Driving Anxiety (A Complete Guide)


In this blog, we will talk about Driving Anxiety, what it is, how it is related to other conditions, symptoms, and treatment. 

What is Driving Anxiety?

Driving anxiety (is classed as a specific phobia) is one of the most common forms of anxiety.

This can be manifested in behaviors such as hesitation to drive or refusing to drive at all.

A phobia is an irrational, intense and paralyzing fear to something or someone. 

Imagine one day yo go to pick up the kids from school or while going to the supermarket you have an accident and you end up in the hospital.

While you are recovering you remember the exact moment of the derailment and how you felt like you were going to die. 

Two weeks later you go an pick up the car from the mechanic but as soon as you get into the car you feel like the car derailment from 2 weeks ago is happening all over again.

You freeze while sitting in front of the wheel, start sweating and just stay there until the mechanic asks you if you will pay with a credit card or cash. At that moment it hits you and you realize you are now afraid of driving. 

What type of situations Am I afraid of when having Driving Anxiety?

Your anxiety may be triggered or driven by certain situations.

It is not only limited to driving a car, but there can also be some other related experiences such as:

  • Fear to lose control resulting in a car derailment.
  • Driving at a high speed.
  • Driving to new areas or unfamiliar places where you might get lost. 
  • Learning how to drive.
  • Driving on your own or at night.
  • Being stuck in a traffic jam (claustrophobia)
  • Driving while climatic conditions are not the best.

Driving Anxiety: physiological response

When we feel threatened or we perceive a situation is potentially dangerous, then our body reacts by releasing adrenaline and other chemicals into our bloodstream which will eventually increase your heart rate, make you sweat, sharpen our senses and heighten our physical abilities.

Then your brain decides if we should fight or run to protect our physical integrity

Is it a matter of survival?

As mentioned, we need this type of physiological response to ensure our survival when we come in contact with something potentially dangerous.

For example, let’s say you are walking down the street and someone comes up to you and takes a very sharp machete and threatened to kill you if you don’t give him your wallet.

In this case, your body reacts and makes the response by attacking the person in front of you or it can make go the other way and run as fast as possible. 

What is a phobia?

Phobias are simply fears and fear translate to anxiety.

Fear is considered part of our lives and it is actually helpful when we find ourselves in a situation that could possibly harm us (flight or fight response).

But when fear becomes our life and not just part of it then,  it starts to interfere with our normal functioning and daily life activities. 

Phobias are considered a sub-category of anxiety disorders.

However, two people with the same phobia can have totally different reactions depending on the trigger and how intense is the response. 

Symptoms

Like any other phobia, a driving phobia can elicit some of the following symptoms:

When the response is prolonged and very intense then you can have panic attacks or thoughts like “I am going to die” or “I am losing my mind”.

It can even make you behave in a way you normally wouldn’t as in hurting someone or something humiliating. 

What causes Driving Anxiety Phobia?

It is hard to determine what precisely causes your driving phobia.

Everyone is different so they could have had a different experience that could have trigger their Driving Phobia as it was in your case (the car derailment). 

Sometimes, your phobia gets triggered but it was not related to driving.

It can be the result of an unpleasant or emotional life event such as being ill, the death of a loved one, breaking up with your partner or being fired from your job. 

Can I have more than one anxiety disorder?

There is scientific evidence suggesting that some people with driving phobias might actually have co-morbidity with another anxiety disorder as it is the case of Generalized Anxiety Disorder or GAD. 

Even though depression is not part of anxiety disorders it can also affect people with driving anxiety. 

How can I get rid of my driving anxiety phobia?

The first thing to take into consideration is commitment.

These types of phobias are difficult to overcome if you are not motivated or committed enough into replacing those irrational thoughts related to your fear.

They can make you come up with many excuses as to why you shouldn’t act or move forward into getting rid of your fear. 

Tip 1: Avoid caffeine

Researchers have found that caffeine can contribute to worsening your anxiety.

This is due to caffeine being a stimulant of the central nervous system, so think of it like putting more gasoline into a fire.

It will only get bigger, so try reducing your caffeine intake gradually so you can at some point, remove it from your life.

Tip 2: Stress management 

Try learning some stress-relieving techniques.

These include breathing exercises, meditation or yoga.

Just take a few minutes to breathe, close your eyes and imagine yourself in a relaxing setting, like a beach or a forest. 

Tip 3: Desensitization

Consider techniques such as desensitization.

This has been proven to help you gradually overcome your fear, so how fast or how slow it works depends on how committed and motivated you are.

Here is an example of how to apply desensitization to overcome your fear:

  • Step 1: Go to your car, open the door, sit and start the engine. This might take a while since you could have a lot of intrusive thoughts that will prevent you from doing it. Close your eyes and slowly count until 10. If it doesn’t work at the first attempt doesn’t worry, just keep trying.
  • Step 2: now that you were able to take the car out of the garage try driving a few yards, switch your car off and then try it again. The key here is repetition. 
  • Step 3: Now you are ready to go round the block, stop and switch your car off. Take a few minutes to think about what you have accomplished so far. 
  • Step 4: Take a longer trip now, it can be somewhere close to your house like the supermarket or a shopping mall. If it makes you feel more comfortable try bringing someone with you for extra support.
  • Step 5: try taking the same trip but without your companion. If you were able to make the trip alone congratulations! Just try it one more time. 
  • Step 6: Take an even longer trip to a friend’s house or maybe somewhere out of town. 
  • Step 7: Try getting stuck in a traffic jam. While you are in it try breathing, listening to some music or even taking someone with you to distract yourself.
  • Step 8: Try going places that you are not familiar with and try to avoid using the GPS. This will help you solve the problem of getting lost on your own. 

Now you get the idea, gradually start incorporating more steps if you see fit.

Take your time, this requires patience and a lot of work.

Tip 4: Carpooling

Consider sharing your car with other people while you drive.

This will engage you in conversations and will distract you from your anxiety. 

Why is this blog about driving anxiety important?

It is important because it provides a comprehensive approach not only to driving anxiety as a phobia but phobias in general. 

It helps to understand that anxiety is not necessarily a bad thing, it is actually an adaptative and physiological response that ensures our physical well being by avoiding getting hurt or putting ourselves into dangerous situations.

However, when anxiety gets trigger in situations where irrational thoughts about a possible outcome are predominant, then that is when it can impact our lives negatively. 

Feel free to comment in the comment section down below!

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) about Driving Anxiety

How do I cope with anxiety while driving?

You can use several techniques to cope with your anxiety while driving, some of them are:

Break the cycle. Thinking about driving even before you can get into your car while trigger irrational thoughts so just try doing it without thinking too much.

Safety first: ensure you are under the appropriate conditions to drive, that you have your seatbelt and you are driving at your own speed.

Try driving in the dark, this will put you in a situation where thinking and problem-solving becomes necessary.

Practice, practice, practice! Practice makes perfect.

Use relaxation techniques while driving. Try using breathing techniques or putting some relaxing music to distract yourself.

Why do I have a fear of driving?

One of the most common causes of fear of driving are traffic accidents.

They can actually cause a series of disorders such as PTSD, driving anxiety, agoraphobia, among others. 

Can you drive if you have panic attacks?

It can become dangerous if you are driving and you have a panic attack.

While having a panic attack you can experience a series of physical symptoms that might prevent you from concentrating on driving so it might actually result in a car accident

Is driving anxiety common?

Driving anxiety is more common than you think but how you experience it varies from one person to the other.

This can include behaviors like being hesitant to drive, refusing to drive or even avoid driving at all. 

What gets rid of anxiety?

You can get rid of your anxiety by staying active, avoiding alcohol, quit caffeine, get a good night’s sleep, meditate, do yoga, eat healthily and practice breathing exercises. 

Recommended Books:

  1. Back out on the Road-Again!: A Roadmap to Overcome your Driving Phobia
  1. How to Overcome Fear of Driving: The Road to Driving Confidence
  1. Dare: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks Fast
  1. Badass Ways to End Anxiety & Stop Panic Attacks! – A counterintuitive approach to recover and regain control of your life.: Die-Hard and Science-Based … recover from Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks
  1. Driving Yourself Mad: Overcome Your car travel anxiety with 1-2-3 CBT

What we recommend for curbing Anxiety

Below are some of the services and products we recommend for anxiety

Anxiety Weighted Blankets

  • Anxiety Weighted Blankets are by far the number 1 thing every person who suffers from anxiety should at least try. Anxiety Blankets may improve your sleep, allow you to fall asleep faster and you can even carry them around when chilling at home.

Online Therapy

  • Online therapy is another thing we should all try. We highly recommend Online therapy with a provider who not only provides therapy but a complete mental health toolbox to help your wellness.

Anxiety Course

  • With over 50,000 participants, this anxiety course may be just what you need to regain control of your life.

Light Therapy

  • Amber light therapy from Amber lights could increase the melatonin production in your body and help you sleep better at night.  An Amber light lamp helps reduce the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep and increases overall sleep quality.

References

Anxiety Care

Anxiety and Depression  Association of America

Health Line

Very Well Mind

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