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A Cognitive and Virtual Reality Treatment Program for the Fear of Flying.





BACKGROUND: Passenger air transport has considerably increased in the past 50 yr. It is estimated that between 7 and 40% of the population of industrialized countries is currently afraid of flying. Programs treating the fear of flying have been developed to meet this problem. This study measures the effectiveness of one of these programs by focusing on flight-related anxiety before the program and after the first flight following the intervention. METHODS: There were 157 individuals recruited to participate in a 1-d intervention aiming at treating the fear of flying, and using both cognitive behavioral techniques and virtual reality. Anxiety was measured with the Flight Anxiety Situations (FAS) and the Flight Anxiety Modality (FAM) questionnaires. RESULTS: Statistical analyses were conducted on 145 subjects (69.7% female; ages from 14 to 64) after the exclusion of individuals with missing data. The results showed a decrease in flight-related anxiety for each subscale of the two questionnaires: the somatic (d=2.44) and cognitive anxiety (d=1.47) subscales of the FAM, and the general flight anxiety (d=3.20), the anticipatory flight anxiety (d=1.74), and the in-flight anxiety (d=1.04) subscales of the FAS. CONCLUSIONS: The effectiveness of the treatment program using both cognitive behavioral techniques and virtual reality strategies for fear of flying reduced flight-related anxiety in the subjects in our study. Our results show that subjects demonstrated lower anxiety levels after the first flight following the program than before the intervention.

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