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How to Overcome Driving Anxiety

People who have had negative driving experiences or those who are new to driving in general frequently experience driving anxiety. Here, we'll discuss some of the potential triggers of driving anxiety, coping mechanisms, and advice on how to get support.

Common Causes of Driving Anxiety

There are some constants when it comes to pinpointing the root reasons of driving anxiety, despite the fact that everyone is unique and has their own experiences. Driving anxiety can be brought on by a number of factors, including:

Past experiences

There is a risk that you have some form of underlying trauma connected to driving if you have ever been in a car crash, particularly a serious or horrifying one. Panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other anxiety-related episodes can start even just by getting into a car. The rates of PTSD and other psychopathologies like acute stress reactions, adjustment problems, or specific (isolated) phobias after a car accident actually range from 8 to over 30%, according to specialists. To make sure your mental health is not in danger after being in a car accident, it would be a good idea to discuss the incident with a therapist.

Being outside of your comfort zone

It might be intimidating to travel somewhere new or outside of your comfort zone, especially for rookie drivers. For instance, perhaps traffic is heavy and drivers are more aggressive than you are used to while you are traveling through a place you have never been to. Or perhaps the roads are winding around cliff faces as you travel through steep terrain. Or perhaps this is the first time you've driven in bad weather like a snowstorm or torrential downpour. Driving beyond of our comfort zones can, in any circumstance, give fear room to infiltrate.

Being an anxious person in general

The fact that general anxiety affects every element of your life makes it nothing to joke about. Anxiety, particularly in the car, can make you feel overwhelmed and cause undesirable symptoms like restlessness, weariness, trouble concentrating, stiffness in the neck and back, or feeling generally agitated and disturbed while driving. People who are anxious frequently consider the worst possible outcomes of driving, such as fatalities, worries about striking someone or anything, etc. Additionally, it may have a negative effect on their emotional health and possibly their driving behavior.

Ways to Cope with Driving Anxiety

Note: if you ever feel that you are having a panic attack or other form of anxious episode, pull over immediately until the fear subsides. Anxiety attacks can cause blurred vision and other physical symptoms that put you at risk of harming yourself or others while on the road.

Cognitive behavioral therapy:One of the most surefire ways you can treat your driving anxiety is by visiting a therapist. Because we are all different and have varied life experiences, a therapist will be able to help you identify more accurately the roots of your anxiety and how to address it. Cognitive behavioral therapy is an individualized approach that develops personal coping mechanisms to help you become a more confident person both behind the wheel and in general.

Relaxation techniques: If you have milder signs of driving anxiety, there are several relaxation techniques you can use to cope with it including:

  • Deep breathing

  • Progressive muscle relaxation

  • Meditation

  • Autogenic training

  • Listening to relaxing music

Introspection: Sit down and ask yourself some hard-hitting questions and do NOT be afraid to be honest with the answers, as it can be very therapeutic and help you minimize your anxiety. Ask yourself why am I so anxious behind the wheel? Are there common situations that trigger the anxiety? When do my symptoms subside?

Sometimes if we realize where our anxiety comes from, it can tell us how to fix it. Perhaps it can be fixed in small doses of exposure therapy. Other times, we may need to take bigger steps and hire a professional psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist that can design an individualized treatment regimen that can include medication or psychotherapy.

Whatever your situation, a professional can help you get on the road with no fear!

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