Flying with OCD: What does it feel like?

Are you afraid of flying?

You are not alone: fear of flying is quite common but fortunately, there are a lot of useful techniques that could help you overcome it. But I do not think I am the best person to tell you how you can get over your fear of flying: simply because I am not afraid of flying – I am suffering from another condition called Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. And in today’s post, I’d like to share with you what it feels like for an OCD sufferer to take a flight. Obviously, everyone’s different and I can only talk about my personal experiences, but if you have any thoughts, feel free to share them in the comment section!

As you may have noticed, I have not published any new posts for the last few days – not because I’ve been lazy or I had writer’s block, but because I had to travel to London. I love traveling: it’s one of my biggest hobbies and sometimes I have to travel for work too, which is absolutely amazing! So over the years, I’ve got used to flying but the OCD monster never sleeps and it can definitely make your travel experience a little bit more…hm…let’s say challenging.

So what does it feel like for an OCD sufferer to take a flight?

OCD used to make my life a living hell, but thanks for God I’ve been feeling a lot better nowadays. I’m still getting intrusive thoughts and I have a couple of compulsions I haven’t been able to get rid of yet, however, I can say that I’m pretty much able to keep my OCD under control. But taking a flight can still be pretty challenging for me. Why?

The first challenge is getting up in the morning. I’ve always been a night owl, so I’d never be able to wake up without an alarm. On an average day, I do not really stress over waking up in the morning, but when you have a plane to catch, it’ll obviously be a different story. So the night before my flight, I always check if the alarm is set – and do not think I check it only once or twice! No way, I just have to check it at least 5 times – or until it feels right. And I usually set the alarm on two different phones, because at the end of the day, you can never know: what if one of your phones turns off by itself? I’d never want to take that risk. Obviously, it’s much easier if my flight is in the evening – cause then, I do not have to worry about getting up early in the morning.
Note: Repeated checking is one of the OCD symptoms. To read more about different OCD symptoms, please check my post about: 6 types of OCD

So I was able to wake up on time – with the help of a hundred alarms and a back-up phone. But this only the beginning of the journey. I do not like packing so I usually do it at the very last minute. I guess I’m one of the most disorganized people on this planet (disorganized, with OCD – how is it possible? Check my article about 5 common misconceptions about OCD) so I usually throw all my stuff in a suitcase, but I’m always worried about forgetting to pack something important. And this worry makes me pack, unpack and repack my suitcase a couple of times. Again, until it feels right. Because at the end of the day, you can never know. Did you really put that t-shirt in your luggage? And what if you forgot to pack your underwear?

And the most hilarious thing is that there are things that I’ll always forget to pack. Even after unpacking and repacking my suitcase a million times. But obviously, this has nothing to do with my OCD.

Then, we’re looking forward to the next challenge: leaving the house. You can not just easily leave the house. It doesn’t work like that. Sometimes I think I should become a risk analyst, because I can come up with an endless list of possible disasters in just a few seconds:

– what if you forgot to turn off the oven?
– what if you forgot to shut off your hair straightener?
– what if you forgot to close the windows?

The list of “what if” questions is never ending. And obviously, these intrusive thoughts will also force me to check everything. So, I check if the oven is turned off at least 5 times and the same goes for any electrical equipment.

But most importantly: the doors. One can not just leave the house without making sure that the door is locked! Now, checking if your door is locked is a completely normal thing to do, but in my case this checking can easily go out of control.

To be honest, the journey to the airport is not too interesting. I usually take a bus and I do not like touching the handrails on public transport but I would not blame this on my OCD: handrails are definitely not clean and it’s better not to touch them. Do not get me wrong! I’m not obsessively worried about getting contaminated or something, I just do not like touching them.

Budapest international Airport

Spending time at the airport can be much more challenging though.

Let’s start with the security check: what if you faint while standing in the queue? That’s not very likely but it is not impossible. And if you faint, you can even miss your flight! It would be extremely embarrassing, wouldn’t it?

Another thing that I’m afraid of is doing something crazy. Do not get me wrong! I wouldn’t want to blurt out obscenities and I would never want to harm anyone. But I am afraid of doing it. Sounds irrational? I know, at the end of the day, OCD is not the most rational disorder. Thanks for God, there’s one thing that helps me fight my intrusive thoughts: talking to people. So when I travel with friends, it’s always pretty easy for me to overcome my anxiety – traveling alone is more difficult but there’re a lot of people at the airport so you’ll always find someone to talk to.

So I managed to pass through the security check, but there comes the next danger: Duty Free. Duty Free is a dangerous place, there’re so many things to be afraid of.

Like what if I accidentally or even intentionally steal something? Of course, I would never want to steal anything from Duty Free, but how do I know that I do not want to? What if I want to do it? What if I am a kleptomaniac? You can never know, can you?

Surviving Duty Free can be very challenging – and expensive: I do not only suffer from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but I am also a shopaholic. But then, boarding is much easier for me. It calms me down: it’s an amazing feeling to finally get on the plane.

Killing time on a flight may often be pretty difficult. And getting bored is quite dangerous if you have OCD. If you have too much time to think about different things, you’ll easily end up overthinking your intrusive thoughts.

What if I do something crazy? What If I light a cigarette on the plane? What If I accidentally set something on fire? What if I start shouting? I mean I do not want to do any of these things, but you can never know, can you?

So the intrusive thoughts are one of the reasons why I’d never get on a plan without a book. Reading helps me get rid of the little OCD monster that sits on my shoulder and keeps whispering horrifying things into my ears.

Finally, arriving to your destination is definitely the best part. OCD can make your life difficult, but do not let it control you! Avoiding situations that you’re afraid of will not help. The world is full of wonderful places and you shouldn’t let OCD rob you of all the amazing experiences.

As you know, there’s one more thing that I love more than sharing my stories: reading yours! Please share your OCD travel stories in the comment section!

Mark Wester

27 thoughts on “Flying with OCD: What does it feel like?

  1. I love travelling and I love airports. I am scared of the security check though. I am good at packing but now they have all those rules installed. I am so afraid to do something wrong. To pack a bigger bottle of fluids than is allowed and than have it taken away from me despite all the care I put into packing and checking things. I know I need to keep my mouth shut then because it is my fault in the end but it gives me a nasty feeling and is nerve wrecking to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I also have at least 2 alarms set. I unplug everything in the house before leaving expect for the refrigerator. I only travel with hand luggage, I mean what if they lose all my stuff. And I would become hysteric if need to check in my hand luggage but you never know do you? My biggest fear is – with traveling – what if I lose everything with one fell swoop? It’s just my trauma reappearing every single time. I hope I can get past it one day. Thanks for the fun post, it was ‘fun’ to read that other people have some struggles too when travelling.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yes. To be honest I think unplugging is a good idea – like I am not entirely sure if this is because of my OCD or not but I do think it’s important to unplug everything in the house – it’s just safer and at the end of the day it’s also environmentally friendly.
        Oh I feel your pain: once I had to check my hand luggage in and I was hysteric! My main fear is that my checked-in bag will end up at another airport.
        I’m glad you liked my post and thank you for reading it. πŸ™‚ haha and yes – OCD often makes me do funny things: I guess my day at the airport looks like a scene out of a comedy movie :)))))

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Oh my, it happend to me. My big bag stayed in France and I was already in Amsterdam. I stayed at the airport for 6 hours (after an 8 hours flight from Cuba) to wait for my bag. They offered to bring it to my home, but no no that was not good enough for me. As they said the luggage had arrived, after that 6 hours, they handed me the WRONG bag! Luckily I was let in the room to pick out my bag. Then I was ready to proceed my travel to Belgium. What a day it was! They gave me a voucher for the trouble, 20 euros off my next flight with them. Don’t think so!!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Oh 😦 that sounds like the ultimate luggage nightmare. Especially that they handed you the wrong bag….and yeah, 20 euros off is not too generous to be honest.
        Apart from this, how was Cuba? I’ve alwaaaays wanted to go there, should be a fantastic place πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Cuba is great! I was wondering if I should post about my travels, would you like to read a post about Cuba for instance?
        I loved it, the people are friendly, the food is ok, the music is great and you’ll always have company. It is still a communist country a little know how about what is ok and what not goes a long way. I was there about 5 times I guess.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. Yes! You should definitely post about your travels πŸ™‚ I’d love reading that. I’m simply addicted to traveling and I always check blogs for finding out more about the country I am going to. So I am really looking forward to reading your post about Cuba!
        That sounds lovely. I’ve never been to Latin America 😦 but I’m planning to go somewhere next winter – I love winter but it would be great to escape from it for a few days at least πŸ˜€

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I will write about it maybe but as always with me, it will take me a long time.
        I worked out an award to post on Friday and the next one is yours. See what I mean with a long time?
        Latin America sounds fun! I love travelling too but due to mental health it wasn’t in the stars for quite some time. Maybe in the near future πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I know what it feels like – it also takes me a long time to publish a post :)))
        Yeah, Latin America sounds fun indeed. As for me, travelling helps me a lot – like I obviously have a few anxiety attacks at the airport or while checking in at the hotel but overall, travel calms me down. And I’m lucky enough because there are a looot of cheap flights from my city to every major European holiday destination. Do you have any plans for your next trip?


      8. No πŸ™‚ I’m moving in with my bf, it’s the trip of my life πŸ˜… I would love to go to Bali again or just somewhere in Asia, that is my favorite destination. This year we went to Greece for a few days and it was lovely!

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Ah πŸ™‚ congraaats! πŸ™‚ Glad to hear that!
        I’ve just started dating someone so lets hope for the best haha πŸ™‚
        Bali sounds fantastic! I just love spending time on the beach.
        I’m going to Georgia for a week – can not wait!

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Same here: I love airports, but the security check is definitely the worst thing. I was working for an airline so I kind of know the rules but I am horrible at packing. I just literary throw everything in my suitcase and that’s it hahaha

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I lost my dad when I was 8.he was a pilot and the plane burnt all the way down and he had several burns when I saw him in the hospital and he later died πŸ˜₯.My OCD has used that incident to rob me the joy of flying.i always write the people I love a goodbye message before each flight 🀣🀣🀣funny but I do this everytime.What ifs never let me fly in peace😭

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my God 😦 my sincere condolences ❀ so sorry to hear that. This must be a very difficult thing for you to overcome 😦
      I am very superstitious so I do not like writing goodbye i often feel that saying goodbye is a "bad omen".
      I hope that one day you will be able to fly in peace




  3. I used to be absolutely fine with flying but then I started getting intrusive thoughts regarding flying! It all started when people at my old job were winding me up about terrorism as I was going to Egypt and kept checking the travel advice. But when I got to the departure lounge I was doing a crossword and the answer to a clue was the word bomb! I nearly said to my ex “look, its bomb!”. Since then I have been terrified that I would say something like that, in an airport, on a plane, anything really! Now I have to have diazepam and bit my cheek to fly, short distances only. I’d live to see places but if I knew that airport staff were aware of these fears it would make me feel a lot better. Maybe I should wear a badge saying ‘OCD, ignore anything I say or don’t!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kar,

      I can totally relate to you! I had very similar thoughts in the past – and I guess I would still have them if I were at an airport but I haven’t had the chance to take a plane since the pandemic began.

      It is actually funny that many people think I am afraid of flying because they can obviously see that I am worried when I need to take a plane – but most of them do not know that it’s not about the fear of flying but about being afraid of going crazy and doing or saying bad things.

      I love your badge idea – I too would found it useful! I’ll just feel so much more relaxed when I know that people around me are aware of my OCD. That’s one of the reasons why I have started to talk more about my condition.

      Thank you for reading

      Stay safe,



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