Fear of travel; whether by plane, car, ocean liner or train is not only a challenge for the person affected by it, but for those who are traveling with the person as well. There have been many cases in which a family member, for example, is at the airport and suddenly has an anxiety attack either before or after boarding the plane. So too, perhaps a vacation by car may cause distress for the driver who fears tunnels or bridges.
While the fear is real for the person experiencing it, the toll it exacts on family members can literally ruin a trip. There are ways in which the fear of travel can be alleviated. For example, those who have a fear of flying can be helped either through therapy or by simply visiting the airport a few times and watch the planes take off.
For more serious anxiety, there are groups available which deal with the fear of flying and literally teach people to overcome the fear by taking them on a parked plane and allow them to come to grips with the overwhelming fear that is within them.
For those who fear tunnels and bridges, there are also groups which help people overcome anxiety by driving with them through tunnels and over bridges, and teach breathing exercises and other methods to calm them.
Just as there are groups who help people overcome agoraphobia, which is the fear of being in open and public places, there are a myriad of groups which can offer hands-on therapy for those who suffer from anxiety and panic attacks associated with travel.
Ever since September 11th, there are a small minority of people who have been afraid to board a plane. This is understandable. There is a general anxiety among most people who fly. The problem is that when the anxiety overtakes one’s ability to enjoy life, such as taking a vacation; this is the time when intervention is needed.
Of course, in mild cases, taking a different route by car to a travel destination may be the answer. However, it is unlikely that one would be able to avoid a bridge or two. In this case, the best advice is to talk with those accompanying you; open the windows, breathe in the air, and realize that nothing will happen once you approach the bridge. Yes, you will feel anxious and you may even experience lightheadedness, but you’ll never faint, have a heart attack, or anything as dire as you imagine.
For traveling on a flight, the best course of action would be to talk about the fear if you can; breathe deeply, and focus on something other than what you are experiencing. Although it is easy to say, it is quite hard for the person affected. Remember, however, anxiety attacks do not last longer than five or ten minutes, even though it may seem longer. They do pass. The fight and flight symptom of the anxiety attack diminishes when the body no longer thinks it’s in danger.
Anticipating that something will happen can trigger a negative response. Take a short flight to another city. For example, a 30 minute flight from NY to Boston or DC. Drive with a friend or loved one and take a tunnel or a bridge. Do this a few times before the actual vacation. This can help you to overcome your fear of travel as well as dissipate the negative anticipation which sets off the anxiety thereafter.