Fear Of Driving
Driving anxiety is very common nowadays – millions of people have a fear of driving. And there are different degrees and kinds of driving phobias: some people are scared of getting into a car at all. Some people are scared of driving a car. Some people can drive a car, but they get scared when they approach a bridge, or when they drive through a tunnel or they panic when driving on highways. Sometimes people are afraid that they will hurt someone else when driving a car.
There are many possible things that can trigger driving anxiety – but it always is the same mechanism at work.
Oftentimes you have automatic negative thoughts racing through your mind when driving – and these can spiral into anxiety or even a panic attack.
Sometimes the cause of a driving phobia is known, for example, when a person was involved in a car accident and suffers from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Sometimes it’s caused by a movie, or by agoraphobia, but oftentimes there is no clear cause, but rather just a general sense of anxiety about driving. After all, it really can be dangerous.
How To Overcome The Fear Of Driving?
There are many things one can do to overcome the fear of driving. Some people go to see a therapist and then over the course of several weeks or months practice exposure therapy in combination with relaxation techniques. Breathing exercises are an important part of this driving phobia treatment.
Breathe To Relax
One of the most common symptoms of driving phobia is that a person can’t breathe normally. Their breathing seems tense, they can’t take a deep breath, and they might fear that they are about to suffocate. And when you are unable to control your own breathing, that can indeed be scary.
Oftentimes what also happens is that a person hyperventilates, which leads to too much carbon dioxide in the body. (Many people think that hyperventilating is what you see in movies – this kind of extreme breathing where you then have to breathe into a paper bag. But you can hyperventilate in different ways too, which are much more subtle – so subtle in fact, that many people aren’t aware of their hyperventilation, and they only experience the symptoms. What are the symptoms? Among others: the sensation of choking, a racing heartbeat, chest pain (which is why people often worry about getting a heart attack while driving), heartburn, sweating, numbness or tingling in arms and legs and difficulty swallowing.
It’s best to practice diaphragmatic breathing. When you’re anxious or have a panic attack, you often only do thoracic breathing – which means, you breath with your chest. What you want to do is to breathe with your stomach.
This is an increasingly popular treatment option too – it means that a person who is afraid of driving basically drives in a virtual reality, a car simulator.1
Hypnosis For Fear Of Driving
Hypnosis for driving anxiety has a proven track record to help people be more at ease in a car and behind a wheel. One reason why hypnosis is so effective is because the hypnotic suggestions address the subconscious mind, rather than trying to reason with the conscious, rational mind.
Driving anxiety is an emotional phenomenon – and emotions are outside our conscious control.
- David G. Walshe, Elizabeth J. Lewis, Sun I. Kim, Kathleen O’Sullivan, and Brenda K. Wiederhold. Exploring the Use of Computer Games and Virtual Reality in Exposure Therapy for Fear of Driving Following a Motor Vehicle Accident CyberPsychology & Behavior. June 2003, 6(3): 329-334. doi:10.1089/109493103322011641. [↩]