flight. Once panic starts, “cognitive ability is fried,” Bunn said. Stress hormones and a fight or flight response take over.

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Bunn said that people can “retune” their ability to calm themselves before panic escalates, relying on unconscious or procedural memory, the kind used to ride a bike. He offers exercises that are simple, but require practice, conditioning the body to respond to triggers (turbulence, for example) with less alarm.

Read full, original post: Lots of Americans have a fear of flying. There are ways to overcome the anxiety disorder.

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