Fear of Driving: What You Need To Know!
The fear of driving is called vehophobia. It can stem from many different causes ranging from past personal accidents to deeply set anxiety which would not normally be associated with driving at all.
This complex fear can be associated with agoraphobia, or a fear of open spaces, or even a contrasting condition like claustrophobia.
At times medical reasons can spur an irrational fear of climbing behind the wheel, while in other cases driving may not be safe at all. A little fear is a very healthy response which keeps your wits at their best, preventing accidents and promoting danger-free driving.
Yet, when too much fear persists it will overwhelm the senses increasing the chance of a traffic accident occurring. In certain cases, a person may be so afraid of driving that they refuse to travel in a vehicle completely.
The Two Types of Driving Fear
There are two main different types of driving fear. Those who have anxiety which stems from a perceived lack of control will not be comfortable as a passenger but typically drive perfectly fine. Others can feel so frightened while driving that they fear the responsibility of being behind the wheel. Both of these problems originate from the same issue – a perceived lack of control.
What Causes a Fear of Driving?
Depending on the person and the source of the anxiety, a fear of driving can be connected to numerous causes. The best way to get rid of fear completely is to address the root cause. A fear of driving is classified according to its onset with three main types of driving phobia arising for most sufferers. Here’s a closer look at the three classifications of driving fear so that you’ve got a starting point to begin working your anxiety.
Fear of Driving Caused by Traffic Accidents
If one has experienced a car or motorcycle accident and did not take measures to prevent the phobia from setting in then it can take extensive time to overcome. A driving phobia arising from a traffic accident cause a post-traumatic stress disorder driving phobia in most cases. This triggers extreme fear and anxiety in specific situations which are associated with the original accident. In very specific situations this can trigger a complete, ongoing fear of driving.
Others don’t even need to be in an accident to have the overwhelming feeling that they’ve been on the brink of disaster many times. A fear of driving caused by traffic accidents can be hard to unseat until the person realizes that their mind is preoccupied with an imaginary situation and a reaction which will not play out the way that it is envisioned. If you want to reach the root of your fear and understand all the factors involved as fast as possible, there is no better therapy than the excellent Driving Fear Program. It has all the resources you need to gain complete insight and overcome your anxiety.
Fear of Driving as a Specific Phobia
One can develop a fear of a specific occurrence with the fear of driving manifesting as a very specific phobia. For example, a driver or passenger may be calm and collected during most driving experiences with a phobia causing spontaneous fear as it is triggered. Lots of different types of driving phobias can arise. A driver can fear losing control of the car when encountering a highway overpass, navigating a traffic circle, or having to pass a truck.
Being on a bridge can trigger driving phobia, as can being in a tunnel, approaching a shopping center or any other traffic situation which brings with it increased pressure and vigilance. When the anxiety does not accurately reflect the risk it is classified as a driving phobia.
Fear of Driving as Agoraphobia
Agoraphobia is a fear of open spaces triggering anxiety when a sufferer contemplates the unknown awaiting at a distant destination. This type of fear of driving can cause so much anxiety that the person wishes to avoid setting foot in a car completely. Other agoraphobes will feel perfectly safe traveling nearby to their home and driving to familiar places but any unknown place or distance journey will trigger irrational anxiety.
The fear of getting lost, a fear of strangers, and other unfounded fears are often instilled by observing another such as an overprotective parent. Over time these fears form agoraphobia which can extend to a fear of driving.
Those who suffer from a fear of driving will typically also have other anxiety-induced conditions as well. Panic disorder, social phobia, agoraphobia, and claustrophobia are all extremely common to those who have a driving phobia.
What Makes the Fear of Driving Dangerous
Anxiety wreaks havoc on our nervous system and cognitive abilities. Despite the many impairments, the scary fact is that most people with a fear of driving who actually drive feel that they are safer drivers. A nervous driver is a dangerous driver. The physical responses to stress are counterproductive to a safe driver.
Stress and the chronic worrying typical to those suffering from a fear of driving will affect your appetite which impacts your nutrition. Sleep is impaired which in turn knocks job performance and general mental acuity. In many cases, seeking relief from anxiety can even lead to harmful lifestyle choices. Here are just some of the science-backed impairments of anxious, fearful driving:
- A fear of driving makes the driver unable to fully focus on the road resulting in slower response times and lower driving accuracy
- Attention lapses are connected to as much as 60% of all fatal crashes
- Older drivers are more susceptible to stress induced by driving, resulting in a greater risk of an accident when fearful
- When anger arises as the product of driving anxiety it increases the odds of a negative traffic outcome
- Driving stressed over a prolonged period can lead to coronary artery disease and a range of other heart-related complications
- Accident distress and the likelihood of a negative outcome is increased while other life stress factors increase the standard response of anxiety as a driving behavior
When Fear Escalates to a Phobia
An extreme fear of driving will manifest as a driving phobia. When anxiety reaches the point where your physical capabilities are hindered your fear of driving has escalated to a phobia. Depending on the exact nature of your individual phobia, there will be multiple triggers but analyzing the state of being mindful will make you aware of the general cause of anxiety. Phobias can be very selective.
Some people will only be crippled by fear when heading into a specific driving situation while others are only afraid of driving over extended distances or in certain types of vehicles. If the fear of driving is somehow connected to claustrophobia then public transport and small vehicles are out of the question. Some drivers feel perfectly safe while driving themselves around but are utterly crippled by the concept of using public transport or placing themselves in the hands of a friend or family member.
Phobias are very difficult to overcome without help. A range of therapies is available in addition to self-help techniques like meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and positive visualization. The Driving Fear Program has everything that you need to alleviate your worry and become the awesome driver that you already are without stress.
Physical Symptoms of a Fear of Driving
Extreme driving anxiety and driving phobia cause a string of physical symptoms. Most nervous drivers are accustomed to the increased heart rate, high levels of perspiration, and the dry mouth triggered by the fight or flight response. There are, however, a range of other physical symptoms which can arise. Here is more symptoms that you can expect depending on the severity of the fear and anxiety:
- Shortness of breath
- Confusion and dizziness
- Sweaty palms
- Impaired depth and speed perception
How to Treat a Fear of Driving
The best way to address a fear of driving is to reduce the other stressors and anxiety factors in your life while directly experiencing different driving situations. This is commonly known as exposure therapy, allowing a sufferer to experience their fear first hand which typically overcomes the anxiety for good.
Connected fears and the hierarchy of associative thought processes which interconnect out emotional states make treating fear of driving a complex therapy for many people. Stress levels need to be actively managed using diet and lifestyle changes while carrying out practices like mindfulness and meditation.
Fear, anxiety, depression, anger, irritability and self-loathing are all the same monster. Learning to live in the moment stops ruminative thoughts in their tracks, bringing your mind into the here and now instead of allowing it to fixate upon past experiences or improbable futures. We’ll be taking a closer look at each of the different methods typically used to treat a fear of driving.
Cognitive behavioral therapy is the standard treatment for any anxiety disorder. Most people plagued with anxiety have little chance of overcoming their fear without the help of another. This is what makes CBT’s intervention techniques and exercises so effective.
CBT addresses what is known as cognitive distortions, inaccurate thoughts which form the basis and backing for negative thought patterns and triggers to emotional unrest. The therapist and the patient work together to discover the root beliefs and self-views which fruit fear instead of ease and confidence.
Systematic desensitization is a proven therapy for all types of phobia. The basic process of systematic desensitization involves coming up with a list of the things that you fear which are connected to your core fear of driving. The list is sorted according to the things most feared to the things least feared.
Exercises are then devised which the patient uses to maintain a state of relaxation while vividly imagining each fear. Once the patient has reached the point where they are absent of fear while visualizing multiple feared scenarios then it is time to move on to exposure therapy.
The more you drive the more comfortable you will become while driving or being a passenger. Dedicated exposure therapy works wonders for many patients. Take measures to experience situations that you’re uncomfortable with one at a time while you are prepared and ready. Exposure therapy breaks down your fear of driving into the top 10 to 15 aspects which are most prevalent.
This list is further categorized from the action or exercise which is most fearful when imagined to the driving situation which is least fearful but still a trigger of anxiety. After working through the imagined triggers one by one, the driver is then asked to face their fear. This is best done in the company of a skilled and trusted driver. In most cases, a family member is recommended but this can at times also be your therapist. The fearful driver is exposed to all the associated anxieties to as great of a degree as they can manage comfortably.
Exposure therapy is the only way to break certain beliefs and fears. The sympathetic nervous system does not let go of a conditioned fear without physically overcoming the issue. No amount of contemplating, forethought or understanding will bring someone with a fear of driving to a resolution without them taking physical action.
There is simply no other way to reset the association within the mind and clear the driver of their fear and anxiety. This is especially true for people who have suffered from a fear of driving for their entire lives, having averted the issue by transforming thoughts connected to it. For example, those who feel disinterested due to their fear will need to actually drive to reform the association.
Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques
All anxiety is rooted in fear and fear is the product of thoughts which have the attention focused in the past or in the future. When one’s mind is applying a conceptualization of the past to the present or the predisposition for a particular outcome in the future to reasoning in the now, anxiety arises. The root of all fear is not living in the here and now, not being present in the moment.
Mindfulness, meditation and relaxation techniques help to center and ground, bringing apprehensive thoughts into focus and allowing the driver to let go of emotional attachments which bring nothing but bother. It takes just a few minutes a day to transform the way that we think, feel and act.
Mindfulness and meditative techniques like meditation, yoga and art help encourage our perception towards focusing on what matters – the here and now. With the mind freed from ruminative thoughts, there is no resistance going forward which allows fears and the resultant phobias to be resolved without any extensive, ongoing difficulties.
The benefits are far-reaching and will help with not only your nerves while driving or driving as a passenger but rather the health of your whole body and the experience of life itself.
Virtual reality technology has led to advanced therapy sessions built around exposure therapy without the risk of any real-world harm. The level of anticipatory anxiety felt is lowered significantly which allows people with extreme phobias to cross the threshold of fear which locks them into a life without driving. Once immersed, virtual therapy then presents levels of simulation and engagement which closely mimic that of real-world situations. Once a patient has managed to drive a virtual vehicle without fear it is much easier to cross over to a real car.
Exercises to Overcome the Fear of Driving
One has to realize and accept that the past is not a reflection of the present nor a marker for the future. A situation, however possible, is logically and statistically less likely to happen again once it has occurred. Additionally, the experience itself prepares one mentally which also lessens the likelihood of an accident occurring.
All of these arguments are moot when one accepts a life lived in the moment. Staying mindful of your thoughts and actions will in time free you from the anxiety of a past experience accepted incorrectly as potentiality. Here are some excellent exercises that you can practice to help ease away the fear of driving:
- List and analyze your fears using a hierarchy
- Practice relaxation techniques daily
- Try a breathing exercise like the 4-7-8 technique which naturally lowers anxiety
- Drive regularly in a quiet space like a parking lot until you are more comfortable
- Drive in anxious situations with the help of a trusted skilled driver
- Devise coping statements and positive affirmations
- Familiarize yourself with driving anxiety using creative visualization
- Take the time to learn as much as you can about driving and driving anxiety
- Make sure that you know understand current vehicle safety standards and the low-risk statistics in comparison to your expectations
Driving in the Absence of Fear
A fear of driving will never go away completely and it shouldn’t. Fear is a very natural response to driving due to the many risks which genuinely follow the practice. Fear should never stop you from driving and never impair your ability to focus and think clearly.
Staying mindful of the root of your fear will empower you to overcome it and in turn become a safer, better driver. If you’re looking for a proven solution to help you win the battle against your fear of driving then look no further than the Driving Fear Program. Learn how to end your cycle of fear today and unlock your full potential as well as a life with far less worry.