Driving Phobia Treatments: What Are My Options?
Indeed, while driving is an experience several people cherish all through their lives, it is also an experience that makes other people cringe.
Being nervous is usually normal for people who are just learning to drive their first car. The first experience of manning the wheel is bound to send several waves of excitement down your spine. With several uncertainties staring at you, you may become overwhelmed and shy away from driving. If left untamed, a full-scale driving phobia can develop.
This is a problem for experienced drivers as well. When you have had some ugly experiences with driving, it is common to start avoiding vehicles in general. If left unattended, this condition can go from bad to worse, and become a full-scale phobia.
The phobia for driving is defined as ‘vehophobia.’ It can come in several forms which can range from mild to severe.
Some people are only scared of driving in specific situations, such as during storms or at night. Some people are afraid of driving on freeways, while others panic in congested traffic. There are people scared of getting lost while driving, and there are people who do not want anything to do with a car.
To the latter, merely sitting in the driver’s seat can trigger severe waves of anxiety.
As a vehophobic, the moment you feel your body on the cushion behind the steering wheel, everything changes. You feel your chest tightening over a rapidly pounding chest. Beads of sweat begin to break through the pores on your skin, and your head starts feeling lighter. Then, several ominous thoughts begin to invade your mind.
It may look strange, but this is a reality for many people. Vehophobia is among the most popular phobia around the world.
According to a research report released by Your Local Security (YLS), vehophobia ranks as the most Googled phobia in four states in the United States of America, namely New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Ohio.
Also, a research report released by the National Center for Biotechnology Information showed that 25 to 33 percent of people involved in car accidents ended up suffering varying degrees of vehophobia. It goes without saying, but if the number of road accidents continues to rise, the number of vehophobics is bound to increase.
This article is designed to drive you through the concepts of vehophobia and how to treat it.
There are several driving phobia treatments available, spanning from existing traditional methods to emergent technology-inclined techniques. However, to fully get to the end, we need to start from the beginning.
Root Causes of Driving Phobia
The fear of driving is common among young and older adults. The reason for this condition is not hard to find because it originates from our interactions and experiences with our environments. Some people have mild cases of vehophobia, while others have severe cases of the condition.
However, there are several occurrences or situations that can lead to the development of a driving phobia. We will discuss them below.
Apparently, when you’re newly introduced to driving, nervousness is part of the mix of feelings you get. You may wonder if you’re going to run yourself into a ditch, or whether you’re going to lose control and run someone over. You pay more attention to news of car crashes and wonder if the person involved was a newbie just like you. Sometimes this feeling can get overwhelming, and if it doesn’t get taken care of, a combination of events can aggravate the situation.
The nervousness associated with first-time driving is not necessarily vehophobia. However, if left untamed, things could get worse from there.
This is more relatable for people who have been driving for some time. If you have had bad experiences on the road, you’re more likely to develop a fear of driving.
Several people who had been hospitalized in the past by a car crash end up developing the fear of driving as their body’s way of trying to avoid a repetition of history at all costs.
Once they get close to a car, they begin to see the whole event all over again, and they experience panic attacks. Thus, they stay away from driving in general. It could get so bad that they even avoid cars completely for a while.
People who had been carjacked in the past or treated horribly by highway robbers are also prone to developing vehophobia.
This is not restricted only to your family members but can also include influences from your close friends. How they treat driving can also influence how you perceive driving. If your parents, for instance, are vehophobics or show some levels of anxiousness when driving, you naturally digest their concerns and views. This can result in mild levels of vehophobia, which can escalate with any unfavorable driving-related incidents.
It is usual for people around 40 years old and above to witness dropping levels of driving confidence. When this is allowed to dwell for long, it can escalate at any giving opportunity.
Some chronic health conditions can influence vehophobia. For instance, people who suffer from chronic heart conditions are more prone to heart attacks. They may be scared that something might happen on the road and throw them into a panic attack. Indeed, driving on the road is a process that holds so many uncertainties. Thus, it is understandable for them to think they may not be able to handle it, therefore, avoiding driving in general.
People with bad eyesight can have their confidence in driving hampered as well. Some can completely shy away from driving because they do not trust their eyesight enough.
Phobias that are left untreated can easily result in other phobias.
For example, there is dystychiphobia, which is the fear of accidents. There is claustrophobia, the fear of closed spaces. There is agoraphobia, the fear of crowded areas, like congested traffic, rallies, etc.
All these phobias have some overlaps with vehophobia, and without being treated, they can gradually escalate into vehophobia.
How to Treat a Driving Phobia
A driving phobia, just like every other phobia, is a psychological condition characterized by fear. Just like other phobias, this condition can be cured. The ease with which a phobia can be cured chiefly depends on the severity of the said phobia.
However, with respect to vehophobia, there are a number of techniques and processes that can be used to cure the condition.
Driving phobia treatments can be manual and traditional, or they can be technology-driven.
Firstly, let us categorize the treatment into two:
- Relaxation therapy
- Exposure therapy
This is the most basic, and the most important aspect of being treated. You have to prepare yourself for the challenge. At this stage, what you would need is just a book and a pen jot down your observations.
Below are the steps you need to take to get yourself ready.
- Identify and write down the specific trigger—do you panic in congested traffic, or do you panic at highways? Are you triggered by the thoughts of becoming lost? Do you panic by thoughts of dying?
- Write down how severe the feelings are—do you feel your chest tightening when panic attacks come? Do you feel nauseous? Are the feelings mild? Strong? When do you get the most intense panic attacks?
- Identify why you want to be free—You definitely have your reasons in your head, and you know it. But writing gives form to your thoughts and makes it easier for you to set your eyes on your goal. Why do you want to be free? Write it down.
Killing the Phobia
Having prepared yourself, you have established what triggers you, how it feels, and why you want to end it all for good. It is now time to commence with the actual steps.
Just like we mentioned before, the treatment for vehophobia can come in two forms: relaxation therapy and exposure therapy.
Relaxation therapy involves the use of controlled relaxation procedures to attain a state of tranquility and thereby reduce stress and anxiety.
Relaxation techniques are effective in lowering high blood pressures, stabilizing heart rates, and normalizing breath rates.
Ever wonder why yoga has gotten so popular?
To treat vehophobia, relaxation therapy can be employed. The idea is to get you comfortable with being in your car. It also serves to improve your general health and ability to control tension.
Here’s the plan.
- Get comfortable in your car: You should get into your car without moving it. You can start by leaving the doors open while you’re seated inside. When you improve, you can stay inside with the doors closed. Meanwhile, ensure you’re wearing comfortable clothes and shoes. Play soothing music and just relax. Try to get comfortable being in your car. Also, ensure any necessary repairs have been made. This improves your sense of safety.
- Practice abdominal breathing: While in your car, each time the rush of panic starts coming, practicing abdominal breathing will help you maintain calmness. The moment your chest and neck start to tighten, you should inhale slowly and deeply through your nose. Let your stomach expand and pause for a moment. Then slowly exhale and let your body relax. Repeat the process a few times if you need to.
- Try progressive muscle relaxation: This exercise allows you to be able to hold and release tension. Start by folding your hands into fists for 10 seconds. Release for 20 seconds and repeat. Each time, focus on the tension as it builds on your hands when you clench and leaves when you unclench. You should repeat that with other muscles in your body from head to toe. Do it for 20 minutes even when you do not have panic attacks. This keeps you aware and in control, and you will have fewer panic attacks.
- Use positivity: Positivity works. Say positive things about your driving.
Exposure therapy is a more hardheaded approach to conquering your phobia. Just like the name suggests, you’re essentially getting yourself exposed to your phobia until it loses its fearsome aura.
This step is to be taken after you’ve mastered the various relaxation techniques.
Indeed, exposure therapy is a robust approach. You get to feel your greatest fear in all its colors. You strive to wade off the most severe panic attacks you’ve ever face in the history of your driving phobia, and your chances of succeeding depend chiefly on your fighting spirit. At any stage, it is advisable for you to request the company of a close friend or a professional.
This is how exposure therapy works:
- Start by creating an anxiety scale: An anxiety scale helps you weigh the levels of anxiety you feel at each stage of your exposure. Create a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 representing no anxiety, and 10 representing peak anxiety, or panic attack.
- Get into your car: By now, you should have learned to get comfortable in your car. This exercise is to seal this level off. However, if you still feel panic, practice your relaxation exercises. If you feel anything, record it on your anxiety scale. Keep at this until you’re comfortable at that level.
- Short distance driving: By the time you’re comfortable being in your car, you can start by turning the ignition on. This is bound to spark some vehophobic reactions. Practice becoming relaxed at this stage as well until you achieve it. Always make sure you cut the exposure when a panic attack sets in. When you’re okay, go back and repeat until you beat the stage. Begin short distance driving, at minimal speed. Remember that you don’t have to get it all right at a go. Take your time, be patient, and stay calm.
- Level up: By the time you’ve conquered short distance driving, you can switch it up a little. Increase your mileage and speed gradually. Always make sure you’re not alone during this process. Have someone you trust tag along with you.
- Practice: When you’ve beaten all the levels, you should keep repeating the process until you’re so comfortable it starts becoming boring. That is the only way you know the fear has gone completely.
Driving Phobia Treatments: Support Groups
Joining support groups is also essential if you want to achieve success faster. A support group is just a group of people sharing similar conditions, who come together to share experiences and ideas. This is commonly called ‘group therapy.’
Find a support group near you and become a part of it. There are even online support groups from across the world which you can be a part of and share your experiences.
Support groups are useful because they are comprised of individuals who know precisely how you feel.
Technology and Vehophobia
In recent times, science and technology have risen to combat vehophobia using a process called ‘virtual reality therapy.’
Just as its name sounds, virtual reality therapy involves simulating your phobia and helping you combat them until they leave you. By using virtual reality therapy, you are made to navigate through digitally generated environments explicitly tailored to your condition.
It feels like driving, but in reality, you’re just sitting at a place, in the company of a professional.
Driving phobia can be embarrassing and depressing. It can practically drive you crazy. This is why it needs to be stopped as soon as possible. In your quest to end this condition, always make sure your car is in good condition. Ensure you drive within speed limits. Watch yourself for any changes in your body. Maintain calmness by practicing relaxation exercises regularly.
Ultimately, we hope that by observing these procedures discussed, you’ll get your car on the road in no time.