Written by Rodolphe Oppenheimer
October 10, 2016
Phobos is the embodiment of fear, he followed his father on the battlefield. The panic fear that he triggered at the mere sight of him translates what a person feels when confronted with the object of his fear. There are many phobias and some are better known than others, among them, agoraphobia and claustrophobia. On the other hand, aviophobia is less so, even though it affects many people who also dream of discovering fine sandy beaches.
The particularity of the phobia is that it is often responsible for an “impediment” to living because it forces the person who suffers from it not to do what he or she would like, not to accede to his or her desires. It can also be “transmitted” by the anxiety that it gives off in the patient’s entourage. Thus, aviophobia triggers symptoms that the individual cannot control: fear of dying, feeling of temporary madness, feeling of suffocation, etc. However, these irrational symptoms have a logic for the victim. If the plane becomes the object of morbid anxiety, a flying coffin, it is enough to no longer live this risk so that death is not. This logic linked to aviophobia is very often combined with the two other phobias mentioned above, thus becoming a hell for anyone suffering from it.
Virtual reality can help overcome fear of flying. In the department of Professor Christophe Lançon at the APHM, Dr. Eric Malbos and the company C2CARE in Marseille, have created a virtual reality system that allows patients to confront their phobias, real handicaps to well-being, and to finally have the prospect of overcoming them. When a professional tries to help a patient to overcome his phobia(s) and in particular aviophobia, it is difficult for him to accompany his patient to the airport in order to make him do some exercises, as it is the case for agoraphobia or claustrophobia.
Within the framework of the Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies (CBT), the virtual reality allows the patient in suffering to walk in an airport, to confront gradually and without it being too distressing still, with what paralyzes him. These sessions made in the permanent presence of a professional allow the patient to dialogue, to analyze what happens in him when he is in a situation, without being stuck in a place that terrorizes him. CBT, analysis, and the use of the virtual reality program allow for the complete accompaniment of the patient who finally sees himself in control of his fears, in an analysis of his psyche allowing him to understand why these psychic “fantasies” and these morbid mental images occur, and what are the deep reasons for them.
To be afraid is a necessary condition to preserve oneself in front of a danger. But that the supposed danger becomes the necessary condition of the individual is not in the order of things. Vacations must remain a pleasant moment, a source of pleasure, they must not be anxiety-provoking. Reconditioning the cognitive schema is possible. The help brought by professionals and new technologies must constitute the possibility of a new freedom for all those who suffer. If a revolution must take place, it must be the one that would finally scare Phobos, making it finally, definitively, leave the tarmac of airports and disappear the fear of flying.
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