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How To Cope With Driving Anxiety

Causes Of Driving Anxiety

How To Overcome Highway Driving Anxiety

There are several different types of driving anxiety and thousands of experiences that may lead to panic behind the wheel. Two of the most common causes of driving anxiety include:

  • Panic Attack While Driving

One of the most frightening instances of driving anxiety occurs when someone has a panic/anxiety attack while operating a vehicle. Panic attacks overwhelm individuals, because they encompass your entire mind and body, making it difficult to concentrate on anything else. When they come on, it can feel like there is no escape, which is only heightened if this happens when driving. Unfortunately, these events can cause increased anxiety with driving, because of the fear of having another panic attack behind the wheel. If allowed to have these thoughts, people will likely incite another panic attack. These attacks have a way of repeating simply based on the fear of having it again.

  • Dangerous Situations

Anxiety also tends to occur as a response to dangerous experiences or perceived dangerous experiences. For example, an accident or several near accidents may promote anxiety of driving. Even hearing about car accidents or seeing them can contribute to that anxiety.

How Do I Stop Driving Anxiety

To stop driving anxiety you first need to find the cause of it as mentioned above. That sounds simple but without expert guidance, you may never realise youve found it!

I know what to look for because Ive spent 20 years working with anxious drivers. I know the common phrases and themes that come up. Im an expert at finding the link between obscure memories and a fear of driving.

Heres a great example of how finding the cause of fear stops it.

Imagine that one night youre lying in bed and are suddenly woken up by the sound of voices from another room. You freeze in terror and clutch at the sheets as you realise that someone must have broken into your home! You then hear the voices change into an advert for carpets and realise theyre coming from the TV that you left on in the other room.

What happens to your fear as soon as you realise there are no intruders, its just an advert for carpets?

The fear goes exactly like your fear of driving will go!

This video explains more about how my driving anxiety program works

Learn To Love Highway Driving

Many people find that even if they are not afraid of driving on local roads, they are absolutely terrified to drive on highways, especially multiple lane highways. Yes, this can be pretty scary, especially if you are a new driver, but this is a fear that every driver must eventually overcome. It is best to start out by driving on lesser used highways, and those that are not multi-lane.

Once you are used to the quieter highways, then you can start to venture out onto the busier ones. After a while, driving on highways will seem old-hand, and you will have no worries at all.

Also Check: How Do You Know If You Suffer From Anxiety

How I Can Help You When Others Cant

I am both one of the UKs most experienced driving instructors and also a professional hypnotherapist. I have taught over 1,000 people to drive over the last 20 years, trained hundreds of driving instructors and made over 600 YouTube videos that have had over 10 million views.

In other words, I know my stuff!

Someone that is just a driving instructor cant get rid of anxiety because they dont know how to. They often make the mistake of booking you a driving lesson and putting you in a car right into the very situation that makes you anxious. Driving instructors will often just teach you how to deal with anxiety or cope with it but thats no good. You want it gone!

Therapists usually offer a wide range of services without being an expert in any of them. You can easily find therapy sites offering services to beat anxiety, quit smoking, lose weight, sleep better and much more. They do a bit of everything and arent particularly good at any of it! As the saying goes: jack of all trades, master of none.

If you want to get rid of driving anxiety then you need an expert who specialises in it me.

You can learn more about these things on my page on vehophobia .

What Are The Treatment Options

Overcoming Driving Anxiety

Severe cases of this phobia warrant the following types of treatment:

1. Behavior Therapy

Psychologists use this treatment to deal with an extreme fear of driving. They put patients through the process of systemic desensitization. Wolpe, who based it on the principles of classical conditioning, developed it in the 1950s. Its goal is to substitute phobias with relaxed responses.

Patients learn muscle relaxation techniques such as Breath Control, Muscle Detensioning, and Meditation. They also list their fears in a hierarchy, from the ones that cause the least stress to the most. They then practice substituting relaxation responses, beginning with the stimuli that cause the least anxiety.

2. Exposure Therapy

Exposure therapy helps people to confront their concerns. It works on the principle that people usually avoid a stimulus that triggers fear.

Although avoiding fear triggers reduces it in the short term, it may increase over time. Psychologists thus try to expose patients to their fears in a safe environment.

3. Virtual Therapy

This emerging treatment, a variation of exposure therapy, involves using virtual reality technology to conquer ones fears. Using a Virtual Reality headset, patients interact with simple representations of their anxieties. Being a virtual driver has helped many patients ease them.

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What Else You Can Do To Deal With Driving Anxiety

Whether you are getting professional help with your driving anxiety or not, it is important to know some relaxation techniques and other handy tips to ensure you can continue your daily routine as much as possible.

Figure out the cause of your fear

Often, this is something that you will do as part of your treatment with a professional. However, it may be quite helpful if you have not done this already.

Some causes of driving anxiety include a crash that you were involved in or being stuck in the wrong lane at a busy roundabout. Once you have worked out the cause of your driving anxiety, you can brainstorm ways to get over it.

For example, lets say your anxiety is caused by navigating roundabouts. One step you can take toward getting over this problem is to try driving around a roundabout that you are very familiar with at a time when it is not busy.

Or, if you are not quite ready for that yet, you might find that watching videos online about how to drive around roundabouts is a good place to start. Research has shown that working out the cause of your fears³ and problem-solving them helps reduce anxiety.

Plan your route

If you are driving to a new place and that causes anxiety, plan your trip in advance. Do some research on the place you are going. Find out what kind of area it is. Is it a busy city, or is it more rural? Are you going to be there during the rush hour?

Allow extra time

Take a support person

Stay local when you can

Take the time to congratulate yourself

Panic Attacks While Driving

Panic attacks are short periods of intense fear that happen unexpectedly. If you have a driving phobia, you are highly likely to have these attacks that may lead to a panic disorder.

Medical professionals can diagnose panic attacks. You will be asked to describe your experiencewhen and where it happened, and what you were doing at that moment. The good news is that panic attacks are treatable.

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Get Right Back On That Horse

You have probably heard the old saying about how if you fall off a horse, you should get right back on that horse. There is a really good reason for this saying, and it is one that holds true for pretty much everything we do in life, including driving automobiles.

Many people find that after having an automobile accident, they are terrified to get back in the car and drive anywhere by themselves ever again. This is not a good way to be. It is always good to make sure that you have an up-to-date drivers license, and that you stay in practice, because you never know when you are going to have to drive somewhere in an emergency.

If you are in an accident, dont hesitate to get back in your vehicle and start driving right away, or at least as soon as your vehicle is drivable again. The longer you wait, the harder it is going to be for you to lose your fears. If you get right back at it, you will find that in no time at all, you will not have any fears, and you will enjoy driving once again.

What Can Cause Of A Fear Of Driving

HOW TO deal with DRIVING ANXIETY | Take baby steps

Theres no catch-all answer to the question of why some people develop, or have an in-built fear of driving.

For most, a combination of apprehensions and anxieties will be at play. Some of the most common triggers include:

Performance anxiety its human nature to feel the burden of responsibility, especially when safetys at play. As well as your own wellbeing, youre taking on the pressures of looking after any passengers in your vehicle too. Many people feel uncomfortable trusting in their own abilities behind the wheel.

Fear of travel more of a specified phobia , the fear of travel includes movement through all forms of transportation and apprehension over exploring new places or routes.

Bad experience it stands to reason that anyone whos been involved in, or witnessed, a road accident in the past could have been strongly affected by their experience. No incident is too minor to have an effect it could simply be that driving through a bad storm, getting lost, or even having knowledge of an experience involving somebody you know could trigger an aversion to returning to the road.

Fear of authority while we know police, fire services and ambulance teams are out there to help us, some people suffer from a more clinically-pronounced strain of nervousness around authority figures. This can easily cause a reluctance to get behind the wheel for fear of sharing the road with the authorities or even just unfamiliar traffic situations for fear of doing something wrong.

Read Also: Can Yelling At A Child Cause Anxiety

Confront Your Catastrophic Assumptions

A common factor with most irrational fears is they are unlikely to occur. This, however, does not stop the mind from projecting what could go wrong. If you only focus on the occurrence of your fear, youll have a difficult time overcoming it.

Driving anxiety sometimes develops from an experience, like an accident or being stuck on a bridge. After these experiences, your mind will only focus on the event happening to you again.

Other times, however, driving anxiety can develop from assumptions and imaginations of what awaits you on the road ahead.

Confronting your assumptions is a great way to deal with anxiety.

Start by asking yourself what it is that you fear about driving. This could be, for example, being afraid of hitting someone, being stuck on a bridge, or causing an accident. Evaluate yourself to determine any biases and assumptions you may be harboring.

Next, break each of these assumptions down. For example, if youre afraid of causing an accident, what can you do about it? In such a case, you need to remind yourself that careful driving is safe driving.

Moreover, you can take additional driving classes just to build your confidence and drive around in empty spaces to get the hang of your car and the road. The more biases you confront, the easier your driving experience will be.

How Do You Know If Its A Panic Attack

Panic attacks and panic disorder belong to the broader category of anxiety disorders, but panic attacks and anxiety attacks arent the same.

Panic attacks often involve primarily physical symptoms that can completely disrupt what youre doing for a short period of time. They might make you feel detached or separate from yourself or the world around you.

Unlike anxiety, panic attacks often seem to happen for no apparent reason.

Learn more about what a panic attack might feel like here.

symptoms of a panic attack

  • a sudden feeling of extreme fear
  • pounding heart or very rapid heartbeat
  • tingling and dizziness
  • head, chest, or stomach pain
  • feeling like you might lose control
  • feeling like youre going to die

Intense anxiety can involve some of the same symptoms. In fact, you might still feel like youre having a panic attack. Anxiety may develop more slowly and involve emotional symptoms as well, such as worry, nervousness, or general distress.

It might also persist longer than a panic attack. Anxiety often causes distress, but it doesnt always completely overwhelm you.

Having even one panic attack can make you worry about having another. Its not uncommon to become so concerned about having more panic attacks that you alter your daily routine to prevent them.

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Top Tips For Nervous Drivers

    Before you leave

  • If you’re heading somewhere unfamiliar, plan your route, and make sure you have the correct address saved in your SatNav.
  • Try to avoid driving at busy times. Rush hour traffic is stressful to drive through, and may delay you.
  • Choose a route that places fewer demands on you, and wherever possible, take roads you’re familiar with.
  • Check the weather. If it looks like you’ll be driving in conditions which might make you feel uncomfortable, think about postponing, rescheduling or delaying your trip.
  • When you first get in the car, turn off your phone and put it in the glove box to reduce distractions.
    During the drive

  • Give yourself plenty of time to reach your destination and allow time for breaks.
  • If you feel anxious, find a safe area to pull over and take a breather. You can also use this time to safely call people at your destination and let them know you may arrive a little later than planned.
  • Try not to let any external worries or problems affect your concentration.
    After the drive

  • Resist the urge to bolt from the car, even if the drive was challenging sit calmly and focus on your breathing for a few minutes.
  • You may feel distracted or excited that the journey’s over, but take a bit of time to make sure your parking brake’s on, your headlights are off, the windows are shut, and that you lock the car properly when you leave it.

Remember Youre In Charge

Tips to Cope With Panic Attacks While Driving

Anticipating the many things that could go wrong can be a big part of a fear of highway driving.

You are driving the car. The car or the traffic are not driving you. So you get to decide where youre getting off the highway, what speed you feel comfortable with, when youll apply the brakes, etc.

All these measures help to keep you able to drive with confidence on the freeway and set your fears aside.

Also Check: How To Ease Anxiety Attack

What Is Driving Phobia

As its name implies, this type of phobia refers to a fear of driving, which can range from mild to severe. Some people fear driving only in specific situations, e.g., under bridges or on highways, while others are terrified of just getting behind the wheel.

Why do some people get driving anxiety? It has close connections with other fears.

  • Agoraphobia: Driving anxiety is closely related to agoraphobia or a fear of being trapped in an enclosed space. Navigating tunnels and other small areas are difficult for those with agoraphobia.
  • Claustrophobia: Claustrophobia also triggers driving fears. Some people fear the limited confines of a car. There are those who experience this fear as passengers, while others do so as drivers.
  • Performance Anxiety: Driving is a tremendous responsibility and compels one to do his best. Worrying about the safety of his passengers can bring about performance anxiety.
  • Dystichiphobia: Fear of accidents may also trigger a driving phobia. Drivers who have this fear may not want to risk getting into situations where accidents are a possibility.
  • Fear of travel: Hodophobia, or fear of traveling, may make a person avoid all forms of transportation. Those whose driving phobia relates to a fear of traveling may feel comfortable driving to familiar places but avoid new routes.
  • Use Your Mind To Overcome Itself

    Your mind is more powerful than you may have imagined. Motorphobia is developed in the mind, but you can use the same mind to overcome this fear. While it may sound complex at first, getting inside your mind is not that challenging.

    As mentioned above, a significant amount of the fear you feel results from assumptions created in your mind.

    Read Also: What Is The Best Treatment For Severe Anxiety

    Driving Phobia: Why It Affects Some People And How To Cope With It

    • Post comments:

    You are a competent driver, but occasionally cramp up behind the wheel. What you may have is driving phobia.

    Dont feel embarrassed if you have this condition because it affects more people than you may think. Life Advancer explains what it is, why some people have it, and how to cope with it.

    Start Small With Exposure

    How to Deal with Driving Anxiety

    Even though you may be tempted to take bold steps to resolve your driving anxiety, stressful situations require time and patience to resolve. Avoid putting yourself in a position where you are not likely to succeed.

    To reduce driving anxiety, spend time thinking about the aspects of driving that trigger anxiety. Ask yourself:

    • When does the anxiety start?
    • What makes the anxiety peak?
    • When do the anxiety symptoms decrease
    • What does the anxiety feel like?

    Be cautious, trying to move too quickly can actually increase the driving related anxiety.

    Facing driving anxiety is not something you have to do alone. BetterHelp has over 20,000 licensed therapists who provide convenient and affordable online therapy. BetterHelp starts at $60 per week. Complete a brief questionnaire and get matched with the right therapist for you.

    Choosing Therapy partners with leading mental health companies and is compensated for referrals by BetterHelp

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