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Phobia of driving

The phobia of driving is actually a very common phobia. There are usually a couple of reasons why someone would develop a driving phobia. We will look in-depth at how and why people can develop this type of fear and how we can help.

Living with a phobia of driving

For most people living with a driving phobia, it prevents them from driving on specific roads such as motorways and dual carriageways. Some are scared to drive too far from home whilst others are afraid of losing control, having a panic attack and/or causing an accident and it usually gets worse over time, the longer that they live with it. This usually then expands to driving on smaller roads and roads they haven't driven on before.

When we're living with a phobia of driving it can really limit and inhibit our freedoms in life. Slowly we find ourselves feeling more and more frightened, nervous and panicked on more and more roads. To the point where in some cases we just give up driving entirely - this can have a huge knock-on effect on a person’s confidence, they develop an unfair sense of “failure”.

What triggers a fear of driving? Everyone is unique and there are various triggering factors that have the potential to contribute to the fear of driving. The most obvious cause of this particular fear is after having an accident of some kind. Big or small. It’s enough to spook us and the memory continues to play on our mind. Certain stressful experiences such as stalling on a hill or getting beeped at during our early driving experiences can also contribute to the fear of making mistakes, causing accidents or feelings of not being good enough.

However, for a lot of people living with a driving phobia, this is usually triggered by a frequently reported “random” panic attack that happens when they're driving. People tend to assume that it's random because it seems to appear out of nowhere. It seems unrelated to the circumstance, and they don't know why it happened. But nonetheless, they attribute this to driving and the development of a phobia begins...

In most cases, people who have a panic attack when driving will find that it is usually caused by other circumstances. It tends to be emotional or psychological such as tiredness, during a time of grief, stress or upset. Some people have reported a feeling of being stuck during a transition in life. With this extra emotional stress, driving becomes the perfect circumstance for all of this to bubble up to the surface and at this point, we can begin to panic.

Driving is normally fairly passive

If you think about driving for long boring distances on motorways and dual carriageways. It’s easy for us to enter a passive daydreaming state. During this introspective time, we start thinking to ourselves about things.

When we start thinking about things it opens our mind up to confronting some of the emotional and psychological stressors that perhaps, in our busy day to day lives, we've been avoiding. It's in this moment the emotion erupts, some level of sadness, grief, stress, pressure, anxiety and because this is either something we want to avoid, suppress or simply just downright unexpected, it catches us off guard.

It gives us a fright and not knowing what it is, we can easily begin to panic. Very soon we have a panic attack and most people then attribute it to driving when actually it may have been something else under the surface. Something totally unconnected to driving.

Developing a fear of panic attacks when driving

We then develop the fear of having another panic attack when driving. This makes us concerned about the consequences of having a panic attack and potentially losing control of the vehicle and potentially causing an accident - this is what we then seek to avoid.

Confidence in your driving can be impacted

Another thing that can contribute to people's concerns and phobias of driving are certain emotional fears that we may carry. Such as the fear of causing an accident, the fear of making a mistake, and the fear of getting into trouble if we make a mistake. These are issues that might actually affect other areas of our life, but in the act of driving, they get triggered and cause that source of anxiety to emerge.

Addressing negative experiences, not your driving

The reason that anxiety gets worse over time is that we begin to have more and more negative experiences that compound and reinforce the panic we feel on the inside. Just like a snowball, it gathers mass and momentum, becoming more and more powerful. If you happen to have these panic attacks when driving, your mind associates this with driving and strengthens your fear of driving.

This is why it's really important to address these issues before they get any worse. It's often wise to seek professional support - the longer you leave these issues the more embedded they can become.

Want to learn how we can help you eliminate your phobia for good?

We can do this without the stress of exposure therapy, coping strategies or tedious years of therapy. The most extreme and lifelong phobias have been eliminated with this method. You can find out more here:

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