Emory study helps overcome fear of flying - FOX 13 News

FOX Medical Team

Emory study helps overcome fear of flying

Posted: Updated:
ATLANTA -

Memorial Day weekend – the unofficial start of summer – is just days away. Thousands of Georgians are planning to fly somewhere, which is great, unless flying panics you.

Fear of flying is something Margaret Keneman has struggled with for years, but she's getting help through a study at the Emory School of Medicine.

Margaret Keneman is a frequent flyer and, too often, a panicked one.

"I always get on the plane, but it's just miserable, miserable," said Keneman.

The fear got so bad that the 29-year old Emory graduate teaching assistant said that she had to drink to fly.

"To be totally honest, ever since I turned 21, I would just have cocktails on the plane.  Drink before the flight," Keneman said.

And arriving at her destination hungover was getting old.

"It's like I'm an adult, I can't just get drunk on flights and it's not professional," Keneman said.

Margaret tried Xanax and white-knuckling flights sober.
    
"So I would just sit there be miserable and talk to people. I would get up as soon as we took off and talk to the flight attendants, which they've seen before," Keneman said.

Emory psychologist Dr. Barbara Rothbaum, the director of the Trauma and Anxiety Recovery Program at the Emory University School of Medicine, knows how crippling fear of flying can be.
      
"I have many people who just won't do it.  They've never gone to the family vacation on the west coast. They don't go to the family weddings and gatherings," Rothbaum said.

Rothbaum has helped hundreds of patients like Margaret get back into the air with virtual reality exposure therapy, which shows them how to confront their fears -- and learn to cope -- by taking a series of virtual plane trips in the controlled safety of their therapist's office.

After eight simulated flights, Margaret has learned how to calm herself.
   
"That's not something I could ever do in the airport or on an airplane because I'm just in panic mode as soon as I get to the airport, as soon as I get on the plane," Keneman said.

But sometimes virtual reality doesn't last, and after a while, nervous fliers find themselves grounded all over again. That's called "return to fear."  So Emory researchers are tweaking their treatment with a new study.

Before they take off, Margaret and the other virtual flyers are given a cue, or a trigger designed to jumpstart their amygdala -- our brain's "fear center."

Researchers think that by priming the brain to pay attention, they can make virtual reality exposure therapy work better and last longer.

Margaret said she's doing better and hopes to soon be back in the sky, fear free.
       
Emory School of Medicine is looking for volunteers for this study. If you have a fear of flying, but have flown before, and if you're willing to come in for eight weekly treatments, you may be a candidate. 

For more information on the fear of flying study, call 404-712-8300 or email Ms. Robin Gross at regross@emory.edu.

If you're an anxious flyer and you've found something that helps, leave a comment on Beth Galvin's Facebook page!

  • More Health NewsMore>>

  • FOX Medical Team

    Website maps disease outbreak around the world

    Website maps disease outbreak around the world

    Thursday, August 28 2014 9:51 AM EDT2014-08-28 13:51:35 GMT
    It was a scene that had the whole world talking, two Ebola-infected American aid workers arriving at Emory University Hospital, in full protective gear.
    It was a scene that had the whole world talking, two Ebola-infected American aid workers arriving at Emory University Hospital, in full protective gear.
  • Mom-to-be battles aggressive breast cancer during pregnancy

    Mom-to-be battles aggressive breast cancer during pregnancy

    Wednesday, August 27 2014 6:40 PM EDT2014-08-27 22:40:40 GMT
    The FOX Medical Team's Beth Galvin introduces us to a mother who had to undergo chemo while she was pregnant.
    The FOX Medical Team's Beth Galvin introduces us to a mother who had to undergo chemo while she was pregnant.
  • Easy fixes for anxiety

    Easy fixes for anxiety

    Tuesday, August 26 2014 7:14 PM EDT2014-08-26 23:14:02 GMT

    The FOX Medical Team's Beth Galvin shows us new tactics doctors are trying, to help patients tackle anxiety.

    The FOX Medical Team's Beth Galvin shows us new tactics doctors are trying, to help patients tackle anxiety.


Powered by WorldNow

FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
3213 West Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa, Florida 33609
Main: (813) 876-1313
Newsroom: (813) 870-9630
Fax: (813) 871-3135

Didn't find what you were looking for?
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Fox Television Stations, Inc. and Worldnow. All Rights Reserved.
Privacy Policy | New Terms of Service What's new | Ad Choices