Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Flying making people nervous

Although airfares throughout the United States have recently dipped to an all-time low, buyers for these tickets remain difficult to find because the fear of flying is in the air.

“There’s definitely more people afraid to fly after Sept. 11, but I think what people are experiencing today is actually a fear of terrorists rather than a fear of flying,” said Counseling and Consultation Services director Robert McGrath.

UW-Madison senior Libby Geist, who has flown three times since Sept. 11, said the number of people who are afraid to fly has increased.

“Whether people were afraid to fly before or not, I think now everyone has Sept. 11 on their mind and are more nervous,” she said. “I know that I am.”

However, long-term effects of fears stemming from tragic events such as the attacks on the World Trade Center are difficult to determine.

“A fear becomes a phobia when it starts to interfere with the person’s life,” McGrath said. “It’s often an absolutely irrational fear, but they just can’t do whatever it is.”

Those with phobias may know their fear is irrational, but still go to great lengths to avoid a fearful situation.

“I believe at some levels the fears people are currently experiencing will develop into phobias, meaning some people really won’t ever get on a plane again,” McGrath said. “But nine out of 10 probably will.”

Many therapists have developed treatments to keep phobias from disrupting peoples lives.

According to McGrath, the best way to deal with a fear of flying may be a general treatment called systematic desensitization.

“Systematic desensitization involves simulating the experience in their mind,” McGrath said. “For example, a person would envision themselves buying the ticket, walking through the airport, getting on the plane, etc. They need to think of themselves as perfectly relaxed the whole time.”

Due to the media’s constant coverage of plane crashes and often-graphic images, envisioning a safe plane trip may be a bit difficult.

“Another way to desensitize a fear is to use data to make the fear appear irrational,” McGrath said. “For example, you can show a person statistics on how much more dangerous it is to drive than to fly.”

Both of these methods are generalized and can be used to treat many different phobias.

“A therapist can help you do this, but you can also go through the steps on your own,” McGrath said.

Other common treatable phobias include spiders, heights and social phobias. Although the recent events have triggered a noticed apprehension related to flying, other fears may be attached to America’s current situation.

“In times like this, our general level of anxiety is increased,” McGrath said. “Of this anxiousness, some will be directed towards a fear of flying, but also our general level of fear may be enhanced throughout.”

When there is no obvious event to trigger a phobia, it may be difficult to determine where an intense avoidance behavior originates.

“People may develop fears or phobias from modeling,” McGrath said. “If a parent was afraid of mice, their child may simply learn to be afraid. Other people have different psycho-dynamic reasons for their phobias, and some are unexplained.”

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