Fear is a normal response to a potentially dangerous situation, e.g. coming face-to-face with a lion! The fight-or-flight reaction that you experience can help to keep you alive. Yet, when a fear of something that poses very little threat becomes so debilitating that it affects your daily life, it is called a phobia.
Fear of Flying
A fear of flying, or aviophobia, is defined as a fear of being in an airplane or another flying vehicle, e.g. a helicopter, while it is in flight.
3 Causes of Aviophobia
Experiencing a bad flight
A person who develops a fear of flying might have experienced a bad flight at some point. They could have experienced bad turbulence, an emergency landing, or a re-route because of mechanical failure.
Hearing about bad events
Sometimes people develop aviophobia from hearing about others’ bad experiences. Airplane crashes are rare so when they do occur, it is usually amidst massive fanfare. This tends to create panic in people who would otherwise have continued flying without any worries.
Fears unrelated to flying
People that suffer from other fears such as claustrophobia (fear of having no escape, fear of small, enclosed spaces) or panic disorders can develop a fear of flying after having had a panic attack on an airplane.
Symptoms of Aviophobia
The symptoms of a fear of flying, indeed of most fears, can be divided into two categories
- Pounding heart, increase in heart rate
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Feeling faint
- Difficulty breathing
- Tightening or pain in the chest
- Churning stomach
- Feelings of intense anxiety or panic
- An overwhelming desire to escape
- A feeling of detachment from yourself or your current situation
- Powerlessness to control the outcome or your emotions
- A fear of losing control
- Feeling as if you might collapse or die
What is an ESA?
An ESA, or emotional support animal, is an animal that provides support to someone suffering from a mental or emotional disability. For example post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder, depression, panic disorder, social anxiety, insomnia, and phobias.
Merely by their presence, by providing comfort, security, and companionship, they can improve the life of their owner. An ESA can be any pet or animal that you experience as a source of comfort in your life. However, a suitable ESA is usually a dog or a cat.
An ESA can only be prescribed to a person by a licensed mental health professional (LMHP).
Why Would you Get an ESA?
Many studies have shown that having an animal in your life is good for you. For several different reasons. The benefits are seen both emotionally and physically.
If you have a fear or phobia, having an ESA might be a solution to help improve your quality of life. For social phobias, a dog is a particularly good choice. A canine companion can be a strong motivating factor for getting you out and about as they need their daily walk and playtimes. A furry friend can reduce stress. Even social interactions could be less stressful if you have your dog with you.
How Does an ESA Help with a Fear of Flying?
- The familiarity of having your ESA with you whilst traveling can help ease the feelings of panic and prevent a panic attack
- Dogs, especially, have a 6th sense when it comes to detecting human emotions. They can sense when their human is feeling scared or stressed. Most will respond by coming for a belly rub or pacing their head in your lap. This could be comforting and help to defuse a tense situation. While petting your dog (or cat) in flight, close your eyes and try to calmly breathe. Petting an animal helps to regulate a sense of calmness in the body, similar to meditation.
- Having another’s life to take care of, can be a healthy diversion from your own stresses. If you are busy taking care of your dog or cat while on the airplane, you might experience the situation as intensely and therefore have a diminished stress response.
Two Main Legal Benefits of Having an ESA Letter
There are two federal laws that apply to owners of ESAs. Both laws should make traveling with your beloved pet possible and a more pleasant experience.
How to get an ESA Letter
Thanks to the folks at Certapet, it is super quick and easy to get a legal ESA letter. Simply complete the quick 5-minute pre-screening. If you qualify for an ESA letter, an LMHP will make contact with you for a 15-minute online consultation. During this consultation, they will assess your need/s for an ESA. Once approved, your legal ESA letter will be posted to you within 48 hours!!
Airlines Carrier Access Act
The Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) prohibits the discrimination of passengers based on their disabilities. According to provisions made by the ACAA, airlines are not allowed to limit or refuse transportation or require advanced notice when offering a service to an individual with a disability. They are also not allowed to levy a surcharge for your ESA.
Different airlines have different requirements for traveling with your furry friend. To avoid any unnecessary stress, be sure to read up in advance about what the ESA policy is for the airline you chose to travel such as the frontier airlines pet policy.
Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act (FHA) prohibits a landlord from refusing to rent to a person based on their disability, gender, race, age, etc. If you are currently staying in an apartment or house that has a no-pet policy and you would like to get an ESA, you need simply apply for an ESA letter.
7 Things to Keep in Mind When Flying with an ESA
Traveling with an ESA is easy, just be sure to have the correct documentation. Here are a few other things to remember:
- ID tags – although it is not required, do check that your pup has a legible ID tag firmly attached to its collar or harness. The best way of ID-ing your pet is to have them micro-chipped – a form of ID that can never get lost or fall off!
- Make sure that you have your pet’s harnesses, leads, and collars with you. Give them the once over to make sure that they are in good condition and that there are no weak spots which might suddenly snap or tear in a sticky situation.
- Pack in enough food and treats for the time that you will be traveling. Also, have food bowls and a water bowl with you.
- Bed, blankets, and toys.
- It is a good idea to have vaccination records, your veterinarian’s contact details, and pet insurance information on hand, especially if the specific airlines requires it!
- If your pet is on chronic medication, don’t forget to pack this in. You might want to pack in some calming supplements too!
- If you are traveling with a cat, be sure to have a litter box and clean litter.
The No-Fly List: Animals that would Cause More Harm than Good on an Airplane
Some people do come up with very original ideas about what constitutes an ESA! Nope, that baby pangolin isn’t going to be allowed on board. And that bearded dragon… probably not going to dial down the stress-o-meter for you or your fellow passengers.
A good ESA should be able to accompany you to places and events that you find stressful. All the more so if it is the actual traveling that you find stressful. Most airlines only allow traditionally domesticated animals like dogs and cats on board as ESAs.