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Why Do I Get Anxiety When I Drive

Effective Treatment Offers Greater Freedom On The Road

How to get over driving anxiety: Core Beliefs CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy for anxiety)

Situations that are hard to escape from are fertile ground for anxiety and panic to develop. Not surprisingly, driving is one of the most common situations that trigger panic. Bridges and tunnels, in particular, can be challenging since they present the possibility of getting stuck with no easy or safe escape route.

Many people with high anxiety about driving end up avoiding certain driving situations or will stop driving altogether. One of the most effective ways to treat driving-related panic and avoidance is cognitive-behavioral therapy , which includes facing the situations where the person is afraid of panicking.

Ive treated many people for driving-related panic, which usually involves riding with them as a passenger while as they face their fears. The following six principles have emerged from that work.

1. Focus on the road ahead.

Driving-related anxiety often leads you to think ahead to the whole trip. You might map out the route in advance, checking for bridges along the way. As you drive, you might keep imagining the scariest parts ahead. It ends up being a lot to managenot just the road right in front of you, but your entire drive.

It takes practice, of course, since the mind wants to jump ahead and make sure things will be okay. Focusing on sensory experiences can help to ground your attention in the present, like seeing the road in front of you and feeling your hands on the steering wheel.

3. Dismiss emotional reasoning.

Scared To Drive Ways To Conquer Driving Anxiety

The automobile and driving are symbols of freedom and mobility in America, both physical and economic. As of 2007 there were over 250 million passenger vehicles on the road in America. When a person suffers from a fear of driving, it can be an especially debilitating condition in a country where the automobile is the primary mode of transportation. Anxiety can strike at a moment’s notice, heedless of a person’s age, gender or status. There are a number of different causes for anxiety and it can affect people in numerous ways, such as fear of driving a vehicle. A person may experience anxiety while driving when they are first learning to drive, or in other cases a person may develop a fear of driving after years of experience. Fear of driving may be associated with driving in general, regardless of location, or a person may feel anxious, afraid, or overly nervous in certain situations such as driving on the freeway or across a bridge. Regardless of the onset or why you are experiencing it, if you are a person who has developed a fear of driving there are ways to overcome it.

Do You Have Anxiety About Driving

To find out if you have anxiety about driving, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you currently drive?
  • If yes, is there anything that you avoid when driving? For example, driving alone, driving with passengers, driving in specific locations or conditions
  • If you dont currently drive, what is stopping you from driving?
  • Do you experience any anxiety symptoms when you are a passenger?
  • If yes, when do you experience these symptoms?
  • Are you more dependent on friends, relatives or public transport for travel since your accident? Is this related to anxiety?
  • Does driving anxiety interfere with parts of your life? For example, your work, shopping, relationships or confidence.
  • The answers to these questions will give you a clearer picture of whether you have anxiety about driving.

    If you think you do have anxiety about driving, there are things you can do to overcome it.

    Read Also: What Is The Best Mood Stabilizer For Anxiety

    If You Want To See A Psychologist

    If you have anxiety about driving, speak to your doctor about how you are feeling. They can help you get the support you need.

    You can find a psychologist at the Australian Psychology Society website.

    If you need help to choose a psychologist, speak to your treating health care provider for advice.

    Once you find a therapist, you can make an appointment. Let them know you are a TAC client and give them your claim number. The psychologist can bill the TAC for your treatment.

    Learn To Love Highway Driving

    Does Anxiety Cause Voices In Your Head

    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.

    Read Also: How To Support Someone With Depression And Anxiety

    Identify Your Type Of Driving Anxiety

    People can develop a case of driving anxiety for a variety of different reasons.

    • You might have a fear that you will have a panic attack while driving and be trapped in the situation.
    • Some people have a genuine fear of getting into an accident or losing control of the vehicle due to anxiety. In fact, we know that people who have been in an accident in the past are more likely to develop driving anxiety.
    • In addition, any bad experiences such as being the victim of road rage or driving through a bad storm can be triggers.
    • Some people feel anxious about other people watching them as they drive or simply being out in public.
    • Finally, some people fear driving unfamiliar places and being lost or stuck somewhere foreign.

    It’s Never Too Late To Find Confidence Behind The Wheel

    by Jessica Press, AARP, April 10, 2019

    Alamy Stock Photo

    En español | At some point in their lives, up to 12.5 percent of Americans suffer from a phobia an irrational fear that interferes with their lifestyle according to the National Institute of Mental Health. One kind of fear that can seriously limit mobility is a driving phobia, which experts say can come in the form of a fear of bridges, tunnels, freeways or intersections, or just from being behind the wheel in general.

    Michael Valentine, a counselor in New Rochelle, N.Y., and the creator of the Anxiety Path blog, helps clients with phobias, anxiety and other mental health issues. He says his compassion for his patients comes from having a serious phobia himself: For years Valentine suffered from bridge phobia, a condition that kept him essentially landlocked restricted in where he could attend college, find employment and travel. He suffered panic attacks, a sensation he describes as an overwhelming sense of fear coupled with a rapid heartbeat and the loss of sensation in his hands and feet, until he started working with a therapist who helped him overcome his phobia.

    “People suffer so much and I know it, I experienced it, Valentine says. We have to reach those people and we have to let them know they’re not alone that there is help.

    Take the AARP Smart Driver course online or find a course near you

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    Tips For Feeling Less Nervous When Driving In The City

    You do not need not feel embarrassed if you are nervous about driving in the city many people feel the same way. Read these tips about how you can feel less nervous when driving in a busy city.

    Are you nervous about driving in the centre of a large city? You would be surprised to know how many drivers are afraid of or nervous about driving in the city. Rather than being nervous about your own safety, you may be worried about all the things you have to take into account in a city environment.

    At least for the first time, you may be terrified of the many lanes, big busses, trams, traffic jams and large numbers of cyclists and pedestrians in such cities as Helsinki. There is a great number of signposts, traffic signs and pedestrian crossings and you should spot them all in time. Local drivers, who are oozing confidence, may add to your feelings of insecurity.

    Traffic intensifies emotions

    A more common emotion than actual fear is feeling nervous about finding your own skills inadequate and ending up in a situation you find embarrassing. You worry about what might happen if you get stuck in the middle of a junction or stall the car in traffic lights.

    A study revealed that young men regard pulling away from traffic lights as some kind of a challenge, whereas mature female drivers take quite a different view of things. This indicates different motives for being on the road.

    Driving Has Changed Can I Keep Up

    Why do I have driving anxiety?

    Its extremely normal for senior drivers or those who havent been on the roads for many years to have fears about staying in, or returning to the drivers seat.

    If your confidence needs a boost, even the most previously self-assured driver could benefit from an occasional refresher course. Not only will they keep you up to date with any changes that may have passed you by, they might just reinvigorate that love for driving you once had.

    Its also surprisingly easy to fall into bad habits or forget some of the key learnings from first time around, so setting aside a few hours with an approved instructor can be the best way to brush up.

    Refresher courses arent assessed, so theres no need to worry about passing or failing, and are many options around, including that of the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

    Recommended Reading: How To Relieve Pms Anxiety

    Be Prepared For Emergencies

    Make sure that you have emergency supplies in your car in case of an accident or a breakdown. I recommend that you sign up for a site like AAA so you can have your vehicle towed and you can get to a safe location in case you need it.

    Youll also want to be certain to have road flares, maps, a jack to change your tire, and a car phone charger in your trunk.

    How To Control Panic Attacks While Driving

    Driving panic attacks are obviously very difficult to live with. You drive everywhere, and if you’re also dealing with severe panic attacks, then you’re going to be extremely scared while on the road.

    The key to preventing these car attacks is to learn to prevent all panic attacks. It’s hard to cure panic attacks in only one location since panic attacks can occur anywhere, and any time you have a panic attack you put yourself at risk for associating the attack with the location and having these attacks more often. You can, however, try the following:

    None of these are going to act as a rapid cure for anxiety, nor are they going to provide you with a way to prevent all of your anxiety and panic attacks. But they may reduce either the frequency or severity of your anxiety attacks while driving so that hopefully you’ll find it easier to be on the road.

    Ultimately, the solution is going to be learning how to manage your anxiety. Only then will you give yourself the best opportunity to prevent any and all panic attacks while in the car.

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    Discovering Exposure Therapy As A Solution

    The basic premise of Exposure Therapy is knowing that youre in control. A driver must simply maneuver across the highway to reach a destination. You control the car, its direction and speed.

    Exposure Therapy starts out slow, such as asking a patient to drive a few feet in a driveway. Through progressive sessions, the person eventually drives onto a highway for a few miles at a time. Exposing the person to the fact that they are in control of the situation can ward off the phobia. It takes dedication and time to successfully complete this treatment.

    For severe phobias, driving on the highway may be a work in progress. Dont give up on your treatment because overcoming the fear is possible. It simply takes initiative and willpower to fight it off. Youll be cruising down the road in no time with proper treatment.

    How Do I Become Confident Driving Alone

    Why am I anxious?

    One of the best ways to overcome anxiety in any situation is by practice. Make yourself go out at night and drive. It can help with anxiety.

    In the beginning, drive around your neighborhood or to an area that you know very well. Drive to places- like your doctors office or your favorite coffee shop.

    Once you feel comfortable driving to those locations at night, go a few blocks further each time. Youll notice youre not as nervous driving at night as you practice more.

    Also Check: How To Reduce Test Anxiety

    Learning To Drive With Anxiety

    The process of learning to drive can be both exciting and stressful. For some, it can trigger a real sense of anxiety which is hard to shake and can hamper your progress. We get itthere are lots of new things to learn, it costs quite a bit of money, and you may even feel the burden of other peoples expectations weighing you down. When you see it laid out like that, its no wonder people get so nervous about driving!

    If you feel this way, its highly likely that you are overthinking everything and putting too much pressure on yourself. Now, this is very easy for us to point out, but not so easy to overcome. The good news is that there are many things within your control that you can adjust to make the learning process smoother and more enjoyable.

    Teens And Driving Anxiety

    Driver anxiety is a common affliction for many Americans today, but it can be incredibly hard-hitting for teens who have little experience to fall back on. Navigating Americas chaotic roadways is difficult enough for the mature driver, but it can be downright terrifying for teens.

    Driver anxiety is a specialized form of anxiety marked by periods of discomfort and stress, with symptoms varying in severity. Some signs, like an extreme panic attack, could pose a significant risk of injury to both you and the drivers around you. Some people may avoid driving altogether to avoid these negative feelings and, quite possibly, a negative outcome while behind the wheel.

    We look to the experts to see best practices for living with and overcoming teen driver anxiety on the road.

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    Symptoms Of Driving Anxiety

    The following are signs that you may experience anxiety while driving

    • Increased heart palpitation
    • Dizziness and shortness of breath
    • Dry mouth, although not always, can also be a sign of driving related anxiety
    • In case of a phobia, someone may feel like they are going to run insane or die.

    Whatever anxiety symptoms you have, one thing is clear you can overcome driving anxiety or avoid panic attacks in one of these 9 simple steps below:

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