​Using Virtual Reality to Conquer Fear of Flying

Believe it or not, you might be surprised how realistic the virtual reality experience is when you first try it. There are plenty of hilarious videos online of people falling forward when faced with extreme heights or other obstacles in virtual reality.

Exposure Therapy through Virtual Reality

While it’s funny to watch another’s vision and sense get tricked, VR is a very real solution to help you get over your fear of flying. Utilizing VR tricks your brain into thinking you’re actually in the airport or airplane without being there. It’ll be easier for you to deal with the anxieties as they arise, without actually being in the real situation. 

As mentioned in other articles, this is a form of ‘cognitive behavioral therapy,’ or simply ‘exposure therapy’. You’ll be immersed in a realistic experience where you’ll pass through security, scan your boarding pass, walk through the jetway, stow your luggage, take off, land, and more. All of this from the comfort of your home or a doctor’s office. 

While being exposed to each interaction, the user can determine the triggers that result in his or her anxiety and practice strategies for overcoming those anxieties that emerge. And because it’s virtual reality, the user can replay the scene over and over again to become more confident in their approach to overcoming their fears. 

Distracting from Fear of Flying with VR

On the reverse side of things, you could use VR as a means of distracting yourself from the fact you’re flying. It’s already clear that VR immerses you into an entirely different world; why not one that isn’t in an airplane? 

Tons of games and adventures can be downloaded directly onto your phone. By using a free cardboard cutout, or by purchasing an actual headset, can turn your iPhone or Android device into a wearable VR headset that can be put on or removed in seconds. 

Benefits of Working with a Specialist

Unlike an in-person class, when you work with a specialist, he or she has the ability to adjust the ‘difficulty’ level in virtual reality and your overall treatment plan. For some, the overall experience of commercial air travel may cause constant anxiety. 

For others, their fear of flying may result from take-off or landing only, or maybe only through bouts of turbulence. The specialist has the ability to dial in on these especially sensitive areas so those can be focused on versus other areas that do not cause anxiety. This is more efficient and effective for the individual person, rather than attending a class that broadly covers the whole experience. 

Curing Fear of Flying with VR

If you want to cure your fear of flying with VR before your actual flight, you might need to make an appointment with a specialist. As of writing this, the Oculus Go, one of the most popular VR headsets does not currently have a game designed to help users overcome the fear of flying specifically. 

​Commercial software is available, but is typically only purchased by doctors who receive many patients. The software runs in the $1000+ range. 

There are alternatives if you know your fear of flying stems from other phobias. For example, if you have a fear of flying because of your fear of heights, Samsung offers a game where you are suspended on a rope bridge, cliff, elevator, and other areas that expose you to your fear of heights.

The game is free to download, although you will need to download the app/game to your phone or purchase an Oculus Headset. These are around $150-$200, but make the experience much more realistic. 

A walk-through of the game can be seen below.

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