Coping with Anxiety While Traveling

Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

This lesson will provide some insight into travel anxiety. We'll review some possible causes of travel anxiety and suggest some coping strategies to manage anxiety symptoms that can arise.

Anxious Travels

John is one of the estimated 40 million adults in the United States suffering from some form of anxiety disorder. He is especially sensitive to developing anxiety symptoms when he has to travel. In addition, John is prone to panic attacks whenever he's away from home.

Anxiety Disorders

Of the Americans suffering from anxiety disorders, almost seven million suffer from a condition known as generalized anxiety disorder. Heightened anxiety, such as that experienced by John when he travels, is often based on irrational fears, which cause anticipatory anxiety. Anticipatory anxiety is the expectation that a panic attack or anxiety episode will occur simply because it has occurred on a previous occasion during a similar situation--in John's case during travel.

More than six million people also experience panic attacks, like John. Panic attacks are characterized by a heightened sensitivity to certain stimuli, rapid heartbeat and breathing, excessive perspiration, and a number of other unpleasant symptoms. Symptoms can be confused with those of a heart attack and cause even greater anxiety for those who suffer from these episodes.

Travel Anxiety

John shows some of the signs characteristic of travel anxiety. Travel anxiety is a type of anxiety that falls under the generalized anxiety disorder category. Travel anxiety rarely occurs in isolation and is often a sign of a more generalized anxiety condition.

People who suffer from travel anxiety have different anxiety-related symptoms when traveling. These can include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid respiration rate
  • Excessive perspiration
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Oversensitivity to light and sound
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Trembling
  • Panic attack

Because these symptoms are troubling and can bring on even greater anxiety, it is therefore helpful for those who get travel anxiety, like John, to develop some coping strategies and techniques to make traveling more pleasant. The first step is to learn what can cause travel anxiety.

What Causes Travel Anxiety

Travel anxiety can be caused by a number of factors. There is not one specific issue that can be identified as causing this type of anxiety and it can stem from any of the following:

  • Stress
  • Fear of flying
  • Stories of doom perpetuated by the media (terrorism, victimization of tourists, etc.)
  • Fear of going to a new and unfamiliar area or place
  • Trip planning issues and worries (how will one get to the airport, what if the luggage gets lost, what if you can't check into a hotel on time, etc.)

Coping Tips for Travel Anxiety

So what exactly can someone do to overcome or at least manage travel anxiety? Experts believe that the following strategies are helpful and can significantly decrease anxiety levels:

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