Paralyzed by A Fear of Flying- One Mom’s Journey to Overcome Her Phobia

I can’t pinpoint exactly when I developed a fear of flying. I don’t remember the first time I became paralyzed with fear at the very thought of boarding a plane.  All I know is that the fear came on suddenly and  developed sometime after 9/11.  I  do, however, remember quite clearly the first time that I realized that I had a huge problem.

About eight years ago, my husband had to take a short trip to Las Vegas from LAX and invited me to join him.  I didn’t think much about it.  I simply bought a ticket and prepared myself for a few days of  relaxation and fun.  I packed my bags and jumped in the car to head to the airport.  Suddenly,  on the way there, a sick feeling came over me.  I tried to keep it together and managed through airport security and check in.  I started to believe that everything seemed fine and dismissed my uneasiness to normal post 9/11 airport nervousness- that is until I boarded the plane and had a full blown  panic attack.  It was absolutely embarrassing and dramatic.  I’m surprised I wasn’t escorted off the plain by an air marshal- it was that bad!

I wasn’t always afraid to fly.  In fact, I used to love to fly.  It seems like it was just yesterday that I was seven years old, sitting by a window and  actually enjoying the turbulence on what was to become an annual vacation to Mexico.  I flew for years without a problem.  My travels took me to Europe, Latin and South America. I can clearly remember the last flight I took without a problem. It was in August of 2001 and my husband and I took a memorable vacation to Disney World.  Unfortunately, it was to be the last enjoyable trip for us that involved an airplane.

Now, I am a mother of two and I’m worried that my fears are not only limiting our vacation options, they are setting a bad example to my children. My daughter is almost six years old and pays attention to everything I say and do, including my phobias.  I recently overheard her tell her cousin that she would love to return to Hawaii but is scared that if she boards a plane, it will crash.  It’s one of a mother’s worst fears- passing on her own insecurities and fears to her children.

I’m determined to nip this phobia in the bud.  I recently made the first step on my journey to overcoming my fear of flying by taking a free online course offered through  The course is a set of videos that guide you through different scenarios and situations.  I can’t say that it completely cured me or it is a miracle by any means, but taking it did help ease some of my fears.  It’s my first step.  I think the next step will be taking a short trip, perhaps to San Francisco or Las Vegas, and see how I handle things. That next step will definitely be a big one.

I know I’m not alone and I would love to hear from people who are in or have been in a similar situation.  Are any of you afraid to fly?  Have you overcome your fear of flying?  If so, what did you do to overcome it?

Aracely Worley is a mother of two and has called Orange County home for over a decade.  She loves the outdoors and discovering beautiful Southern California. As a self proclaimed Disney Geek, you will find her with children in tow on the Disney tram at least twice a week.  She is passionate about her love for the Southland is obsessed with exploring new places and sharing her knowledge of the area with others.  If she could be anyone for the day, it would definitely be Huell Howser.  You can read about her adventures at Daytripping Mom and Kids and Mice.

About the author

Sharlene Earnshaw is Trekaroo’s Editor in Chief. She lives in sunny Orange County, CA, with her husband and 10-year-old son and daughter (twins!). She is a self-proclaimed National Park junkie and has the goal of visiting each and every one with her kids. When she isn't traveling to places like Norway, Peru, Disney World, and Hawaii with her family, she enjoys hiking, beach days, obsessively rooting for the San Francisco 49ers, and planning her brood's next trip.
7 Responses
  1. It’s great that you are willing to face your fear for the sake of your daughter, you’ll gain some great experiences from it as well and once you’ve faced this fear I’m sure you’ll feel as though you can do anything.

  2. Although my fears haven’t reached the point of a panic attack yet, I have developed a fear of flying since I had my girls. I think it’s an over-extension of that sometimes irrational parental fear that you can’t always protect your kids.

    I make sure mu iPod has easily accessible calming music on it and tell myself that turbulence is just like bumps in the road. It also helps when I remember that the pilots really don’t want to crash the plane. (Silly, I know, but the realization did help.)

    I’m going to check out the videos you mentioned. Safe travels!

  3. Ann

    Wow, you sound just like me. I used to fly all of the time, I can’t say I ever really enjoyed it, but I’ve been flying since I was a little girl and a plane never stopped me from seeing Europe, the Caribbean and many others. Well, since 1996 I’ve developed an intense fear of flying and since 2003 I’ve stopped flying altogether. My husband and I took a trip to St. John that year and that was our last trip in a plane. I now have 11 month old twins and I’m thinking about how to do road trips with two little babies. I would love to be able to jump in a plane and get to our destination within just a few hours!! The last 7 years our vacations have consisted of road trips to Florida, New Orleans, Boston to visit family etc. My fear is completely holding me and my family back from experiencing everything that travel has to offer.

  4. Amy

    You are not alone. I am a mom of 2 boys who always loved to fly….after having my 2nd child, everything changed. I have never had a full blown panic attact on a plane, but the anxiety I’m filled with all the way until I land safe is horrible. No one on the plane knows I’m suffering. I keep it to myself. Trying to sleep the night before travel is impossible. Its even worse if I’m not traveling with my family. At this moment in time, that is the only way I can get myself on a plane…..with my husband and my boys.

    I live my life fairly normal in most other ways…..this is truly ruining my life. I love to travel, but am so scared of flying.
    I don’t mind being closed in. That doesn’t bother me at all. For me it is strictly a fear of dying. I know it’s crazy because i am very informed about airplane safety and how small the chances are. Especially compared to driving in a car everyday.
    Still knowing the statistics….the fear won’t go away.


  5. Amy and Ann I know exactly how you feel. Shortly after writing this post, I had the opportunity to overcome my fear through professional help. I never really thought about seeking professional help but I’m glad I did.
    My experience was taped for Oprah Winfrey’s all star show. here is a link to my experience.
    I hope you can also overcome this paralyzing fear. It really has limited my enjoyment of life, good luck!

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