January 15th, 2009
07:34 PM ET

Plane Crash…all our worst nightmares

Editor's Note: Tune in to hear more from Dr. Saltz on today's plane crash tonight on AC360° at 10pm ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/US/01/15/new.york.plane.crash/art.plane.pukelis.irpt.jpg caption="iReporter Julie Pukelis put a camera in front of a telescope to get this view of the scene in the river."]

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.

Filed under: Airline Safety • Gail Saltz • Top Stories
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Max

    Jesus no KIDDING.

    I might be able to WRITE about a ton of NIGHTMARES myself – I have actually.

    January 16, 2009 at 9:13 am |
  2. Marlena Cox

    Plane Crash....all our worst nightmares?!?! Maybe everyone but not me. Bizare?!? Well i was a CNA and an Administrator of 2 Nursing homes before I became a Flight Attendant. My Child hood dream was to do one of two things, be a nurse like my mom or be a flight Attendant (my father was the first to fly a private plane from Coasta Rica to the USA) so I did both. Well, I will not be laying in a bed waiting... and my Horrible Fear is a car wreck. But, I have always told my kids if I am in a fatal plane crash, know that that is how I want to go. Doing what I LOVE..FLYING...i was just 3 years old wheni turned a card table and a blanket over the top to the floor, all dark, I would cram all of my little friends under it and i was flying and then i would crash the plane and we would all just hug and know were we loser to GOD. Well now that I am an adult I know God is Everywhere but I still feel that is the way I want to go. My flight crew always hates hearing this but, the moral to the story is that when you take flight know that your crew has a pasion for flying and many of us an obsession, so just remember you are in the hands of the best professionals you could fly with, so be at ease, respect your flight crew pay attention to your flight attendants anouncements they are the for YOU!! Sit back and enjoy your flight!

    January 16, 2009 at 2:07 am |
  3. Marlena Cox

    If you have a chioce between driving of flying you are 32 times safer flying.

    January 16, 2009 at 1:45 am |
  4. Steve~Beaufort,SC

    Sonny it would also deflect too much air from the engines too.
    Unfortunately a jet engine needs HUGE amounts of undisturbed intake air.

    January 16, 2009 at 12:07 am |
  5. Ashton

    Captain sully was very brave searching the plane after it crashed. I would also like to add that flying is still the safest way of flying.

    Ashton, Calgary

    January 15, 2009 at 11:47 pm |
  6. Bandot

    The Captin did a great job. A few years ago a plan landed in Potamac River in DC with only 4 survivors. Kudos to rescue as well for arriving so quickly.

    January 15, 2009 at 11:44 pm |
  7. Celeste, Murfreesboro,TN

    Great Job Captain Sully! You've saved lives on the plane and on the ground, and given us hope that God is still with us. Thank you to all the emergency rescue people involved!

    January 15, 2009 at 10:12 pm |
  8. Sonny

    Why is it not possible to put a cone-shaped structure in front of the engines. A few metal rails close enough to deflect large birds. That shouldn't interfere with air flow, but would deflect large birds.


    January 15, 2009 at 10:08 pm |
  9. Nichole

    Although this is a miracle, lets not forget that the pilots and flight attendants spend an extensive amount of time training for situations such as this one today. Job well done!

    January 15, 2009 at 9:04 pm |
  10. Joanne, Solvay, NY

    God Bless the survivors and the miracle at New York Harbor! The people of New York City should celebrate their emergency response system that made each and every pilot, passenger, sailor...a hero!

    January 15, 2009 at 8:41 pm |
  11. Jeffrey Buck

    The profound irony of today's events sends shivers down my spine. The legacy for our outgoing president will inevitably boil down to that mild, crisp, clear and dismal day in September of 2001. By sardonic fate, a plane crash in New York City on the day of Mr. Bush's farewell speech captivated the consciousness of our nation. Yet, on this day, with unprecedented arctic winds wisping through the land miracle is the word on our lips, not tragedy. Early reports indicate not a soul perished. The frigid and natural waters of the Hudson was the survivors saving grace. Indifferent and natural birds were, perhaps, the culprit. The implications of this for anyone who cares to ponder can be nothing short of profound, the meaning nothing short of ambiguous.

    January 15, 2009 at 8:39 pm |
  12. Ed Plut

    If you look at some of the photo's of the plane in the Hudson River, you will notice that most people are not wearing life jackets. Must be a little more to the story on how things went inside the cabin after the plane landed in the river.
    Niagara Falls Canada

    January 15, 2009 at 8:33 pm |
  13. Sharon

    This was a very interesting crash but and I'm very glad all made it out OK!!

    But report on it and move on!

    There are a lot more topics of interest than just this one!

    January 15, 2009 at 8:04 pm |