Fear of Flying: Books and Audiobooks to Help You

July 6, 2009

In my previous post, I talked about some online resources that I used when working on overcoming my fear of flying. This post looks at some of the books and audiobooks I read, as well as some I saw reference to (but didn’t read).

Flying without Fear by Duane Brown

This book, brought to you by the self-help and psychology publishing house New Harbinger Publications has a sort of “industry-standard” feel. Although it’s 13 years old and published by a (relatively) small press, nothing else (obvious, at least) exists that has the same encompassing focus on all things aerophobic.

Brown takes the usual (for self-help fear-of-flying books) tack of explaining statistics, flight processes and physics, but doesn’t neglect what I believe to be the more core nuggets of the fear: physiological anxiety responses, sources of agglomerating fears that accrete onto the core flying phobia (claustrophobia, agoraphobia, panic attacks, to name a few) and coping mechanisms for these as framed for an airplane flight.

The book is well researched and thorough, if slightly dated. There are exercises and tools for planning your flight that many will find useful. Brown has a tendency occasionally to take on a fatherly, stern voice, especially when it comes to medicating for one’s flight (he’s not alone in this; web-based forums run by real pilots are rife with almost hyperbolic Reefer-madness-like dire warnings about mixing benzodiazepines and alcohol, but I digress), but as far as completeness goes, this book is the best I saw.

The fact that this small-press, aged guide is the most standout self-help book for overcoming the fear of flying is striking. As I was surprised by the relative lack of online resources for flying, I am also surprised at the dearth of published material specific to the subject.

Flying? No Fear! Conquer your Fear of Flying by Adrian Akers-Douglas and Dr. George Georgiou

This quick read (I got the Kindle edition) is lighthearted and silly, with goofy cartoon drawings and the occasional groan-worthy one-liner. Its snarky British slapstick helps take the formal, rigid aura out of air travel. Akers-Douglas’ book doesn’t bring an immense amount of new information to the table–his focus is primarily on blunting the scary edges of flight with explanations and statistics–but it’s a fun addition to a fearful flyer’s arsenal.

I found the long appendix section by Georgiou to be weird and out of place. Railing against conventional pharmacology and its supposed lack of clinically proven results, he goes on a vehement spree in which he swears undying love to the homeopathic Bach Remedies (specifically “Rescue Remedy”*) because, in part, it once resuscitated a chicken.

Fly without Fear: Guided Meditations for a Relaxed Flight by Krs Edstrom

This audiobook-cum-relaxation-guide is a series of themed tracks, integrating airport and airplane sounds, accompanied by Edstrom’s soothing, enveloping voice. Though her technique is not revolutionary, Edstrom’s positive, loving tone is uplifting. Without being able to point my finger at exactly why, I can say that I loved this audiobook.

The first track is possibly the most useful. A “practice flight,” it guides you through all stages of your day of flight, incorporating realistic sounds at key points to help you work on desensitization. Edstrom gently guides your focus to the physical manifestations of your fear and helps facilitate the release of tension and anxiety.

Pass Through Panic by Dr. Claire Weeks

In this audiobook, a series of original radio broadcasts from the wayback time, is adorable, Australian and vintage. Weeks occasionally digresses into spoken prose that is so sincere and charismatic that it sweeps the listener away.

Weeks was a groundbreaking psychologist who identified some of the notions about anxiety and panic disorders that we take for granted these days. Her noble, slightly posh accent hearkens back to earlier medical times, and her terminology is quaint, if dated. One of her other books, Hope and Help for Your Nerves, is so adorably titled I can hardly deal with it.

The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund J. Bourne

While this book, like Weeks’ work above, is not specifically keyed to flying at all, it is a must have for anyone suffering from specific phobias or panic disorders. If you suffer from fear or anxiety: go buy this book. Its exercises, explanations, planning tools and information are top notch.

I first got my hands on this book several years ago, and it is good enough that I am considering laying down some bucks to get the new edition.

The book covers sources of anxieties, types of anxiety and fear disorders (what you have might not be as obvious as you think), recovery plans, medication options, progressive relaxation and breathing exercises, tooling your thoughts, desensitization and quite a bit more. The most complete compendium of resources I have ever seen in one place.

If you have resources or books that you have found indispensable (or awful) for conquering fear of flying (or anxiety in general), please let me know by commenting or dropping me a line.

* Rescue Remedy, and other Bach Remedies, have consistently failed to perform better than a placebo in laboratory studies (source). I’m just saying.

One Comment

  1. These books are mostly based on three things: info on how flying works, relaxation exercises, and cognitive behavioral therapy techniques.

    How flying works helps, but is not enough to stop the automatic fear reactions that take place.

    Relaxation exercises, according to research, are helpful on the ground be useless for fear of flying.

    Cognitive behavioral therapy is word-based, or statement-based, thus far too slow to keep up with rapidly rising emotion. Emotion overrides the mental processes CBT depends upon.

    Much newer techniques have been developed and articles on these are free at http://www.fearofflying.com/wordpress/

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