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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, a step-by-step audio program, and Break Free from Anxiety, a coloring, self-help book for anxiety sufferers. Ken Goodman is an ADAA Clinical Fellow.

Ken is the producer of The Anxiety Solution Series: Your Guide to Overcoming Panic, Worry, Compulsions and Fear, a step-by-step self-help audio program. Visit Ken's website. 

 

 

 

Hey guys! Im 29 years old ive been battling with this fear of getting stuck in traffic for about two years...its crazy i cant even get in the school lines to pick up my kids from school or even get in a fast food drive thru line..traffic on the highway is the worst i get sweaty, my hearts beat really fast i get cold & i just feel like passing out i honestly just want to jump out the car if i feel stuck anywhere!

For 16 years i have have a driving phobia. I can drive around my town but any where new sends me into panic mode. I haven't driven or rode on a highway in 12 years. Even if I'm not in the car I have panic attacks about my loved ones getting killed on the road. I feel so trapped. Snow and rain are also triggers. I've been to therapy countless time and take meds for my anxiety. I don't think I'll ever feel normal again.

I have a severe anxiety disorder and I'm almost 22 and dont have my drivers license I want and need to get it because I have two kids but my anxiety is so bad when I drive it freaks me out because I keep thinking about like car accidents and if I dont pass the test cause my anxiety or if I go to fast or too slow it's so overwhelming to you but everyone gets frustrated with me cause I'm 21 and dont have my license

I am a late driver, I didn’t get my liscense early on like I should have and am now at 23 trying to learn how to drive and get my liscense (ridiculous I don’t have it already, I know) I keep trying different methods of learning and trying out new teachers but I’m starting to realize it’s not my teachers fault
It’s mine. When I’m driving I shake, I tense up, I have trouble multitasking cause all I think about it paying attention to the road and not messing up and when I finally get through a lesson I always end up getting sick or bursting into tears. I am terrified of driving and I don’t know why. I’m starting to feel like I’ll never learn.

I relate to so many of you who have posted comments on here. Reading through your experiences have made me feel less alone. I am 29 years old and have been dealing with my fear of driving since I was 18 years old. My thoughts have included losing control of the wheel, crashing, killing someone, or embarrassing myself by making a dumb driving move. Having been diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and OCD, I understand the engine that keeps these thoughts running.
Being raised in NYC, I didn't really need a car. I had the MTA to rely on. Lol. When I graduated college and moved to Pennsylvania, I quickly understood the necessity of owning a vehicle. At the time, I was 24, and didn't even have my permit. When my colleagues at my job knew I didn't drive, yet alone have a permit, I was met with shock, confusion, and sometimes condescending remarks. My job required most individuals to drive and during team meetings, it was always openly discussed how I didn't know how to drive. Talk about feeling like you're under a microscope. In 2016, I finally built up the courage to get my permit and my license. The happiest moment in my life was when my instructor told me that I passed the exam. Unfortunately, I was unable to afford a car, so the anxiety crept back in.
Going through this anxiety is very debilitating as driving is something that "defines" independence and adulthood, in many developed societies. Understanding the technological/societal contexts of our nation and zooming in the lens on an almost 30 year old male trying to find his independence, be respected, have a family, and develop a career can make it seem really difficult considering the fear of driving.
That is why I have been going to therapy and trying methods such as CBT. ACT (acceptance commitment therapy-I believe a form of cbt??) may also help in tandem.
The comments I have read on here have inspired me to continue to fight and challenge myself. So thank you.

I feel the same way. I have super bad anxiety when Im driving...but I also have really bad anxiety even as a passenger. Terrified of a car wrecks even though I have never been in a bad accident. My heart starts racing and I feel weak and sick and I get very bad chest pains and can't breathe.

A year ago. I was in a random shooting. Someone shot at my car while I was getting on the expressway. I can drive the street ok but after being in the car for so long makes me hot I feel like I have lost control. Like im going to die in the car. Please help.

I was recently in a car accident. Aside from injuries and pain, I've also been suffering from anxiety, depression, and sleeplessness. The pain has been so intense that I have been taking an Aleve/Tylenol cocktail a few times a day. Can't imagine what that is doing to my stomach, liver, and kidneys.

I started taking Nubotany Hemp Oil as soon as it came and noticed an immediate difference. That day I walked around in two stores and was not in screaming pain afterward. Meanwhile, I have been taking the Nubotany oil daily and have noticed the following changes: Much less anxiety, better sleep, much-improved mood, less pain - sometimes none all day.

In addition to taking the oil orally, I also apply it topically when one or the other injury is acting up - helps right away. I have to say, I'm pretty impressed. Though I still have to take pain meds on occasion, the dosage and frequency have gone way down.

I can relate to the one of being trapped. I'm also scared to even go a 2 miles with my family driving today to a docs appointment today -- I think i'm afraid of the appointment ( I need eye surgery in a few days and this is a pre op appointment-- my husband usually takes me so my daughter had to take me-
and had zero sleep last night which doesn't help (anticipatory anxiety)
I had to take a small amount of of alprazolam just to get through this.

As we know <a href="https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2019/05/taking-the-wheel/">Driving</a&gt; can’t be won, like any other sport, it will come from practice. I drove two hours on the freeway that day and I know it is the beginning of a new beginning. So far the journey from fear to faith has been quite liberating. It wasn’t easy but when has it ever been? It will take hours and months for me to fully relax. I still drive sitting on the edge of the seat.

I'm 49 years old. I've been driving since I was 12 years old (my Dad taught me early). I've driven all over and loved driving even driving 8-10 hours after work to visit my boyfriend in the UP of Michigan where over half of the drive happened at night in the dark in the middle of no where long before there were cell phones. Last year while driving on local highway for a short distance while wearing progressive lens glasses, I got "dizzy" and worried I would pass out. Panic ensued but I got off at my exit and got home. Now...anytime I drive over a bridge or on highway or local road where there is open space I have a panic attack. If there are trees or house along the side, I am okay. It's the open spaces that freak me out. I feel like I'm going to go off the road and crash. Driving over bridges is like riding a roller coaster but there is no excitement...just fear. I feel I have a fear of heights as well and looking out office building can give me vertigo and anxiety. Even wearing the progressive lens glasses sitting still and looking around can give me vertigo. I feel trapped but still try to drive a distance...but the fear/anxiety is getting worse. I don't know how to get back to driving without fear and enjoying it as I used to.

I don’t know why but i can’t drive to save my lifeeee,once in a while i drive the car in my neighborhood slowlyyy butt any time another car drives by i have e panic attack and i freeze,sometimes i think i will never drive a car on a road but i have too,i need help🙏🏻🙏🏻🙏🏻

I am terrible traffic mo matter who.is driving.
I can do short trips but more than an hour is very difficult.
I have decided to find a therapist. I.hope this will help.
Thank.you

When I was 14 I got into a major car accident right around the block from home, I was petrified to go home from the hospital telling my dad I’ll walk instead of getting into vehicle, I’m now 36 been driving since 19 had no other major accidents, once someone ran into me at a red light, but all of a sudden especially when I’m at a red light my heart starts racing and feels like my chest is closing in, I don’t like thruways but these are the norm roads I take and my anxiety is nothing ever like this??? I’m becoming to the point where I don’t want to drive anymore

I have a fear of driving but know it is necessary to enjoy life and do small things like going to the store. I am so scared on the road I have gotten by permit several times and allowed it to expire. I am scared even in the passenger seat and I don't know how to overcome. I fell like when I get behind the wheel it gets even worst but I want to overcome this. My husband has been driving me around our whole marriage which is 20 years now. I need to do this and overcome it.

I have driven freeway a number of times but recently I went on the freeway and felt like I was going to faint and pass out because I was just so scared to get on and today I was with my cousin and I asked her what’s the nearest exit I didn’t feel good what so ever I felt my heart beating fast and my shortness of breathe I don’t know why it all of a sudden came to me since I already have had experience on freeway!

I'm almost 55 and I can't drive. This is affecting my life as I need someone to drive me everywhere. I'm kind of stuck at home. No social life after work. I want to drive bad, but as soon as I'm behind the wheel and on the road, I feel that all the cars are coming towards me. Even I see a pedestrian walking or a someone riding a bike next to me, I'm panicked. I fear that somehow I'll run over them. Once while I was practicing driving in a quiet community, a lady on a bicycle was coming towards me from the opposite direction. I got so panicked, that I drove sideways, hit a pole and broke the passenger side mirror. I want to drive bad just to improve my life and be more independent. Where should I start? Do I need professional help? Any advice will be appreciated.

I figured out that my problem is number 5 & no 1, thank you for the enlightenment. Now I am in a critical situation that I must drive no matter what, I can't keep my husband to take me all the places I need to go holding our two kids. So I am praying to get the motivation.
Thank you once again

4 months ago I was driving on a dark country road and either experienced a drone or a ufo harassing me. It scared me so bad that I am afraid to drive now. I have dreams about losing control of my vehicle and I’m almost to the point I can’t leave my house now. I’m desperate for help. I love out in the country and I have to be able to go to town to buy food and feed for my animals

Friday, July 12 - 3:00 - 4:00 pm ET

Do you have a fear of driving? Are you afraid of having a panic attack behind the wheel? Do you worry about losing control and causing an accident? The fear of driving can cripple your life, but there is a solution. In this LIVE webinar, ADAA board member Ken Goodman, LCSW, the author of this blog post, explains how to conquer this debilitating fear. There will be a Q&A session at the end of the webinar.

Register here: https://members.adaa.org/events/register.aspx?id=1253165&itemid=b67bb62f-c70b-4cce-8f75-f117a47b13c1

I need immediate help my anxiety and fear of driving is ruining my whole life. I lost my job and now my wife of 9 years is moving. If I don't get over this I feel like I'm going to commit suicide. PLEASE HELP!

I need help and don’t know how to get it. My job requires I drive and I will go out of my way to not drive in a freeway. However, living in NE FL (near Jacksonville), it’s almost impossible not to have to go over a bridge. This is very crippling and I feel like a freak and loser. Anybody know of any resources?

I will be reading I have been trapped for over 30 years by myself it is a horrid reality to just collapse . And be one's own cage. God helps and. Helping others. But it copes not cures. I have had doctors and have died . G

For most of my adult life, I have feared driving. I've tried everything over the years from counseling to hypnosis. It works for awhile, but then once I get behind the wheel my hands start to sweat and I panic. As a young child, I was hit by a car and I'm not sure in the back of my mind if this plays into my mind that I don't want to hurt anyone the way that I was hurt, but one of my dreams is to ultimately move to Dallas, Texas. You almost have to drive there and the thought of that stops me from living out my dream of retiring in Texas. Is there anything you can recommend to help?

I have been driving for two years now and suddenly this year I have been increasingly become afraid to drive. I travel out of town for work and every night before when I know I have to go in I am so afraid that I stay up all night just worrying. What scares me the most is when other drivers rush me on the road for example when I have to make a turn in two way traffic and the driver behind me becomes impatient the thing is I know that I can drive and that I am being cautious but other divers just seems to be in a rush always. The other day a lady behind me was hooting at me because we were waiting to turn right at a stop street but the road in front is two lane two way traffic with no stop for them, I honestly had no chance to go because cars just kept coming but she felt otherwise apparently and this just made me very very uncomfortable I mean I started doubting myself so much but I am not a chance taker on the road. I get people are in a rush sometimes but now I'm just so scared to drive because I'm afraid of being rushed like that

Recently I was sitting still to turn left on a 2 lane highway and I was rear ended by a F250 Ford truck going 50mph. The impact totalled my car and luckily I walked away with little injury. A month later my husband bought me a really nice used car. I could not drive it home from the dealership, for fear of it being hit. I have had the car for 2 months now and I have driven it a total of 13 miles, all around my neighborhood, never on the highway. I have relied on my husband to drive me wherever I need to go. My fear is being hit again. I am 58 years old and I have driven by myself most of my life...I have never been scared to drive anywhere at any time. Now, I am scared to drive to the corner store, which is less than a mile from my home. The times I have driven, my husband has been with me, but I still tense up when I drive. I am really trying to overcome my fear of driving but it is one of the hardest things I've ever had to face. I pray I will overcome this, for I am so tired of sitting at home...I feel as though I've lost my independence to travel to visit friends, both locally and out of state....or to even just drive to the grocery store. I find when I ride with my husband, I hold onto the arm rest and watch cars in the rear view mirror, in fear they will hit us. It's not an easy thing to get past.

I definitely could relate to 5.Fear of Fatalities. I have such a bad imagination when it comes to driving alone. I feel okay when someone is next to me and I know I have the route memorized and if I need any assistance even though I usually don’t at least I have someone next to me to ask. However, if I try to imagine myself driving alone I feel really worried. I have driven alone before back from uni but since school is starting back up and I haven’t driven the whole summer I feel scared to go back cuz I haven’t brushed up on my driving skills and since my brother wants us to take separate cars since our schedules are different. Even though the idea of leaving school when I want to is freeing cuz I won’t have to wait for anyone there’s still scary what if’s and imaginations running through my mind. What if I accidentally hop on the highway and I’m lost and scared and what if I accidentally forget my route and can’t pull out my gps, etc... it is hard and even though I expressed concerns to my mom I don’t want to keep telling them about it since I don’t wanna seem really scared cuz it’s a little embarrassing in front of my family and it makes me feel dependent on others. I guess the best way to overcome this is to hop in that car the first day of school all alone and on my way back to and see how it went to determine if I can keep doing this all alone the whole semester. I really hope so. Good luck to all of us. <3

In the last six months I have ran across two different horrific crashes on the highway to my work. Both were head on collisions and I drove past them moments after it happened. One was a fatal. Now I have a half hour long full body panic attack every day going to work.

So I had gotten into a car accident a couple years ago and now I find it hard to drive anywhere unfamiliar. I find it hard to even go anywhere unfortunately even if I have someone with me. I really want to be able to drive without being scared. I have a big trip coming up this next spring that requires a 22 hour drive cross country. I’ll be with other people but I want to be able to pull my weight and drive the amount of hours that everyone else does. What would you suggest?

Kimberley Loui…

September 4, 2019

I completely confident when I drive the same route but when I have to drive somewhere new or do something i either haven’t done before or not very often I panic. I’m a learner driver but when I first got my license I had no anxiety at all but the more I drive the scarier it becomes specially when there’s cars behind I speed up and than I go around corners to fast and slow down at traffic lights to late.

I drove for the first time today and nearly passed out when I was driving. I don’t know how to prevent the anxiety

Hi my name is patriana and I have been suffering from anxiety for the past 4 weeks I can’t leave my bed I can’t go outside I can’t even drive idk if I’m scared to drive by I having a anxiety attack every time I drive I really want to go home but every time I think about it I get this weird feeling in my heart and gut I haven’t seen my boyfriend in 4 weeks because of it I get thoughts about breaking up with him but I can’t I really love him please help me find what’s wrong with me

currently in my 30's and I have had my license since early twenties but still can't get over the fear of highway driving or driving anywhere unfamiliar. I have a fear of getting lost and ending up on a hwy. when that happens, i start panicking badly and do stupid things that might cause accidents and that fuels my fear even more. I have gotten on a hwy a few times and had terrible anxiety so i have been avoiding it for years. I set up my gps to avoid highways and tolls to make sure i don't accidentally end up on one. My immediate family is pretty understanding but i know they wish i wasn't so scared. Most people don't know this about me since i hate discussing this unreasonable fear. I feel very limited and stuck at times but don't know what to do. I also don't like having anyone in my car when driving. It sometimes gets very weird when people ask me for a ride at family events and i have to come up with excuse to why won't be able to. I just feel like it prevents me from being social and from living my full potential. Its sad and depressing and i been waiting on self driving cars to be available and affordable in my life time. It feels to to talk about it and read so many comments from people who share the same thing.

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