If you are terrified of getting behind the wheel of a car, there may be some help. First, it's important to find out if you have a true phobia and/or an anxiety disorder. With a proper diagnosis, you can get the help you may need to overcome your fear of driving. Here's what you need to know.
Phobias and anxiety disorders associated with driving and vehicles
The symptoms of phobias and anxiety disorders are similar. You may experience physical, mental, and emotional symptoms.
- Physical – shaking, dizziness, accelerated heart rate, chest pain, shortness of breath,, nausea, vomiting, tingling, numbness, and temperature fluctuations including hot flashes
- Mental – obsessive thoughts and bad images, feeling unreal, and difficulty thinking or comprehending
- Emotional – persistent worrying, intense fear, and an overwhelming instinct to flee
There are several types of phobias and anxiety disorders that you may have.
- Vehophobia – fear of driving a vehicle
- Amaxophobia – fear of being in a vehicle
- Hodophobia – fear of traveling
- Agoraphobia – fear of having a panic attack in public
- Post traumatic stress disorder – anxiety related to a previous experience
- Panic disorder – an intense feeling of vulnerability
- Anticipatory anxiety disorder – worry of something bad happening at any moment
- Generalized anxiety disorder – worry that something will go wrong no matter what you do
Many of these phobias and conditions are related, which can make it difficult for you to figure out on your own. For this reason, it's a good idea to obtain a proper diagnosis from a mental health professional so you can get the appropriate treatment to get over your phobias and deal with your anxiety and/or PTSD.
Treatment options to get you on the road
With a diagnosis, you can find a psychologist to provide you with behavioral therapy and/or hypnotherapy. You may find that your issues with driving are related to other things that may have happened in your life or are happening currently. Therefore, part of your therapy will involve figuring out the root cause and/or triggers that relate to your condition.
The therapist will teach you coping skills that you can use later when you feel a panic attack coming on or start experiencing symptoms of your phobia. This is important so you can control your symptoms when you get in the driver's seat. Write the coping skills down and keep them with you for when you take driving lessons and practice driving. That way, you can read through the tips and suggestions in case you forget if you start to panic. .
Take driving lessons & defensive driving courses
After you've gotten a diagnosis and your therapist recommends that it's time to get behind the wheel, find a reputable driving instructor to take lessons from. Given that many people have phobias and disorders related to driving, it's safe to say that an experienced driving instructor will know how to work safely with you. Don't forget your list of coping skills when you take your lessons. Keep them readily available in your pocket so you can review them before your lessons begin.
Defensive driving courses are appropriate for people who are concerned about losing control of their vehicles while driving. Speak with your therapist and driving instructor to see if this option is appropriate for you before you enroll in classes. In defensive driving courses, you will learn things like how to control a vehicle when it starts to skid. It's a good idea to tell the instructors about the things you are most fearful of while driving so they can work those scenarios into your lesson plan for the defensive driving lessons.