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Fear of flying on take off

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My boyfriend was born severely deprived of oxygen and had brain damage during birth. Doctors told his family he would never live a normal life. He went through physical therapy during childhood for learning to grip, walk, etc.Today he is 26, extremely healthy, a successful business owner, and has a few symptoms like inability to write, use chopsticks, and mildly shaky hands. He says he has poor balance (but it isnt anything I have visibly seen.)He keeps his past disabilities a secret as he remembers a difficult childhood. Nobody knows or can see the lasting effects of the brain damage.

He loves to travel but has a fear of flying which he blames on his poor balance. During takeoff the fear is the worst. He grips on to the seat, panics, and the last time let out a couple of muffled screams. During the flight , even with turbulence he is 100% normal and relaxed. He went through a 2 week fear of flying program with an airline and a psychologist but it hasn't helped. Take off is so bad for him, I start to become anxious for him.

I get the impression that during takeoff he has the feeling someone would have on a roller coaster, on a giant drop. I feel so badly for him, and he is terribly embarrassed by it. He is trying everything possible to overcome this feeling/fear of take off.

Do you think this is due to what he considers poor balance? Should he be continuing physical therapy in his adult life? Any advice you have would be greatly appreciated.


Category: Neurologist, Medical

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Category: Pediatric Neurologist
Dr. Sudhir Kumar is online now

Expert:  Dr. Sudhir Kumar replied 4 Days.


Thank you for posting your query at DoctorSpring.com.

I appreciate your concern for your boyfriend, and thank you for providing the detailed information.

I am glad to note that he is functionally well and is doing well in his professional life too, despite his early childhood problems and possible brain damage due to lack of oxygen.

Yes, physiotherapy and occupational therapy would be very useful for him in further recovery and improving his fear. His balance would also improve.

In addition, using anti-anxiety medications would also help.

I hope it is helpful. Please get back if you have any additional queries.

Best wishes,
Dr. Sudhir Kumar MD (Medicine), DM (Neurology)
Senior Consultant Neurologist

Dr. Sudhir Kumar
Category: Pediatric Neurologist
Senior Residency, Fellowship: DM, Neurology, CMC, Vellore, 2001
Junior Residency: MD, Internal Medicine, CMC, Vellore, 1998
Medical School: MBBS, Christian Medical College, Vellore, 1995
Dr. Sudhir Kumar and 4 other Medical Specialists are ready to help you

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