How Sex Can Cure Your Fear Of Flying

In Depth

Are you one of those people who white-knuckles your way through a 30-minute flight, afraid that if you stopped thinking about keeping the plane in the air for even a minute that it would immediately drop out of the sky like a useless aluminum can? If so, we’ve got some sexy news for you.

Fox News reports that David Bunn, a former pilot turned therapist has now helped over 7,000 people ditch their fears of flying with his program, which he calls SOAR. Not all of those people have been cured of their phobia via sex, but Bunn points out that a chronic fear of flying comes from how humans consolidate memories and how much stress they’ve experienced. Someone who’s constantly under a great deal of stress will have a harder time not focusing on an event that they perceive as traumatic.

From Fox:

“When something happens to you, if you don’t consolidate the memory, you don’t remember it,” Bunn says. “When some people get on a plane and have a turbulent flight, they forget about it [afterwards]. And it’s not that they try to forget about it. They just don’t consolidate that memory.”

As someone who once called a flight attendant in terror because I thought a wing was falling off our plane (it was not), I can’t imagine people getting off a plane after a turbulent ride and deciding to get back on, but according to Bunn, even people who would rather rearrange their entire lives than step foot on a jetway can experience stress-free flying. And that’s where the sex part comes in:

“I had a male client who said he had a fear of flying for seven years,” says Bunn, who founded the SOAR program to help people with a fear of flying. “Every time he flew he was totally miserable, except for one time when, before he came back from a business trip, he hooked up with someone. He said they didn’t get any sleep. They made love all night long and he dragged himself out of bed onto the airplane and had a perfectly anxiety-free flight.”

Does that mean sex is the only way to quell the fear that your plane will explode into an angry fireball upon takeoff a la Final Destination? No, what’s important is the role oxytocin—the hormone that makes you feel all warm and cuddly—plays in relieving those fears. Oxytocin courses through your body when you’re having sex and can help suppress fear. And even after the sex is over, Oxytocin continues to flow to produce that delightful state where you feel really chill and happy and just want to take a nap:

Bunn says oxytocin also plays a big role in the post-game show. “In sexual afterglow, there’s a bonding between the two people because nature knows that if you have two parents as a team taking care of the kid, the kid’s more likely to grow up and reproduce.”
Bunn believes oxytocin’s fear-suppressing ability was the key factor in his client’s post-coital, anxiety-free flight. “He was still producing oxytocin because of his intense, all-night experience,” Bunn theorizes. “Maybe he was still picking up her scent. But whatever it was, he produced oxytocin through the whole flight. He was fine.”

While having sex might be helpful before a flight, Bunn knows that it’s not always possible. Therefore, what Bunn does with his clients is recondition their fear of flying by pairing the idea of hurtling through the air with an oxytocin-producing memory. He has his clients imagine their partner giving them a loving look after having sex or nursing their baby, anything that will get that oxytocin raging. Then they link those thoughts to their thoughts on flying and suddenly it’s a whole let less scary.

Bunn also points out that it’s important to focus on the realities of flying as well. If you’re afraid of turbulence, he says, it’s going to be a lot easier to deal with it if you remember that injuries that result from bumpy skies are usually dealt to those who don’t have their seatbelt on and are up and about when a rough patch hits. Of course now that you know that, it’s likely that you’ll never go to the bathroom on an airplane again.

Contact the author at [email protected].

Image via 20th Century Fox.

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