How to Deal With Claustrophobia on Flights

For many people, fear of flying has nothing to do with worrying about the airplane crashing. Rather, flying triggers claustrophobia, which is a fear of being trapped in small, enclosed places such as an airplane cabin. While claustrophobia is sometimes mild, it can be serious enough to cause severe panic attacks, including rapid heartbeat, nausea, sweating and light-headedness. Taking steps to feel more in control of the situation often helps alleviate fear of flying caused by claustrophobia.

Don't treat your claustrophobia with alcohol. Credit: Todd Arena/Hemera/Getty Images


Knowing what to expect helps you feel more in control and goes a long way toward alleviating concerns about claustrophobia. Most airlines have websites that show seating diagrams. Look at the diagrams and select your seat as soon as possible. Choose a seat where you feel most comfortable. You may prefer a seat in the front part of the plane so you can exit the plane quickly upon landing. Most people who suffer with claustrophobia prefer aisle seats, but some feel better in a window seat where they can see out.

Occupy Your Mind

Take a good book, magazine or crossword puzzle to occupy your mind and calm you during the flight. If you prefer not to read, take an MP3 player loaded with relaxing music or listen to an audio book. If the plane has an in-flight entertainment system, choose a lighthearted movie or comedy. Alternately, load a favorite movie on your laptop.

Breathing for Relaxation

Take a deep, slow breath through your nose, filling the bottom part of your lungs first and then the top. Concentrate on your breathing. When you breathe in, think to yourself, "I am." Finish the thought with "calm" as you exhale slowly. Imagine that your hands, shoulders and arms are loose and relaxed. Practice deep breathing whenever you begin to feel stressed or panicky.

Seek Help

Seek help if your claustrophobia is interfering with your life by preventing you from doing things you want to do. A trained counselor can teach you ways of facing your fear and dealing with it in a way that feels nonthreatening. A counselor also can teach you relaxation or meditation techniques. Discuss the matter with your physician If you think an anti-anxiety medication may be in order.

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