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Turbulence triggers aerophobia spike in Singapore

Aerophobia, also known as a fear of flying, impacts approximately five per cent of the overall population. It can manifest in various ways, such as causing headaches, nausea, heart palpitations, and sweating.

News Arena Network - Singapore - UPDATED: June 7, 2024, 09:26 PM - 4 mins read

Turbulence triggers aerophobia spike in Singapore

Turbulence triggers aerophobia spike in Singapore

File Photo


After a recent incident involving severe turbulence on a Singapore Airlines flight over the Irrawaddy Basin in Myanmar, more individuals in Singapore are actively seeking treatment for aerophobia, also known as the fear of flying.

 

Aerophobia can manifest as anything from mild uneasiness to intense panic attacks triggered by the mere thought or prospect of flying, as reported by Channel News Asia on Friday.

 

The report noted that despite aviation experts' emphasis on air travel safety, certain service providers have observed an increase in the number of people seeking assistance to overcome this fear.

 

On May 21, SQ321, travelling from London to Singapore, faced severe turbulence. The Boeing 777-300ER, carrying 211 passengers and a crew of 18, was forced to make an emergency landing at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport.

 

One passenger – a 73-year-old British man – died, and dozens were injured, some of them seriously.

 

In a recent interview with the channel, passengers on SQ321 recounted a terrifying experience. Some of them were not wearing seat belts and were thrown out of their seats, slamming into the plane's ceiling before crashing back down. Other passengers likened the turbulence to riding a roller coaster.

 

Additionally, a few days later, turbulence on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Dublin, Ireland, also resulted in several injuries.

 

The specialist psychology clinic, Psych Connect, used to receive an occasional query about aerophobia every few months. However, they are now receiving at least two inquiries daily.

 

The clinic’s founder, Dr Sanveen Kang, said the Qatar Airways incident was a “double whammy” for people who thought SQ321 was rare.

 

“I think the timing of these two events is also quite notable because they're right before the holidays with the local schools, and with the international schools, they are (going) for summer break. So, people have been travelling for two to three months,” she said.

 

She noted that because of Singapore’s limited geographical landscape, many leave the country for holidays as well.

 

“We don't have the opportunity, apart from some of the surrounding regions, to get on a boat and go on holiday. If we want to leave Singapore and experience other cultures, we are very limited by flying,” the Channel report quoted Dr Kang.

 

Dr Kang noted that even if individuals were not on the affected flights, they could develop aerophobia after hearing passengers’ accounts and reading about their challenges.

 

“It is a reinforcer for those who are predisposed to such anxieties,” she said.

 

When people talk to their friends and family members about such incidents and their fears, this normalises such anxiety as well, added Dr Kang.

 

Aerophobia, also known as a fear of flying, impacts approximately five per cent of the overall population. It can manifest in various ways, such as causing headaches, nausea, heart palpitations, and sweating.

 

In addition, Dr Kang mentioned that there may be societal stigmas surrounding seeking help for aerophobia, as the fear of flying is so normalised in today's society. This can make it isolating for those affected, potentially leading to feelings of shame.

 

“There is a sense of regret. People lose out on experiences,” she added.

 

Since the two turbulence incidents, aviation experts have maintained that turbulence resulting in serious injuries and deaths is extremely rare.

 

As of the latest data from the International Air Transport Association, 2023 was one of the safest years for aviation. Out of approximately 37 million flights, only one resulted in fatalities.

 

However, some people are still not reassured enough to regain their confidence in flying.

 

Dr. Kang recommended relaxation strategies, breathing exercises, and distraction techniques.

 

But suppose these fears are a lot more prevalent, and one is experiencing maladaptive thoughts. In that case, they buy into the catastrophe, they buy into the overestimation of danger - they're likely to need more than quick fixes,” she said.




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