We’re all afraid of something — some people are afraid of spiders, others are terrified of heights.
Some people have an intense fear of vehicles or riding in one. It’s clinically known as amaxophobia or motorphobia.
Fears are classified as phobias when they become so severe that people can no longer function normally. Not everyone gets to that point, but experiencing anxiety when driving is a common occurrence.
Anxiety may not be as debilitating as a full-blown phobia, but it is dangerous and stressful.
Why Should You Care About Overcoming Driving Anxiety?
Driving provides humans with a freedom that can’t be duplicated by any other form of technology currently in existence. Sure, you can take public transit. You can ride a bike or go for a walk. But nothing compares to the ability to drive yourself. Your fear of driving is inhibiting your quality of life, whether you realize it or not. It’s also making you a more dangerous driver.
Just imagine for a moment. Imagine a life where you can drive to and from work without having panic attacks. Imagine a life where you feel comfortable driving your kids, or even your friends’ kids to places they want to go. Or places they need to go. Imagine a life where you don’t have to plan things out so that you drive as little as possible. Imagine taking spontaneous road trips and budget vacations. Imagine breaking away from the mental jail cell you live in and becoming truly free. With a little bit of effort on your part, this is all possible!
Step one – Coming to terms with your problem
The first thing you need to do is realize that you have a problem. Seeing as though you’re still reading, you’ve probably already completed step one. Congratulations! You’re on your way! While you certainly aren’t the only person who has driving anxiety and a fear of driving, being scared to drive isn’t a normal thing either. It’s ok. Nobody is “normal” in every single aspect of their life. And lucky for you, a driving phobia is something that can be overcome. But first, you must admit that you have a problem, and be willing to work at fixing that problem.
Step two – Figuring out the source of your driving phobia
For some people, this step is easy. Maybe you had a bad traffic accident that you’re having trouble getting over. Maybe you lost a friend or family member to a car accident. Have you had some close calls that scared you? Is it claustrophobia? Perhaps you suffer from an anxiety disorder and the fear of driving is part of a larger issue?
Maybe you have absolutely no clue why you’re so scared to drive. If that’s the case, your recovery will take a little bit more work.
Brian Wind, a clinical psychologist, says some reasons that trigger a person to develop a fear of driving include:
- Experiencing a panic attack while driving
- Being involved in a car accident (or if a loved one gets into one)
- Having been lost
- Doubting your own driving skills
Take some time to reflect. Even if it takes more effort, you’ll eventually find an answer.
The next step is taking steps to address it.
Step three – Treatment
Yes, you have to actually treat the problem.
It doesn’t automatically mean you have to go into therapy, although it’s something you should consider. In fact, it may help you with step two if you’re unable to determine the cause of your anxiety on your own.
Outside of seeking professional help, though, there are also several things you can do to ease your anxiety about driving. Here are some of them.
Focus on the drive in front of you
Sometimes you try to think of all the things you have to do on a drive (especially long-distance ones), to the point it becomes too overwhelming. There are too many variables to consider and too many worse-case scenarios to prepare for.
Although it’s good to have an idea of how long the drive will be, it’s better to keep your attention to the road in front of you. If you’re able to manage the stretch you’re currently on, you’ll find yourself at your destination before you know it.
Don’t let potential catastrophes run your life
Too much anxiety usually roots from believing a worst-case scenario is going to happen at any time while you’re on the road. Try to take a step back and ask yourself, “what are the chances that these are going to happen?”
Getting past the “fake news” our brains are pushing, you can take a more realistic approach to handle these situations.
Don’t base everything on your gut
Contrary to what you might believe, feeling is not believing. Just because you feel like something is going to happen, doesn’t mean that it will.
People who are prone to panic are more likely to translate physical symptoms of anxiety (such as butterflies in the stomach or cold sweat) to be signs of danger. Other people take it as a sign of nervousness but also associate it with a thrilling or exciting event.
If you can catch yourself in situations wherein you’re letting your gut feeling get the better of you, stop. Take a breath and question your assumption that it’ll lead to danger.
Acknowledge that you’re nervous or afraid, but don’t automatically associate it with a life-and-death situation.
Be sure to also read the Defensive Driving Section of this website. It will absolutely make you a safer driver and might help build confidence. With a little work and effort on your part, you can truly live the freedom that everyone else enjoys. Get rid of that driving anxiety. You can do it!