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by Ken Goodman, LCSW
fear of driving

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

Here is a list of the top 5 driving fears:

1. Past negative experiences
Car accidents are the most common negative driving experience; and can be the most horrific, but there are others. Driving through a bad storm, being a victim of road rage, getting lost, or having a panic attack can all be traumatic. You may replay the experience in your mind and worry it will happen again. The repetitive thoughts and fears may then cause the person to avoid driving, only making the anxiety worse.

2. Driving outside of one’s comfort zone… alone
For some driving phobics, driving to a familiar location is no big deal. But give them directions to a new location, near or far, and their anxiety goes through the sunroof.

What if I get lost? What if my car runs out of gas? What if my cell phone gets no reception? What if I can’t find a parking spot?

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 symptoms of anxiety and being trapped
Being stuck in traffic is an irritant no one likes, but if you have a fear of panic attacks traffic can be a terrifying experience. People with a history of panic attacks tend to avoid situations where they can’t get out quickly, including freeways and left turn lanes.

What if I’m stuck traffic and have a panic attack!

Anxiety targets certain organs in the body. While some may experience racing heart and difficulty breathing, 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 wrath of other drivers for going too slow on the highway, there is pressure to accelerate, but your mind and body won’t let you. Clinching the steering wheel for dear life, your heart races and your body sweats.

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

The fear of losing control and swerving into another lane is enough to make you drive on surface streets even if takes longer to arrive at your destination.

5. Fear of Fatalities
The basis of all anxiety is an exaggeration of danger and an underestimation of one’s ability. Fearful drivers might not trust their own ability or lack faith in other’s. Either way, they imagine the worst repeatedly. The active imagination of the driving phobic can result in the most gruesome car crashes… in their mind. You don’t have to be a victim of a previous car accident to imagine being in one.

Getting Past the Anxiety

Conquering the fear of driving IS possible but it usually requires help. The gold standard for treatment of any anxiety disorder is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).

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

Then write down all the reasons you want to conquer the fear - why it’s so important. Overcoming any fear means you must face it, which requires a great deal of motivation.

A CBT therapist will help you deal with the thoughts that are causing your physical symptoms and teach you skills to relax your body and quiet your mind. The therapist will also explain the mindset required to face a fear.

Fear of driving affects all aspects of one’s life, from personal to professional. Overcoming this type of anxiety with a qualified professional, will take work and bravery, but it’s well worth, it in the end!

Now available! Recorded ADAA webinar presented by Ken Goodman - Overcoming the Fear of Driving (July 12, 2018). 

 


About the Author

ADAA_Ken-Goodman-websize-1.jpg

Ken Goodman, LCSW, treats anxiety and OCD in Los Angeles. He is the author of The Anxiety Solution Series: Your Guide to Overcoming Panic, Worry, Compulsions and Fear, A Step-by-Step Self-help Audio Program, Break Free from Anxiety, a coloring, self-help book for anxiety sufferers, and the Emetophobia Manual, for those who suffer with the fear of vomit.  Ken Goodman is an ADAA board member and Clinical Fellow. Visit Ken's website.

 

 

 

I definitly have a fear of driving, but my family doesn't seem to understand. I am 15 years old, and my family wants me to drive my 4 year sister to school. This wouldn't be a problem if I didn't have a reoccuring dream of us crashing and dying a slow and painful death. I just want to be normal and not wake up in tears fearing the worst.

I was in an accident when I was 17 in the rain. My car didn’t had ABS brakes so I lost control of my car. My dad blamed me (I don’t hold this against him), but this experience traumatized me. I put $1,100 to fix my car down and not only a month later the same accident happened again. I’m TERRIFIED of driving. I smack my brakes on when I see people braking and I panic anytime I have to go somewhere new. I have awful panic attacks when I’m driving. I moved to Dallas a couple of weeks ago and I want my life back. I don’t know what to do cause I can’t go anywhere unless I walk.

Around 5 years ago; I started suffering panic attacks only while driving. Mainly brought on when crossing a bridge. Then it was being stopped in traffic or at a light and even a stop sign on any type of incline. Its a feeling of faintIng; associated with loss of earring, numbness in legs, you name it. I finally thought I concurred it. 2 years no attacks until now. Seems they are returning. It’s hard to drive any unknown route. They are the worst too. Forget highways. I avoid them. The fear limits where you go and how far. The idea of taking a road trip is always no. Everyone has their struggles. This is mine. It could be worse. So I’ll just have to try and overcome them as best I can. Thanks for this forum. Glad to see I’m not the only one.

This is awesome. Recognize your fear, negate it in your brain, then go out and drive right through it. The subconscious definitely loves action. So, visualize what you are wanting. Make it as fun as possible. No pressure. I am choosing to drive at night right now. Less traffic. I’m doing it! You can too!
Also, I’ve definitely learned that positive repetition is great! If the fear is too high, it could be too much to handle at first. Literally, practice a lot in your mind as an athlete would practice the perfect baseball pitch, over and over again, until you see nothing but amazing visuals. Then go and do it! Move past those physical sensations and just breath. Thanks for a great article! Thank you Ken Goodman for all you do!

I am 14 almost 15 and I have never really driven but when I think about how I’ll be driving soon it stresses me out. Ever since I can remember I have been looking at the speedometer as a passenger or Grabbing onto the handle in the door. It’s hard for me to pay attention to someone driving because I feel like they will crash. I have to look at my phone or outside so that I don’t freak myself out, this anxiety is especially bad when my sister who just got her license drives me. I don’t know what to do because I’ll be driving soon and I’m panicking

I am so scared of something bad happening . Like for example , driving in the rain . What if I loose control ? Also,what if I get in an accident ... I am especially scared of driving on interstates. I’m afraid of hitting someone or getting hit .

I notice at 45 or above i get panic struck, because the freeway is so mesmerizing. I'm afraid of falling asleep or blacking out on the freeway. I can go the speed limit when there is plenty of traffic, and traffic jams dont bother me at all. It's mostly when I have the freeway to myself, then I see a car or two flying by.

I am scared to death of reversing I am not worried at all about driving forwards haha, but when it comes to reversing I'm not a fan. I'm always worried about holding people up and that makes me make silly mistakes I've not hit anything reversing yet but been close a few times! People say practice and I have just not happening. I always park where I can drive in and drive out forwards lol 😂. Weird I know but still get from A to B.

Scared of othe…

October 3, 2020

I use to have a fear of driving when I first learned how to drive at 17 years old. I overcame that because I didn't want to depend on others. From age 17 to 35 - I had no issues driving on the expressway , or regular roads. I had no issues with others driving me on the expressway or regular roads. Now, for the past 7 years - I get major anxiety attacks when others drive me!! I don't now why. It's like I feel safer and secure when I drive. When I'm on the passenger side - the fear over takes me... before I even get in the car. It sucks. My boyfriend wants to take me places but I have to always be the one driving. He hates it. And, I only can drive the expressway on the end lanes and only with my kids. Driving adults on the expressway makes me nervous. I wish there was a pill I can take to knock me out for the ride so others can drive me around .. I need something. Going to see a doctor real soon. I need to overcome this fear.

I hust watched the video on this and this is me completely. I have driving anxiety for the past 4 years after having an attack in my vehicle while on an expressway, over a bridge, in traffic, and driving in a storm where I wouldn't see. The perfect storm if you will. I used to love to drive and would go as far as I could for work. Until that day. I have been working with a hypnotist for 2 years and still have issues. So hard to fight this. I have to drive for work. So it's a constant struggle. I am ok with some distances, but how fast I am going, and over bridges or how far I have to go, or the weather is always a concern. I hate what this has done to me. I feel as if its taken my power away. I also have GAD which seems to make this even harder. I just want to be the girl I was 5 years ago. I would give anything. I do still drive, but over 45min-1 hour is very hard. I get the feeling I need to run, or jump out of the car. Wish there were stoplights on highways so I can just relax and take a break a minute. I get depersonalized and lightheaded. It stinks! I have seen two therapists, had a driving fear program with the same concepts, but it just wont stay in my head that I have to be bigger than this. I have to face it. It scares me to go far on expressways.

I shake when I drive now. It came out of nowhere, and I did had a panic attack (first one in my life) while driving about 5 months ago. Thing is, I've always loved driving and actually preferred to drive because I always had confidence I was a better driver and knew I wouldn't crash. Now I am having difficulty with my commute to college twice a week which is an hour away and I need to be on I-95. It's irritating that I am doing something I am full well aware I can do. Before all this, is probably drive an average an hour a day. So I don't know if it's like when I first learned and I'm just nervous or what. The shaking in my hands and legs are my main concerns because I cannot control it. I've had the police called on me twice because I've been spending about an hour a day cruising neighborhoods until the shaking stops. It's getting better but I need to take my mind out of it. It's gone from someething that was mechanical and easy for me to something I over think during, and it causes me distress. The doctor thought it was SAD but it's not, I have no issues talking to people. In fact I am very extroverted and I think the quarantine took a pretty big toll on me due to my social calendar being reduced significantly. I don't know I am a male in my mid 30s in grad school. Thing that sucks is the commute takes up so much of my mental energy that when I am in class I struggle. I feel like I just took a major exam and all I did was drive. So it's become a major hindrance.

juanita clarri…

November 14, 2020

My eldest son he was hit by a car when he was younger he ended up with a broken leg and ended up staying in hospital for a week and ever since then i have been too afraid to drive how do i get over my phobia

My son is 21 yrs old. I enrolled him in driving education at 19 after that course I starting teaching him because he didn't quite have the hang of it. It's been 2yrs & he's still isn't comfortable by himself to drive. His suffers from depression & anxiety I feel that has a lot to do with it.

He has the basic fundamentals in driving but he's unsure of his abilities when it comes to driving by himself. I don't know what else to do to make him feel comfortable behind the wheel. I started again teaching him for a hour on the weekends. I keep telling him he's making it harder than it really is.

Is there more I should be doing?

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