Suggestions for nervous flyer?

trianglejohnMarch 11, 2005

I have flown a lot, but as I get older my anxiety level gets higher and higher. To the point that I deliberately sabotage trip plans to get out of flying. I've seen a therapist for years, been trained at relaxation techniques, and have tried some over-the-counter hormones and meds to get through the last few flights (benadryl and Melatonin). I was wondering if any of you had experience with simple medications that you could recommend. My sister takes zannex and swears by it. Another friend gets a prescription for Valium and swears by that. I am relatively new to this city (and job) and haven't found a doctor yet and I'm not sure I will be able to get in and see one before my summer long distance flight (there seems to be a long waiting period to actually see a doctor).

Part of my problem is that I suffer from GERD and have a minor hiatal hernia - meaning that my stomach only creeps up into my esophagus if I roll over in my sleep and sleep on my stomach. My symptoms are not like normal heartburn, I hardly ever taste food or stomach acid. I just get real panicky and nervous and have difficulty getting comfortable (sitting is best). Most of it is in the background and I can ignore it - except when I have a to sit still for long periods of time. I sometimes get flash pains and a tingling sensation in my chest but mostly it is an overwhelming sense of dread. That something bad is just about to happen. All of this was explained by the last doctors I saw but that was far away and a while ago. Actually the situation has improved, but it will never go away. I would prefer to not drink teas or fluids because this would just make me have to use the bathroom on the plane (something I hate doing). I wouldn't mind just sleeping through the flight but I would hate to be groggy after I get there.

thanks for any help

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How about a couple of 'stiff drinks' before boarding the plane. Then after takeoff another. Then maybe you can sleep the rest of the flight or just have fun.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2005 at 1:24AM
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I would really try to get into a doctor for an anti-anxiety medicine like Ativan or Valium. You only need a small amount, and you only need to take it once - possibly twice during a long trip. I have several friends who never flew - they'd take trains to California (from Boston) - until they got Ativan. It makes a plane ride bearable for an anxious person.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2005 at 4:59PM
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alcahol will just dehydrate you, and act as a diuretic as well, making things worse, if the last thing you want to do is get up.

calling your old doctor and trying to arrange for a prescription (or samples?) might be the easiest way- a new doctor may not take your say-so (on the rare occasion I've changed Dr's, I've brought documentation of my few chronic conditions to forestall that)

I'm not a particularly nervous flier- but I can't get through a flight without a hedge of saline spray for my sinuses, a 'hydrosol' spray for the rest of me(water, essential oil, and a drop of dish soap works in a pinch, but I'm spoiled) and a set of headphones...and a bag of in-season fruit.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 11:33AM
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I have a few months before I fly so hopefully I can get something accomplished (may have to throw a royal hissy fit). I don't look like nor act like someone that would have this problem - it always surprises the people around me. And like I said, I've flown more than most people I know. It is strange to feel differently now than the way I was in my teens and twenties - those days I would hop a plane and fly around the world all by myself. Nowadays I can't even be a passenger in a fast car on a bumpy road (it's the bumpiness that causes the problem not the fear of death by airplane crash). But I have flown places and spent the entire week there uncomfortable and fearful and of course panicking about getting back on a plane to come home.

I don't drink so the martini isn't gonna happen - especially at sunrise.

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 2:44PM
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John, I used to LOVE to fly.... until I saw replay after replay after replay (on the news) of that plane tumbling wing over wing in the Iowa cornfield. I'd really prefer to NOT have to fly if I don't really have to. But if I did..... I would just do a lot of praying and doing my best to control my thoughts. A lot of anxiety is the result of the thought-life in our head. If we can master that, we can overcome the anxiety.

Best wishes to you,

    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 3:51PM
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Chinacat is correct - the last thing you'd want to do is drink, anyway. But do drink a lot of non-alcoholic beverages.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2005 at 8:19AM
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I'm not only a nervous flyer, I panic. I must fly from time to time and I take Ativan. It's whatever strength the smallest dose is and it works fine. I take one 20/30 minutes before boarding.
Good luck.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2005 at 11:54AM
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Nervous flyer here, too. I didn't used to be - when you're young you feel so invincible!

Things I do:

Usually take some Xanax 30 minutes before takeoff.

Think about how my husband takes 50 flights a year, and he's still here.

I found a very good online "fear of flying class" written by a pilot. It's really worth the time!

These all help, but I still find myself watching the flight attendants to see if they seem calm...haha.

Here is a link that might be useful: online fear of flying class

    Bookmark   March 19, 2005 at 9:03AM
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Weed30 - You're right about the number of flights that do land safely. As my brother pointed out, the overwhelming majority of planes on 9/11 landed safely.

I have to admit to being a bit weirded out when flying three days after 9/11, but then I thought about allowing myself to be confined to ground transport because of what these terrorists did, and realized that wasn't an option.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2005 at 1:05AM
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Oh, my. I don't think I could have flown 3 days after! Bravo !

Funny thing is, I am not afraid to fly in a helicopter, which is probably more risky. My brother flies one and I love going up. I guess I feel safe because he's the pilot...

    Bookmark   March 20, 2005 at 11:22AM
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A few months ago I was flying and there was a girl who obviously had never flown before who sat directly behind me. She was with someone who explained every sound and movement of the plane to her. I never noticed all the noises before when flying but I was quite anxious by the time we landed.

My dd is a very nervous flyer and she says drinking 2 glasses of wine before the flight helps her enough to be able to fly in peace.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2005 at 1:48PM
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I take Ativan. It's helped me make two trips to London, when I previously wouldn't get on plane.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 6:47PM
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Weed - I was in Ohio for my father's funeral and had to go back home to Boston. And I *hate* the train.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2005 at 9:49PM
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Finally broke down and went to the doctor. He said he could get me Valium. Is that Ativan?

My fear, or should I say IRRATIONAL FEAR isn't that the plane is gonna crash. It is that the flight is gonna be long and bumpy. I don't ride roller coasters for a reason. I also fear being the lone survivor scrambling around having to attend to everyone else's injuries - well that and having to fight off sharks (even if we're over land). All this creative thinking really gave my therapist a workout.

I have a stomach/esophagus problem that causes me to feel massively uncomfortable and ill-at-ease for days after being shaken or bounced. You know how when you're driving on a flat country road and your stomach heaves when you go over a little rise in the road. Well, afterwards my chest feels like the beginnings of a heart attack for days, sometimes an entire week. This is not fun. If it ever gets worse I will have to have surgery (hiatal hernia surgery). I am trying to modify my life to avoid surgery. So, I avoid bumpy roads and roller coasters.

My theory is that when we are younger we tolerate being a passenger better because we are used to not doing the driving. But as we age and gain experience (and car crash experience) we tolerate back seat travel less and less.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2005 at 1:33PM
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Ativan is lorazapam, and Valium is diazapam. All the "pams" (benzodiazepines) are anti-anxiety drugs.

I'm so glad to hear you got a prescription. It sounds as though your anxiety is pretty significant, and nothing seems to work as well as medication. And you only need one, maybe two, doses, so no issues with long-term use (though most people tolerate long-term use quite well).

I hope you take the maximum dose allowed by your doctor, and try to enjoy your trip. The Valium may make you a bit sleepy, but that's okay. At least you'll feel better than without it!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2005 at 9:27AM
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Yes, and thanks. In the past I have spent entire vacations paying attention to where the local hospital was because I just knew something was wrong with me and didn't wanna be too far away from medical professionals. Now that I know what it is and I am taking medicine to control it the best I can do is avoid being bumped around. It's a 10 hour flight from Raleigh to Anchorage - the return flight will be at night so sleeping through it won't cause any problems. Sleeping all day and then getting there in time for 19 hour days is gonna wreak havoc with the old sleep cycle but it shouldn't be that bad - at least I can go outside and pretend its daytime.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2005 at 2:27PM
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just smoke a lot of pot, and you'll be good to go!

    Bookmark   April 8, 2011 at 2:03PM
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