Cases of flying phobia set to rise, say experts [New Straits Time (Malaysia)]
(New Straits Time (Malaysia) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) KUALA LUMPUR: Air accidents will contribute to a rise in pteromerhanophobia, or the fear of flying, experts said.
Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj, an associate professor and consultant psychiatrist with special interest in aviation psychiatry, said anticipatory anxiety exacerbated by the media coverage of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 increased the vulnerability of individuals.
"The 9/11 incident also saw a worldwide increase in people seeking help to overcome the fear of flying," said Dr Andrew from Perdana University Graduate School of Medicine.
He said the fear was an anxiety response that could include avoidance, increased heart rate, adrenalin release and panic attacks.
"Those affected would include first-time fliers. It may also be exacerbated in those who have related or underlying psychological problems, like depression, anxiety and phobias."
Dr Andrew said underlying fears included a fear of crashing, heights, confinement, instability and lack of control.
He said the phobia affected between 10 and 30 per cent of air travellers and caused some degree of turmoil in their personal and professional lives, hence, the need to seek treatment.
Cognitive behavioural therapy, he said, was a way of helping a person to identify the signs and symptoms of anxiety and panic, and overcome them.
"After that, cognitive restructuring is taught to help utilise logical thinking, which is combined with principles of flight and safety issues in aviation. Exposure to feared situations is also attempted, ideally, in actual flight, but sometimes under simulated conditions, such as the use of computer-assisted virtual reality exposure therapy."
Dr Andrew said for some, the fear was so overwhelming that it remained untreated as they avoided seeking professional help and even avoided flying. This was unfortunate because the success rate for treating a fear of flying was high.
HELP University's academic head of Master's in Counselling programme, Dr Anasuya Jegathevi Jegathesan, said the body could be controlled to limit fear responses.
"Breathing exercises should be done at the first sign of nervousness. Do not allow it to build. Inhale for six counts, hold your breath for four counts and exhale for six counts. You can mix this up with a minute of fast sharp breathes before going back to deep breathing.
"Tapping or self-massage can sooth nervousness. One area you can try is massaging the fleshy area between your thumb and forefinger."
Dr Anasuya said existential therapy might also be used to keep the mind focused.
"You can hold on to an icon, a small book, a chain or a picture. A reminder of something that lends a greater meaning to life may help with keeping the nerves in check," said Dr Anasuya, who is also director of AjjHeartTalk Counselling.
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said those affected by the incident were people who were not regular fliers and those who have fear of heights.
"It is a mind over matter game," he said, stressing on the need to condition our minds to overcome fear.
He said different modes of transport had risks and Malaysia Airlines was not solely to be blamed for the incident.
"Malaysia Airlines has a good safety record, which has been recognised internationally. This is an unpredictable and imponderable incident."
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