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Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?

Munich, Germany
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Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?

I have never had problems with flight anxiety before, but a year ago, I have been having panic attacks in theatres, lecture auditoriums, classrooms and even escalators!

Since this has started, I have flown once, to Vienna. It was a short flight (2h tops), and I did feel slight symptoms, feeling tense and nauseous. But I think knowing that it would be over soon helped calm me down.

I have been regularly flying on planes all my life. I've never experienced any form of fear, except perhaps feeling a little jittery on clumsy takeoffs and landings. I'm not worried that the plane will crash.

This summer, I will be undertaking a trip from Munich to Delhi. I don't want my anixety to get in the way of my travels, but having never experienced such a long flight since the symptoms have started, I am worreid because I don't know what to expect.

I have two options for flights. One is a direct 7-8 hour flight with Lufthansa. The second one is two Qatar flights actually, 6 hours, stopover and then 4 hours.

Can anyone who suffers from anxiety on planes please give me some advice? What kind of flights do you tend to prefer? Nonstop long flights (which means only one takeoff and one landing, but more time to suffer) or shorter flights (here I'm worreid that if the first flight is torture, it will end sooner, but on the other hand, I might be worse off for the second flight).?

Thank you! I would greatly appreciate the help!


What are your thoughts on Qatar vs. Lufthansa? Comfort has never been an issue before, but I think it is something I may have to start considering. I worry that an uncomfortable, small seat will be nothing but detrimental to my anxiousness.

Edited: 12:53 pm, May 23, 2013
San Diego
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1. Re: Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?

HI grangrange,

Welcome to the forums.

I'd go see your doctor because there may be a reason you are suddenly getting these attacks.

There are meds that can be prescribed and there are anti anxiety exercises one can do but before I asked strangers on a forum like this I'd call my doc!

Tees Valley
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2. Re: Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?

Grangrange, it does occur to me that your anxiety is not just restricted to air travel so whether you're on one long or two shorter flights may be purely academic. It would be more significant if your fear centred specifically around claustrophobia (which I struggle with) or the fear of flying generally or take off and landings. But it doesn't appear to be.

Tackling the root cause of your anxiety attacks is probably advisable before you fly in the summer. I'd suggest consulting your doctor to discuss this problem which can be very distressing and debilitating. Certainly not something you want to experience severely on a flight.

Perhaps hypnotherapy or another treatment/medication may be able to help you overcome this general anxiety.

Good luck.


Romford, United...
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3. Re: Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?

Welcome to T/A

Sorry to read of your anxiety problem-both airlines are extremely comfortable and offer great service and enjoy excellent operating records but I would suggest the direct flight as opposed to the one stop option as I'm certain everybody's anxiety level goes up during take off/landings and this will reduce your stress points in half

I would further suggest that you make your concerns known to the airlines rep prior to boarding(I am certain you will not be alone),maybe take a valium(my better half always does) and do not under any circumstances drink any alcohol prior to and during the flight-it's an old wives tale about making you more relaxed but above all just try to enjoy yourself

Fortaleza, CE
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4. Re: Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?

Agree, see a doctor. This is a medical condition and you may not want to get medical advice from complete strangers. Doesn't mean you can't overcome it, or at least ameliorate it with meds, exercises, selection of flights, etc.

Small point on above post: direct is not the same as non-stop. Direct means no change of planes. All non-stops are direct but not all direct flights are non-stop. My wife is a nervous flyer and isn't a huge fan of long fights, but it's takeoffs and landings that are the worst for her so she'd always choose a non-stop. For some people, the particular type of plane is a factor (eg., some people prefer larger planes).

Edited: 1:23 pm, May 23, 2013
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5. Re: Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?


i suffer panic and anxiety when flying due to chlostrophobia so i went to the doctors and they prescribed me some medication to keep me calm and relaxed which works a treat so my advice would be go to your doctors and explain how you feel. There are thousands of people who suffer in the same way so you are not alone. Dont let it ruin your trip :-)

Birmingham, United...
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6. Re: Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?

You could try some cognitive behavioural therapy (cbt), ask your doctor to recommend someone, they will also teach you relaxation techniques, including breathing exercises and anxiety management

Try some Kalms and/or Rescue Remedy which are both available from health food shops and are a natural alternative to medication

Although do go and see your doctor he may prescribe you Diazapam which is a mild tranquilizer, helps you relax and take the edge off things

Make sure you wear comfy clothing and have things to distract you so you are not thinking about the flight the whole time, so take books, puzzles, i pad, and take some treats to munch on

Hope you have a safe journey. try not to worry too much, it will all be worth it when you get there

Sunshine Coast...
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7. Re: Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?

You definitely need to see your doctor.

I second the recommendation for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.

I was afraid of flying and afraid of heights for almost 20 years. Hypnotherapy helped me a bit but it was still an ordeal (drugs just made me feel worse) but a few years ago my doctor recommended CBT to deal with my anxiety.

It has been so successful that last year while in Dubai I went to the top of the Burj Kalifa (the tallest building in the world) and actually enjoyed my time out on the observation deck. Previously I would feel ill just looking at the building from the ground.

With regard to your flights I would choose the non stop flight. Even though it is a little bit longer the overall time is shorter and if you are having panic attacks in theatres and classrooms (are you the teacher or a student?) I doubt you will find the bustle of the airport during your stopover very calming.

For me with my flight anxiety I ccould convince myself to get through one flight whether it was 2 hours or 14 hours but getting onto the second plane was always MUCH worse.

Good luck.

Edited: 5:45 pm, May 23, 2013
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8. Re: Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?

I would see a real doctor--don't depend on some herbal concoctions without a reliable diagnosis. You could be jeopardizing hundreds of people on your flight if you freak out. Aside from any diversion en-route

Edited: 5:48 pm, May 23, 2013
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9. Re: Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?

I would reccommend seeing your doctor who may give you Ativan or something light just to tamp down symptoms on your flight.

Long term, I would encourage cognitive therapy. Its very effective to manage panic disorder, which untreated can worsen over time.

Re your flight choice: as a former panic sufferer, I still take non stop flights. I used to find it much more anxiety producing to stop over in unfamiliar loud and busy airports. Far more sensory overload triggers.

Best wishes!

Wiesbaden, Germany
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10. Re: Flight anxiety and panic attacks -- nonstop or stopover?

I have claustrophobia too and I can't have medicine for it because im not even a teenager yet im nine so im really scared of the plane and my flight is tomorrow to Florida it is eight hours to Philadelphia and a 2 hour layover and then another 2 hour flight to Florida. Does anyone have any suggestions for me because I haven't flown since this whole anxiety thing started back in April I am soooo scared and I don't want it to ruin my trip because I look forward to this trip year-round. Please, someone help me fast!