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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. 

 

 

 

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.

I have a horrible time driving. Especially around 18 wheelers. I feel I’ll have a blowout and lose control of the car and be killed by the car. I try to tell myself that is not likely but then I feel short of breath and feel I’ll pass out and lose control and be killed. Wintertime is much worse because of the icy roads and the farther from home I go, The worse it is. Sometimes, my legs cramp and I’m clutching the steering wheel and I want to cry. When I get home, I’m exhausted.

Shinwari Sabawoon

October 27, 2019

Hallo,
I have problem number 4,in 2015 was dunked after that cant driving more tho70kmh. What should i do?
Thank you

I get real bad anxiety at the thought or being behind the wheel i panic and over think get scared to crash i want to drive but my anxiety over takes me

I was born with heart complication and because of that my body is so tiny.
I scared to do anything that requires skills and courage... I don’t know how to ride bicycle/ anything with wheels even roller skate! I’m scared of heights, scared when someone yells/ screams/ raises his/ her voice at me.
I started driving when I was around 37.. when I had no one to drive me to go somewhere after being a single mom (it’s more like an emergency situation helped me or forced myself to do it).
I’ve been driving very well even in hwy.
I have a boyfriend, Todd and he taught me how to drive his Jeep (how to drive stick), his boat and how to drive his big truck! I did it!! But whenever he asks me to drive his Jeep or truck again I always say no. One night he got choked somewhere and no one around and I started panic and scared he’s gonna die on me so I started watching YouTube on my phone how to drive stick! I drove his Jeep slowly that night and we made it! But that’s the only time I’d drive his Jeep! I won’t drive anymore even he wants me to. Todd asked me to drive his truck back to the city (about an hour from the lake) tomorrow, I can’t sleep and scared to do it... is it possible all the fear that I have since I was lil kid have any connection with my heart problem when I was born???

have been driving for more than 40 yrs- no physical problems, eye sight fine.
hit twice in the last 6 months- once in a garage and yesterday while stopped at a red light. feel very "why me?" and feel as if I never hit anyone, but they always hit me when I am just living my life. other driver yesterday said something in his passenger compartment slipped under his brake and he could not stop. but now my car is all bashed and I have to go through all the paper work and shop visits and drive around in winter rain with a plastic bag taped to my car. miss work to get the car fixed. feel like a victim. cannot sleep well. know I am being over dramatic but it is how I feel.

I was always afraid to drive but then I took a leap of faith and got my license. When I drive far or to an unfamiliar place I definitely get anxiety. If I’m in traffic or at a red light I instantly get nervous and start feeling like I’m going to pass out even while driving. I try to listen to music and talk on the phone to calm my nerves and distract myself from my thoughts of being afraid. I don’t know why I’m scared or why I feel like Passing out while driving. I avoid driving now because I feel safer that way. I would really like to fix this so I can be more independent and get rid of this anxiety!

This was helpful in its own, so thank you.
I think my problem is that I’m terrified of driving because I’m scared of doing something incorrectly that can lead to an injury, or worse- a fatality. I constantly find myself finding a way to avoid it and walk instead to locations near my home. I know my fear is irrational so I end up “putting myself down” so to speak for being terrified.
The moment I get into a vehicle my legs lock up and I start to get cold and shake. My heart beats harder and I just feel panicked.
I haven’t been in many car accidents. Only one or two. My fear seems to not be of other people but a fear of MYSELF doing something wrong. I’m not sure why but I really want to fix it. I want driving to be enjoyable rather than a terrifying hastle.

I want to drive so bad but every time I try I go into constant fear and anxiety. I feel so much pressure driving and it scares me. I really want to be able to but I feel like I’m in constant panic mode the whole time. I feel like a loser because I can never get my license because I’m so afraid. I don’t know what to do or how to handle this...I wish someone could help me. I’m tired of people saying it’s just driving you’ll get over it but I feel like I never will.

Hi all! So I was fine driving to places and in traffic but then 4 years ago I drove in heavy fog I couldn’t see the road and I was so nervous and my hands got all sweaty and when I exit my exit I felt so much better but I was all shaky, crying my heart was racing so fast. N ever since I don’t like driving to places I don’t know. Or if someone is coming with me I feel like they’re going to judge me because I might take longer to turn left on left lanes when there’s a yield sign or the yellow light is flashing I feel like they are going to rush me into going when I have time. Maybe cus my husband once did that to me he told me to go and I wouldn’t so he said u have plenty of time! Like I’m not making the right move

I am deaf in sign language. I suffer from anxiety made me cough feel tight in my stomach during driving. I am getting fratusted with anxiety/cough during a drive when I want to go out during beautiful sunny day but anxiety really disturbing my normal activities. I miss my old self normal with no anxiety issues in the past during worked for FedEx driver delivery. How do i get back to my old self again after suffer with anxiety during driving? How do I get relief anxiety/cough during driving? I don't want to become drowsiness from Bendrayl to relieve my anxiety during driving.

I too suffer, Started within a few years of receiving my driver's license. I have not driven in over 25 years. It's a crippling disorder. I feel stupid and useless when I can't do what billions of people have no problem doing. I do not live near public transportation, and have to find a ride everywhere. I pray everyday it will magically disappear.. I've tried anxiety meds, but after an allergic reaction cannot take them. I am thankful to read other's stories here as I am the only one I know with this problem, so slightly comforting to see other also have it. I would not wish this on anyone. Long term therapy they say. Well I for one couldn't afford that nor would I be able to get myself to regular appts. Prayers for us all.

You all have great ideas to resolve this. I gave in and gave up. After putting my childrens' lives at risk as well as everyone else on the road....I have stopped driving altogether. I moved to an area of Dallas where I am right next to my job. I walk. I live next to a Trader Joes. I have fun things to do all around me. I don't ride in cars with others driving either. Unless it is a very close location. My doctors are all across the street. I am now basically agoraphobic. The more I seclude myself the more fears I have so I try to get out and walk around/socialize in areas near home as much as possible. Everyone else is freaking over the pandemic right now and the "stay at home" orders and I'm thinking "welcome to my world". This is just another day in my life. I wish you all the best but I couldn't handle the stress of trying to get better anymore. It was making everything worse. Succumbing to my mental disorder actually gave me a better quality of peace within. As messed up as that sounds!

Im sitting here boiling and crying reading these comments thought i was crazy and alone..no one understands whats make it hurt even more... I was involved in a really bad car accident on New Years Eve..drunk driver coming down the One Way the wrong way..ive been driving 12 years and been ok...ive notice everytime i get in the car whether im driving or someone else..its just feels like its hard to breathe, or like something holding my throat and smothering me sometimes my chest gets tight like im having a asthma attack and i have to pull over..i kept going to the Dr. as i didn't know what it was..chest x-rays coming back normal, blood work normal, ct scan normal, vitals good..now im really panicking like whats wrong with me..i know im having breathing problems but the dr. Cant see it..i know when its hard to breathe im not crazy...then i start to notice its 98% of the time when im in a vehicle..i am going to talk back to the Dr. Hope to find help for this because its scary..and no one understands it makes a time like this even tougher.
. reply with solutions

About two weeks ago I was heading home on the expressway and following a slight curve right before my exit. Suddenly it seemed like I was floating/drifting instead of being in control of the car. Immediately my heart skipped a beat and a flutter went through my chest and into my arms. I have a terrible fight or flight response, ever since i was a kid. It felt like that. I kept expecting to get tunnel vision and pass out but I didn't. I kept telling reminding myself that at any point if I needed to pull over, then just pull over cause it beats being in an accident. Ever since then I have struggled driving anywhere. If I'm driving slower or on country roads I'm good. 55 or higher gets my hands clenching the steering wheel. I keep feeling like I'm seeing everything in front of me but it's almost as if my brain isn't acknowledging what my eyes are seeing and I feel like I'm going to cross the center line or run off in a ditch. Since I can remember I've always tried to be prepared so I've always looked around for every possible thing to go wrong and what would I need to do to survive if that happened. I live 25 miles away from work. Driving is a fact of life. But I'm afraid that my fears of being in an accident are ultimately going to be what causes an accident. In short, there's a cycle feeding my fears and I don't know how to make it stop. It takes everything I have to force myself to calm down. And once that flutter runs through my chest I freak out because suddenly it's not just thoughts in my head anymore. It's real and I can feel it physically. I've tried music, gentle breathing, putting the window down a crack.... what can I do?

I've alway been confident and outgoing no anxiety although recently I've been struggling with sitting in the passenger seat of car experiencing paralyzing fear in which I can barely talk and move. It is much worse with my father when he drives although his driving is perfectly safe and in strangers car I'm usually fine and I'm also love adrenline rushes and theme parks and I'm just confused as to why I'm experiencing it and what could be the cause?

I've had anxiety with driving since I got my permit. It's gotten much better over the years, but anywhere unfamiliar and I get nervous. I'm mostly afraid that I'll get lost or my car will break down and I wont have anyone to help me. I feel that a lot of the anxiety comes from being only 19. Anyways, in just over 2 weeks I am supposed to be driving 1400 miles across the country just me and my best friend. I wanna do it in order to grow and I have an important date at the other end. I'm worried that I'll chicken out or have a panic attack and not make it all the way.

I had a near debilitating fear of driving especially in high traffic situations after I was involved in a serious car accident. It got so bad that I started to avoid driving altogether. I started to feel like a burden to my family. I finally sought help and was able to overcome it with the help of an awesome driving anxiety program I found. I now drive without too much anxiety. I’m sharing in the hopes that it will help others who have the same type of driving anxiety. https://bit.ly/2MmGD51

I had a near debilitating fear of driving especially in high traffic situations after I was involved in a serious car accident. It got so bad that I started to avoid driving altogether. I started to feel like a burden to my family. I finally sought help and was able to overcome it with the help of an awesome driving anxiety program I found. I now drive without too much anxiety. I’m sharing in the hopes that it will help others who have the same type of driving anxiety. https://wordpress.com/view/curedrivinganxiety.wordpress.com

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