Fear of Flying or Vertigo

Discussion in 'OFF-Topic / Misc.' started by Geedee, Jul 3, 2009.

  1. Geedee

    Geedee Well-Known Member

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    I've got a question for you guys 'n' gals that I'm hoping with your experience and knowledge may be able to help me with

    Am I suffering the onset of a fear of flying or is it something simple like vertigo ?

    I’ve kept very quite about it for a long time, but my two flights last week have really brought home to me that something is not quite right.

    Now I love planes, and always have, but I first started to notice this ‘worry’ back when I lived in Cyprus back in 2000 / 2003 and used to ‘commute’ back and forth to the UK about three times a year. I would get very nervous when any turbulence was encountered, but still always managed to blag a window seat on the VC10 / Tristars.

    The fact that I could see the wings flexing and the engine pods moving around didn’t worry me too much.

    Fast forward to last week. The trip to Cyprus on the VC10 was magic…it seemed as though once we’d taken off, we didn’t alter course at all until we landed at Akrotiri and even though I couldn’t get a window seat it was quite a decent trip. I had an isle seat and could see outside. The return trip however was a different matter.

    Sat by a window, it got the stage that every time we hit turbulence, I had to look away (I even packed my MP3 away as I couldn’t listen to the music !) and anytime the wing dipped as we changed course, my blood would run ‘cold’ !. All I could think about was the recent loss of the Air France ‘Plane, and I was actually getting frightened. I kept thinking about the age of the plane I was flying in, and the stresses ...not that I am an engineer of any sort...imposed by up / down draughts and a whole host of other nasty things. I even found my self at one stage thinking about how long it would take to fall 36000 feet and looking for islands or a landmass that we could possibly glide to if the engines failed, so that at least we would all be found. I didn’t relax until we where down to about 1000 feet in the circuit getting ready to land.

    And then to cap it all, I watched a program on TV a few days ago where Top Gear presenter Richard May, blagged a backie in a U2 to get to the edge of space. I was OK until he filmed the altimeter showing a shade over 70000 feet then he panned the camera outside to show the curvature of the Earth. I’m sat in my front room on a comfy settee, with cold beer in one hand…and I had to look away !…I think my hand went colder the beer can it was holding.

    I have always had a fear of standing near cliff tops …keep thinking I’m either going to get blown over by a freak gust of wind or the cliff edge will crumble where I’m standing, and I do not like standing under overhangs…they’re going to fall on me when I stand underneath them…as if !

    I cant put my finger on what it is that’s causing this and its beginning to annoy me.

    I’m flying in 8 weeks and I’m beginning to get nervous about the flight. I am looking to get a center isle seat in the mid section of the 'plane and I have no intention of sleeping the night before so hopefully I will be too tired to notice anything. This is not right !.

    The stupid thing is, I’ve absolutely enjoyed my flights in Warbirds (B-17, Fuddy Duddy, B-25 Pacific Prowler, Stearman at Cavanaugh Flight Museum ) and they are even older birds than the Jets I use to get around in. Those Warbird flights are pure magic. I also do a lot of Flight Sim 'playing' and I dont get the same fear or apprehension. Is this because I am in control of what I am 'flying' in and its path through the air ?

    Is where my problem is, ie, i am not in control.

    Any observations / advice gratefully recieved.
     
  2. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    I would say if you don't like cliff sides and things like that, then there is a bit of a fear of heights. There could certainly be a lack of control, but that would also be true on a warbird when someone else is flying. But the difference is that you can see the cockpit and who is flying the planes in the warbird, where there is limited to no contact whatsoever with a flight crew on a commercial flight.

    When I first started flying in warbirds, it took some time to get used to turbulence, close formation flying (sometimes wing overlap! :shock:), and the creaks and moans of old airplanes. Did I get nervous? yes. Have I gotten used to it? yes. Do I sometimes still get spooked? Yes.

    I think it is fairly normal to be somewhat nervous and/or apprehensive when flying. As long as it doesn't become overwhelming or incapacitating, it is probably something that can be overcome. It may take a few flights with everything normal to get over. But as a precaution, you might want to get your ears checked. Sometimes, inner ear disturbances can cause disorientation and/or vertigo when the pressure changes, especially in airplanes. That can lead you to feel uneasy as well.

    One other thing to consider is that you may be sensitive to elevated levels of EMF (Electro-Magnetic Fields), which will be stronger in commercial aircraft than warbirds because of newer avionics, radar, etc. There are no medically recognized treatments for it. Considering EMF sensitivity is different for different people, it is something not well understood. But some suggest that taking antioxidants and increasing vitamin C, E and selenium can help to alleviate it a bit (I'm not a medical practitioner, so I am only going on what I have read and overheard from family conversations).

    Just my $.02
     
  3. trackend

    trackend Active Member

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    I still have a fear of heights Gary I hate climbing high ladders but Im ok on aircraft many years ago I was determined to overcome my fear of heights so i thought kill or cure and did a parachute jump from Biggin Hill I found out that in my case relating to height from a plane or parachute is totally different than when Im up a ladder. I was told by a climber freind its to do with vanishing points an object that is attached to the ground eg a ladder has a deffinate vanishing point that I could relate to were as an aircraft lacks this Im no head doctor and as I say my fear of ladders still persists despite an atempt at a parachute cure
    I susspect the guys on here Like Eric and co will shed more light on the subject than I can but you certainly have my sympathys mate
    Lee
     
  4. Geedee

    Geedee Well-Known Member

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    Thanks guys for your replies.

    I really need to get to grips with this as its beginning to annoy me.....its a bit like some-one wanting a top of the range Ferarri and being scared witless of going faster than 30MPH....bl**dy stupid !

    I'm booking in for a 'well man' checkup at the doc's so will have a chat about the ears side of things, hadnt thought of that perspective Eric, cheers.

    Checklist for the flight so far stands at dark...welding goggle dark !... sunglasses !, lack of sleep, a seat in the middle somewhere... and a few horse tranquilisers :lol:

    I'll be OK, I'm just not looking forward to it as much as I used to.
     
  5. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    I suffer from something similiar, although how it came about is much different.

    A number of years ago, I was poisoned by chemical exposure that devestated my system. To make a long story short, I have great difficulties with heights now and it's most likely associated with anxiety.

    I hate it, and it's taken years for me to will myself back to being "normal" (as if I ever was), but you know what I mean.

    It's hard to describe, but where I used to be able to hang over the side of a 3 storey building to repair a light fixture, I can't even climb an extension ladder now, without getting freaked out (cold sweats, heart pounding, mouth going dry...all that fun stuff). The chemical imbalance triggered something that makes me get anxious like mad...and I've been told that sometimes, as a person's system changes with age (oh yeah, it's inevitable), it can bring on symptoms of anxiety as well.

    The docs all wanted to load me down with meds, and I declined, figuring that I didn't need them before and I wasn't about to start. I just use brute-force mind over matter to beat that crap...it's not easy, but it works.
     
  6. trackend

    trackend Active Member

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    I got one of those next month
    I suspect he'll just stick a needle in my head and tell me its the kindest thing to do:rolleyes:
     
  7. Matt308

    Matt308 Glock Perfection
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    GrauGeist may have hit it on the head. I suffer from anxiety attacks that I attribute to leaving home and large crowds (e.g., airports/airplanes). It got so bad that I would literally find myself getting nauseated a week before I had to leave. The day I had to leave, I literally would make myself physically ill (sweats, puking, etc).

    I sympathize with you brother. Modern air travel sucks from the moment you leave your house. There is nothing even remotely fun about it. Flying isn't your problem I would suspect.
     
  8. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    I doubt that it is vertigo. I have experienced vertigo in mission flight one time. Pretty scary, but avoidable if you know what to do. It happened to me on a IFR flight, I should not have been staring at the cloud formations!
     
  9. BikerBabe

    BikerBabe Active Member

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    I'm watching and reading along, because it's a bit of a problem for me too.
    I don't mind (that much *snort*) to stand on a tall ladder as long as I've got someone to hold onto the ladder itself, or I can see the ground, but tall buildings makes me dizzy, and planes makes my fear of flying pop up.
    And fairground rides of the wilder kind can really make me sick because of me losing my sense of direction, which can really make me vomit and feel physically ill.

    The funny thing is, that when I was a kid, I went flying with my father in a tiny Cessna sports plane, and that was just fun and a cool, great experience.
    Later, when my ex and I had to fly from Stockholm and back home to Copenhagen a few years ago, I almost had to dig out my finger nails from the poor guy's thigh as we took off and went flying.
    The ironic thing is, that that as soon as we approached the airport (Kastrup), I relaxed and my fear was completely gone. *scratches head* And I know that takeoffs and landings are probably the most dangerous part of a flight, that's why I wonder abot my own reaction... ;)

    And now that I think about it, it might have something to do with the fact that I react really badly to stress and stressful situations, which is something I've been having problems with ever since 1993, where a lot of bad stuff happened in my life, and I went totally down with anxiety attacks and PTSD. (Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome)
    I got help and I live a normal life today, but as I mentioned, I react very badly to stress, so my thought is:
    If you're stressed, you might as well react because of that, in stressful situations like flying and getting on top of a ladder, or whatever might kick your fear of heights into Action-mode.
    That's the bad thing.
    The good thing is that something can be done about it, and you can get rid of that fear and/or stress, if that's your problem - ask a phys how he/she can help you, as I won't recommend a life dictated by fear. I've been there, it's no fun at all.

    So: Yes, I'm also afraid of flying, but if I get the chance I'd go flying, because I'm stubborn, temperamental and pig-headed enough not to let that %¤%¤ fear dictate my life! *growls*.
    I know I'll probably get the chance at the air show in Roskilde in august this year, so if I've got the money, I certainly wouldn't mind a ride in the danish DC-3 that sells rides that weekend - I know I'll probably be both terrified and exhilariated, but it would be something. O man, it would. :lol:
    But a helicopter? No way, it hasn't got any wings! :shock: :lol:

    Anyway: Thanks for starting this thread, there's a lot of good input here, of which I noticed that the advice of getting a physical check-up is a good thing, that's something I'd like to do - especially my ears and my sense of balance and direction, as I know that that can be a bit of a slight problem with me.
    Just ask my parents, who's been to the ER with me a lot of times when I was younger, because I was (- and is!) clumsy. :lol:

    I hope you get the right help to figure out what can be done, and how to get rid of your fear - life is so much better without too much fear. ;)
     
  10. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Yeah but you have a great chance of landing a helicopter if there are problems, because it has not wings. Instead you have those fast turning things on top called rotors! :lol:

    Seriously, I crewed them for 6 years and even had a dual engine failure on take off. Put the bird right down on the ground as if we were actually landing.
     
  11. BikerBabe

    BikerBabe Active Member

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    Thanks for the input Adler, but we're talking something very illogical here - feelings. ;)
    And the thing hasn't got any wings!!!! :shock: :shock: :shock:
    That's not natural!
    Me NO like!!!
    (Told you it was illogical, right? ;) )
     
  12. DerAdlerIstGelandet

    DerAdlerIstGelandet Der Crew Chief
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    Yeah but you have nothing to worry about. A helo is so ugly that it is repelled from the earth! :lol:
     
  13. BikerBabe

    BikerBabe Active Member

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    :lol: I'll accept that explanation as being just exactly as logical as my own. ;)
    But I still don't like helicopters...*glances sideways and very suspiciously at a low passing traffic helicopter in the danish evening sky*...*mutters*...no wings...*pout* :lol:
     
  14. GrauGeist

    GrauGeist Well-Known Member

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    lol BB...I'm with you there.

    I've logged countless hours in a wide range of fixed-wing aircraft in all conditions, and I'll take a fixed-wing over a rotary-wing any time...

    Nothing against you at all Adler, or any helo-driver for that matter...thier safety record speaks for themselves, but it's the "illusion" that there's no wings that makes me highly suspicious of 'em :lol:

    In all honesty, a person can be killed on a bicycle, so I know there's no real logic to it!
     
  15. BikerBabe

    BikerBabe Active Member

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    Hæhæh GG, to paraphrase you: I'm with you there. ;)
    And about logic:
    Fear is a feeling. Feelings has got their own logic, which has nothing to do with "brain"-logic.
    Or: That's how I see it. I hope you get what I mean, which is a little different from what I've written...or something. ;)
    In other words: Don't read what I write, read what I mean. :lol:
    *sigh*...christ, why does being a human being have to be so darned...illogical??? *broad grin*
     
  16. Maestro

    Maestro Active Member

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    I suffered the same kind of... erhm... sickness, back in my childhood. Each time I was standing on a cliff (or high balcony), I could feel my legs getting weak. It was only an illusion, but an unpleasant one.

    Plus, the fact that my mother never wanted me to climb on an airplane in a Grade 4 school trip (take off, fly around the airport and land, simple, right ?) didn't help...

    But I've always been interrested in warbirds which led me to also get interrested into commercial flights (although my knowledge on that side of flying is rather limited). I also watched a documentary about crash-landings and survival... which helped me to "whipe out" that fear... I took my first flight in September 2008, when I went to London. I never felt fear the whole time I was in the plane (a British Airways flight), although I felt a little anxious at the airport. Damn... I even felt asleep on my way back to Canada.

    Here are a few tips I can give you that I learned through the years... May be it will help you too.

    1 - Always fly with a company that you trust. (Keep in mind that your life is in the hands of the pilots/crew members.)

    2 - Never get on a plane that belongs to a company you can't spell the name of.

    3 - Get information on flight companies... I read somewhere that British Airways is the leader in safety with 0.52 accidents by 1,000,000 flights (the term "accident" here include all types of problems, going from a simple bolt that broke up to a complete crash), Swiss Air was also a close second in that study.

    4 - Sit as close as possible to an emergency exit. If you cannot get a seat in the row of seats where the emergency exit is located, try to get a seat in a row next to it. In that case, count the number of rows going from your seat to the closest exit with your hand (so you can find your way out if the airplane fills up with smoke).
    5 - Keep in mind that the safety belt is not a car belt... It doesn't open up the same way. Many peoples died in crashes because they forgot that simple fact and were trying to open it up "car-like".

    6 - If you crash on land, exit the plane by crawling on the ground. (It may sound stupid, but some peoples forget that smoke is lighter than air and accumulates near the roof.)

    7 - If you crash into the sea, inflate your life jacket once you are outside of the plane. (Once again it may sound stupid, but some peoples forget that once the life jacket is inflated, you float ! So if you're still in the plane, you're gonna be trapped and will drown like a rat.)

    8 - Always read the safety manual on the plane you are flying in ! Safety rules may change with companies.

    Now, if you follow those simple rules, I guess that your fear will desappear... Or at least you will be much less fearful in a plane.

    Hope it helps.
     
  17. Glider

    Glider Well-Known Member

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    #17 Glider, Jul 5, 2009
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2009
    It might sound daft but try and go for some flights in a Glider. For obvious reasons people get used to the idea that the loss of an engine isn't the end of the world and that turbulance can equal lift.

    If its an airline fly Qantas they have never ever lost a passanger, not since their first flight in 1921.

    PS I suffer from vertigo so there is no logic to it, none at all.
     
  18. evangilder

    evangilder "Shooter"
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    Vertigo is a strange phenomena. I haven't had it while flying, oddly enough, but had a week or so of it after the Northridge earthquake. I guess getting my brains rattled in the quake disrupted my equilibrium for a bit. It did resolve itself after a while and I even had the Dr check to make sure I didn't have something else going on. He said it was fairly normal for people after something like that to experience vertigo.

    So get your ears checked first, then try various things to desensitize yourself.
     
  19. Airframes

    Airframes Benevolens Magister

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    This is interesting Gary. A very good friend of mine used to fly, having a PPL. But now, if he wants to travel anywhere in Europe, he'll drive there, rather than fly, as he is terrified of flying! About a year ago, I took him back to the same Aero Club of which we had both been members, and got another friend to take him up in a Cherokee Arrow, sitting as P2.
    He came back with a big grin on his face!
    But since then, he's had to fly on commercial flights twice, the last time only two weeks ago, and the guy who accompanied him to Bulgaria had to get him p*ssed before he'd get on the aircraft! (He very nearly wasn't allowed to board!)
    When I asked him what the problem was, he told me he thinks it's because he's stuck in a sealed tube, with no escape, being pulled through the air at around 500 knots, with no control.
    So, lack of control could be one reason.
    But, the mention of ear problems also raises another possibility.
    I have been involved in flying, and parachuting, including high-altitude free fall, for nearly 40 years, and never had a problem, apart from the usual pre-jump nerves of course. I will admit though, that climbing onto say, the roof of the house to do some work would be a little nerve wracking, until I had been up there for a while, and got used to it. Then, about twelve years ago, before I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis, I had a minor road accident, when some numpty ran into the back of my car whilst I was stationary at some traffic lights. Very soon after, I began to experience slight balance problems, for example, when standing up quickly from a sitting position. A week or so later, I had to fly, coincidentally to Denmark. Not a problem, I thought, until we were airborne and over the North Sea.
    I always try to grab a window seat, so that I can get shots of cloud scapes, the ground and ocean, for possible inspiration for my paintings. On this occassion, I was taking some oblique shots of the cloud patterns on the sea, some 25,000 or 30,000 feet below, and all was fine, whilst looking through the viewfinder of the SLR camera I was using. But, the moment I lowered the camera, and looked directly at the same scene, I suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of insecurity. I was shocked, and had to look back into the cabin, when things returned to normal.
    Anyway, a similar thing happened on the return flight, so I went to see my doctor, and explained what had happened.
    After an examination, it turned out that I had suffered mild 'whiplash' injuries from the car accident, and this had caused some sort of inflammation, affecting the inner ear. The doctor reckoned this had caused a sense of imbalance, and assured me it would eventually pass. He was right, I've never experienced the feeling since, although my neck still 'cracks' occassionally - but that's either the RA, or age!
    So, it probably hasn't helped, but 'inner ear' imbalance, or lack of control, could be contributing factors to your 'problem' perhaps?
     
  20. Geedee

    Geedee Well-Known Member

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    Hi every-one and a huge vote of thanks for your input and ideas. I was in two minds as to whether to start this thread or not...didn't want to appear a Wus !.... but I'm glad that I did.

    I'm also touched, that it would appear from you own personal experiences that I'm not the only sufferer on these boards and I do appreciate you sharing what happened and how you overcame this problem.

    I don’t think its vertigo I get. Not enough symptoms as far as I can tell....unless there are stages for this ('Oh yes indeedy, he's suffering from stage 3 vertigo, just wait stage 4 kicks in...its a doozy !'). And I'm beginning to think its not a fear of flying, if it was, I'm not sure I'd be too keen to actually get the AC in the first place.

    Having gone over and over and over your replies, I'm beginning to think its mild anxiety attacks I'm getting, possibly from media hype and an overactive imagination. I say 'mild' but its still pretty intense when it happens. For example, when we hit turbulence and the ‘plane goes ‘thump’ and judders, I’m thinking that if the wings are flexing up and down due to the extra stresses placed on them that they’re going to fail because metal doesn’t bend !. Actually, that’s a load of ‘sphericals because I do know that its designed to !. And as for when we go around a corner…sitting on a long haul flight where the plane rarely changes course, I get used to the view from the windows staying the same in respect of the horizon. The second that horizon changes…then we’re going into a terminal spiral. Again totally irrational because I know that to change direction by even a few degrees, for want of a better description, you have to tip the plane in the direction you want to go.

    I’m going to mention my ‘worries’ when I get in for this well-man check-up and see what is suggested.

    And I’m going to give myself a stern talking to as well !.

    On the way into work this morning, I’ve decided that I will be getting a window seat for my flights in Sept and I will look out and down !

    Once again, thanks for your time and thoughts, all greatly received, taken on-board and appreciated.
     
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