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I have a trauma-based phobia of planes and flying and I have to fly this week. It is about a 4 hour flight and I forked out extra to fly direct and to choose a window seat so I can keep the window covered.

It is many many fears put together.

1) I have multiple traumas involving planes and flying so it triggers my PTSD. This includes 9/11 as well as attachment trauma and things with my parents. Packing triggers me. The sight and sound and thought of planes makes me trigger and panic.

2) I am afraid of small spaces.

3) I am terrified of heights.

4) I am terrified of feeling trapped/not being able to move or escape.

5) I have a low threshold for sensory overwhelmed-ness and the noises and smells get to me.

I freak out taking off and landing. I freak if I see a window. I freak every time there is a noise or bump or change in altitude. I freak every time anybody moves in case it is a hijacking. I sit there and imagine hijackings and falling and dying and I start shaking and tearing up.

I react really badly to benzodiazepines. I usually use Seroquel but I will be hung over for days and I need to work the day after so I probably can't do that either.

Any thoughts on how I can get through this? My therapist is going to make me a soothing tape and give me something to take with me but apart from that I am sort of at a loss.

Looking up statistics and plane info hasn't helped at all. Last time I tried listening to music or TV but I was too panicky and hyper vigilant. I also get motion sick.

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I honestly don't have any tips. I can't go on planes because of my fear of heights. 

Are you traveling alone or with somebody? Maybe talking to someone during the flight will help. 


Sorry I can't be of any help. You're honestly brave going on that plane. I nearly had a panic attack when my boss suggested I fly, luckily I ended up not having to go. 

Edited by iaawal
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Alcohol? (not seriously but sort of serious?)


Belly breathing/triangle breathing? (make a triangle with your fingers, inhale up your left pointer for 4, exhale down your right pointer for four, wait for 4)


There is an abbreviated progressive muscle relaxation that sometimes helps me when I get really anxious:

-clench your hands and breath in for 4, out for 4, in for 4 out for 4

-count to 16 just normal breathing

-tighten your biceps so the curl up to your hands are up near your shoulders and breath in for 4, out for 4, in for 4 out for 4

-count to 16 just normal breathing

-repeat for bringing your shoulders up to your ears and breathe


-tighten all your leg muscles and breathe


-clench your feet like you did your hands and breathe (this one is annoying for me because I get a foot cramp reliably in my left foot)



Bring a washcloth and put some ice in it to have a cool wet thing for your face/back of neck


Pleasant, calming scent readily available on a cotton ball or gauze square in a small ziploc baggie in your pocket?

Gum or mints with a strong but pleasant flavor

Unscented or lightly scented lotion to rub into your hands (give yourself a hand massage without annoying the other passengers with the smell)


I wish I could mail you a Nugget clone. She's really, really helpful for flying.


Mostly these fall into one of the following categories that are kind of the "preferred hierarchy" for managing things that make us anxious:

1) Deal with it.

2) If you can't deal with it, distract from it

3) If you can't distract from it, deny it

4) If you can't deny it, dissociate from it 

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A small thing, but I have difficulty flying, and I discovered that wearing ear plugs helps a bit by masking the sound of the plane revving up before take off, which is a huge anxiety trigger for me. Also, if you can still choose seats or get them to move your seat, i've heard that seats near the wings tend to offer a smoother ride. Perhaps listening to meditation podcast, or some music that you find calming and grounding would help. Good luck with coping. I know how hard it is for me to fly, even without the associated trauma that you have.

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Re: the motion sickness, meclizine (OTC) works for me.  If you can get a prescription for Zofran from one of your DRs, even for only a few pills, you'll be golden ... that works SO WELL for me.  Especially the ODT kind.


I'm sorry I don't have any tips otherwise; I have a fear of airports so I won't go in an airport very easily.

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every word wooster said. mini-altoids. I hope those are sold where you are because they come in a tiny case and you could literally slip them in your pocket.


I had a lot of your fears too about flying most of my life. That was until I had a baby and I had to fly with a baby on my lap. Nothing distracted me more than baby. Who the hell knew i was on a plane, I had this 15 pound person wiggling all over the place. Ever since that one time, all other times of flying I've never been nervous.


I know you don't have a kid. And it may be hard to imagine. But that is what I have to offer. imagine 15 pounds of baby in your lap that you have to hold for 4 hours. Don't think about trying to keep the baby quiet...the baby is good. Just the constant wiggling. you can't let that baby fall on the floor!!


I will be thinking about you and hope for smooth flying,


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Do you guys have Moclobemide?  


I've read some interesting stuff about it being helpful for specific phobias and it's supposed to be really fast acting.  I'm agoraphobic so I ran across it while researching stuff related to that.  


You have benzos don't you?  Take a double dose and sleep through it if you can.


As far as motion sickness goes, the gf swears by meclizine.  


Everything woo said is most likely much more useful.

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Woo had some great suggestions.


i've heard that seats near the wings tend to offer a smoother ride



I don't know about a smoother ride, but it's certainly an extremely noisy one if you're stuck next to the wings because of the racket when the flaps go up and down during landing and take off.  I generally don't have any major issues with flying, but seeing and hearing the wings definitely gets to me.


I've flown many, many times, including extremely long international trips.  I also feel claustrophobic and find the best thing to ask for is an aisle seat, not a window one. In fact, I'd recommend trying to change your choice if you can.  That way you have space on one side of you, can get up and walk around, and have easy access to the toilet if you need it.  It can be mildly irritating to have the people next to you climb over your legs to get out, but it's worth the feeling of space.  On very long flights I tend to dope the crap out of myself and sleep through the night, but obviously you can't do that if yours is only 4 hours.


The best seats are at the emergency exit because there's more legroom.  You can try asking at the check in desk,  but in my experience they're more likely to put big guys in those seats.


Keeping you in my thoughts.


eta Please stay away from all those websites.


eta again: do you have a soft blanket that could fold up to fit in your hand luggage? When I'm in a panic situation I find it very comforting to have one of my fleecy blankets at hand.  It might also help because it would smell of home.

Edited by MiaB
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How do you deal with bus rides?

Flying is an exaggerated version of that. The key is to induce as much sensory deprivation as you can. So ear plugs for the noise (I use an ocean track - you could use a white noise track if you have one), and sunglasses (or one of those mask things - I don't much like them), and a blanket. Especially one with good associations.

I also use scent, because for some reason that works really well for me.


And then I chemically-induce a lot of sleepiness. Gravol, benedryl, nyquil, whatever. This gets more problematic when you will then have to deal with customs officials on the other end because then you have to be able to get out of the sleepiness quickly. 

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My husband has similar fears, and he uses Dramamine to calm himself down. He also has atenolol, which is a beta blocker his doctor gave him. Would your doc give you enough of that to get through your trip

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Someone also recently told me about acupressure bands for motion sickness.


He swears by them. Said you can find them at most pharmacies and travel stores.

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I asked Husband what else he's done that helped, and he said that learning a lot about airplanes, and particularly about the make and model of whatever plane he's going to be on, has helped with his anxiety.

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This might be a horrible idea, but it works for me in dealing with pain, and with medical stuff like needles.

I pay really close attention and focus on the sensations in a very detailed and conscious way.

If I were to apply that to flying (this is hypothetical - flying doesn't bother me) I would rest my hand on the armrest and intentionally feel the vibrations. What does it feel like when the front wheel lifts off the ground? Not how do you feel emotionally, the precise sensory inputs. Not trying to figure out whether it is happening the right way, that's somebody else's job. They charge big bucks for that and nobody's paying you to do it, so don't. What about the back wheels? Do they lift off together, or first one then the other? Just curious, I'm sure both options are fine. I bet you can tell just by the way the arm rest vibrates. Listen for the wheels to retract. And the covers to close. Write the experience (maybe just in your mind) down with exquisite detail. Nothing about the emotions, nothing about whether it indicates a problem, just the sensations.

Gearhead's idea works with this. If you can tie the sensations to things you learned (that thump - the left distal wing flap, 500 pounds of high quality aluminum moved by a hydraulic cylinder - yeah, I'm just making this up) that might help too. Stuff I know about is less scary.

I don't know. This could be a terribly wrong approach for you. But I used it for a colonoscopy a few months ago and the the experience was nowhere near as horrible as I expected.

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