Phobias are driven by emotions that may not always seem to make sense. You could be well aware that you're an amazing driver, but that may not stop your heart rate from going into overdrive each time you get behind the wheel. You can tell yourself that your anxieties about driving aren't valid, but that may not be enough to curb your fears. Driving can be a lot of fun and by calming your anxiety you can hopefully find a lot of enjoyment on the road.
Find the Source
Getting anxious while driving is likely to involve one of two scenarios: fear of a panic attack while on the road or a fear of an accident. If you suffer from panic attacks, then your trepidations over driving is understandable. Panic attacks control you both physically and mentally and involve symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating, upset stomach, heart palpitations, and feelings of being disconnected from your immediate surroundings. No one wants to be in charge of a car when any of these symptoms strike. In this scenario, seeking medical interventions will be your best bet for getting rid of anxiety while driving.
Another possible root for your anxiety is the fear something bad is going to happen while driving. You may have witnessed an accident that brought on this fear or have been in past accidents before. Your anxieties could be specific and involve a fear of getting lost or hurting someone else on the road. Identifying the cause of your anxiety will help you figure out the best way to combat the issue.
Tips for Curing Driving-Related Anxiety
- Turn your car into party central. Make your car a fun place that you want to be. Have your favorite music ready to play. Also, surround yourself with kitschy knick-knacks that will bring a smile to your face.
- Don't let your fears rule you. If you convince yourself that driving isn't worth facing the anxiety, then your phobia bests you.
- Get your body prepared for the drive. Nothing is scarier than a fearful driver who is overly caffeinated. Avoid stimulants when you're behind the wheel and make sure you're not driving on an empty stomach.
- Relax your body and mind. Take the time before driving to get comfortable behind the wheel. Release any tension in your head, neck, and shoulders. Take a few deep, cleansing breaths and then let them out slowly.
- Give yourself a pep talk. You may feel silly, but there has been proven success with affirmations. Tell yourself that you are a safe and capable driver and that you will remain relaxed while driving.
- Be a safe driver. Taking unnecessary risks while driving isn't going to help your anxiety one bit. Use your turn signals, drive within the speed limit, and check your mirrors.
Bringing in an Expert
Sometimes driving anxiety is too much to handle on your own. Your symptoms may get bad enough that you decide to stop driving altogether. In this case, professional help may be called in to intervene. A counselor is likely to use exposure therapy to get a patient back behind the wheel. During exposure therapy, the counselor will gradually challenge the patient to make strides towards driving again. At first, the patient may be asked to simply stand next to the car. He then may be instructed to touch the car until he can eventually sit in the driver's seat. With each visit, the patient will drive more and more until he's able to drive on main streets and highways for specified amounts of time. With each accomplishment, he'll be asked to repeat the process until he can drive comfortably without feeling disabled by his phobias.
Some patients have found success by using non-traditional methods to treat their fear of driving. For instance, you can undergo hypnotherapy as a way to overcome your anxieties.
Defensive driving and traffic school courses are extremely helpful to those who suffer from anxiety while driving. The courses will give you confidence about your skills behind the wheel and will involve learning methods to avoid collisions. As an added benefit, courts may dismiss a citation if you attend a defensive driving course and insurance companies could offer a safe driver discount.