Editor's Note: Tune in to hear more from Dr. Saltz on today's plane crash tonight on AC360° at 10pm ET.
Dr. Gail Saltz
Psychiatrist and AC360° Contributor
Most people have some apprehension about flying. Despite the fact that many more people die in car crashes, people are far more afraid of flying…which is related to heights, something we are almost hardwired to fear.
This means that people involved in the US Air crash as well as others who are learning of or viewing the crash are potentially going to have psychological aftermath. There will be those who fare well, who feel in fact elated to have come out of such a tragedy and won’t be afraid to fly. There will however, be those who felt terrified, thought they may die and they are going to need attention and follow up because they are more likely to develop post traumatic stress disorder.
People who have had previous trauma, depression, addiction or lack social support are more likely to develop symptoms of PTSD which include sadness, anxiety, irritability, nightmares, flashbacks and avoidance of in this case planes. There will also likely be people who in their panic behaved poorly, perhaps they pushed or shoved others and they will likely struggle with guilt. It is the people coming off the plane who are most panicked and even out of it who are most likely to suffer symptoms later.
Treatments for PTSD and fear of flying are effective and intervention by a trained professional helps. Some symptoms benefit from talk, but never force someone who has been traumatized to talk. Medication may help with symptoms of depression, anxiety and sleeplessness. Flying phobias are treated with cognitive behavioral therapy by desensitizing the person to their fear and changing specific fearful thoughts regarding flying. New virtual reality therapy for phobia also is extremely effective in as little as 10 sessions, where flight is simulated while treatment goes on. Even people who were not there but watched may experience an increase in their fear of flying, and can benefit from treatment.
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with