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Fear of flying meets virtual reality in new treatment

For those whose anxiety runs so high they

For those whose anxiety runs so high they can’t get themselves on a plane, even for a big family occasion or business trip, there is help. Photo Credit: iStock / Christopher Ames

Afraid of flying? It’s a very real thing for some people, especially when an air disaster is in the news.

Despite the high safety record of U.S. aircraft, “people with anxiety don’t pay attention to real facts,” says Dr. Mitchell Schare, director of clinical psychology at Hofstra University’s Phobia and Trauma Clinic in Hempstead.

For those whose anxiety runs so high they can’t get themselves on a plane, even for a big family occasion or business trip, there is help.

The clinic has an advanced virtual reality computer system designed to immerse the phobic patient in real-life flying situations, from simply walking around the airport to getting on the plane, takeoff and landing, and even simulated turbulence.

“Everyone has different issues,” Schare says. “Sometimes, it can be claustrophobia.”

Treatment typically consists of eight to 12 sessions, which can be doubled up. Despite successful results, Schare cautions, the program lessens the fear but doesn’t eradicate it.

COST $40 a session, after a clinical assessment.

INFO 516-463-7613, hofstra.edu/phobia

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