Sometimes called amaxophobia, the fear of driving is very common, although it can occur in a mild or severe way.

Some people are only afraid of specific driving situations, such as driving in storms or on highways, while others are afraid of just sitting behind the wheel.

It’s easy to understand how a major car accident would make someone fear driving, but most driving phobia has nothing to do with accidents.

Main fears when driving

1. Past negative experiences

Car accidents are the most common negative driving experience; And it may be the scariest, but there are others. Driving through a severe storm, falling victim to road rage, getting lost, or having a panic attack can be traumatic. You can replay the experience in your mind and worry that it will happen again. Repetitive thoughts and fears can cause the person to avoid driving, only making the anxiety worse.

2.  Driving outside your own comfort zone… and alone

For some driving phobics, driving to a familiar place is no big deal. But if you give them directions to a new location, near or far, their anxiety goes through the sunroof.

And if I get lost? What happens if my car runs out of gas? What if my cell phone has no reception? What if I can’t find a place to park?

It is not just the fear that something bad will happen, it is the fear that something bad will happen in an unfamiliar place, far from home, and no one will be there to help.

3. Fear of having anxiety symptoms and getting trapped

Being stuck in traffic is an irritant that no one likes, but if you are afraid of panic attacks, traffic can be a terrifying experience. People with a history of panic attacks tend to avoid situations where they cannot exit quickly, including freeways and left-turn lanes.

What if I am stuck in traffic and have a panic attack?

Anxiety targets certain organs of the body. While some may experience a racing heartbeat and shortness of breath, others experience diarrhea, lightheadedness, or nausea.

The mere thought of having these symptoms and being stuck in traffic results in more anxiety and more avoidance.

4. Fear of going too fast and losing control

Feeling the anger of other drivers for going too slow on the road, there is pressure to accelerate, but your mind and body won’t allow it. When you squeeze the steering wheel to save your life, your heart races and your body sweats.

The uncontrolled physical symptoms of anxiety make it impossible to trust yourself to drive safely.

The fear of losing control and drifting into another lane is enough to keep you driving on surface streets, even if it takes longer to reach your destination.

5. Fear of death

The basis of all anxiety is an exaggeration of danger and an underestimation of one’s ability. Fearful drivers may not trust their own abilities or have faith in that of others. Either way, they repeatedly imagine the worst.

The driving phobic’s active imagination can result in the most gruesome car accidents… in his mind.

You don’t have to be the victim of a previous car accident to imagine being in one.

Symptoms of fear of driving

Symptoms of driving phobias or anxiety manifest differently in different people, but can generally be similar to those associated with other forms of anxiety or panic attacks.

These may include:

  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Sweaty palms
  • sudoroso
  • disorientation
  • difficulty breathing
  • dry mouth

Some people will not necessarily experience such physical symptoms, but will simply avoid the problem of driving altogether, which could keep their fear a secret from friends and family.

If you know someone who you’ve noticed hasn’t been behind the wheel for a long time, or perhaps never met their goal of starting driving, try talking quietly with them to verify that everything is okay.

Overcoming anxiety

Overcoming the fear of driving IS possible , but generally requires help. The gold standard for treating any anxiety disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

The first step is to identify your specific fear from the list above.

Then write all the reasons why you want to overcome fear, why it is so important. Overcoming any fear means you have to face it, which requires great motivation.

A CBT therapist will help you deal with the thoughts that are causing your physical symptoms and will teach you skills to relax your body and quiet your mind.

The therapist will also explain the mindset needed to deal with a fear.

The fear of driving affects all aspects of life, from personal to professional. Overcoming this type of anxiety with a qualified professional will take work and courage, but in the end it is worth it.

Treat driving phobia or Amaxophobia

It must be treated by professional psychologists and it must be ensured that it is not associated with another type of fear such as claustrophobia or agoraphobia and, like any other phobia, if we do not treat it, it can get worse over the years.

What can I do to cure my driving anxiety?

While not all cases are necessarily “curable,” there are at least a few practical steps you can take that, over time, can help ease the stresses associated with driving.

If you’re just learning to drive, it could be as simple as changing your driving instructor if things just don’t work out.

Many people find that learning from the wrong person can get in the way of motivation to get back behind the wheel.

Some other general tips include:

  • Avoid Caffeine and an Empty Stomach – Cutting back on caffeinated beverages can have a surprisingly positive effect on anxiety. As a known trigger, if you become anxious, the best course of action is to eliminate it entirely. Never try to get out in your vehicle without eating something first, and never drive without sleep.
  • Stress management : Unfortunately, prolonged periods of high stress can lead to anxiety, so do your best to keep your levels low. Standard techniques like taking regular breaks from work, finding time to exercise, yoga, and meditation can help.
  • Virtual Reality (VR) Therapies : Research has found VR therapy to be an effective aid in treating driving phobias. Computer technology acts almost like a video game, allowing therapists to activate scenarios that expose drivers to fear-provoking situations, such as tunnels, bridges or overtaking.
  • Therapeutic techniques : Consider investigating practices such as ‘desensitization’, which involves taking small steps to put yourself in situations that trigger anxiety. In this case, an example could be simply sitting in a parked car with the engine running. It may take hours, days, even weeks or months to advance to the next stage, but all the time you are desensitizing your triggers.
  • Focus on the car : When you are behind the wheel, do your best so that your worries or worries do not distract you. For starters, keep your mobile phone out of sight and slow down if you find it helps: the faster you drive, the more information you need to process.
  • Consider sharing the elevator – Sometimes the pressures of having to get into your car every day can have an adverse effect on your willingness to move on. Investigate sharing the load with a friend or group traveling to a similar area. Your days as a passenger may really help you with perspective.
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Alexa Clark specializes in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. She has experience in listening and welcoming in Individual Therapy and Couples Therapy. It meets demands such as generalized anxiety, professional, love and family conflicts, stress, depression, sexual dysfunction, grief, and adolescents from 15 years of age. Over the years, She felt the need to conduct the psychotherapy sessions with subtlety since She understands that the psychologist acts as a facilitator of self-understanding and self-acceptance, valuing each person's respect, uniqueness, and acceptance.

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