12% of the population suffers from a driving phobia. We tell you what may be behind this fear, how to recognize the problem and how to overcome this blockage.
The fear of driving receives the scientific name amaxophobia. It is a special kind of fear that some people have at the prospect of driving.
These people experience anxiety of varying degrees and intensity in the car and it can occur when driving as a passenger or as a driver. They are afraid to enter a bridge, enter a tunnel, drive at night or even experience the vertigo of the sensation of going at great speed.
Suffering from specific fears is not something new for humans. Already in Egyptian times, ancient papyri were found where they recorded suffering from specific fears. In fact, its current name has its origin in the Greek word “phobos”, which means fear, panic and terror and also takes it from the deity of the same name who caused panic in his enemies.
WHY IS IT CONSIDERED A SPECIFIC PHOBIA?
The fear of driving is framed within the specific phobias that are characterized by the appearance of an irrational fear in the face of a specific situation. Already in 1969 Marks characterized it as:
- Disproportionate to the situation that creates it.
- It cannot be explained or reasoned.
- It is outside the voluntary control of the person who suffers it.
- It leads to active avoidance of the feared situation.
HOW CAN THIS FEAR AFFECT ME?
These specific and irrational fears affect 12% of the population and have the peculiarity of causing clinically significant discomfort or social and occupational deterioration. They can affect important areas of people’s functioning and erode their daily routine.
There are some people who, prisoners of intense fear, decide to stop visiting friends or family because they do not take the car. They also quit jobs if they get caught too far and involve using this mode of transportation.
But, for us to consider it a type of phobia, it must have a minimum duration of six months, currently being included in the category of so-called “Anxiety disorders” of the “Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders and diseases” called DSM-V.
WHY AM I AFRAID TO DRIVE?
When we explore the inner world of these people we observe that the fear of driving can be precipitated for a variety of reasons, but the common denominator to this experience is that most people are trapped in the slimy fear that something negative will happen to them.
This thought is so powerful that it triggers a torrent of anxiety.
In fact, one of the most common causes that precipitate it is the intense fear that awakens them to have a panic attack while driving. This fear of anxiety and experiencing a similar situation is what paralyzes many, as well as the disturbing nature of not having any rational explanation to understand why they react in this way and having no way to contain it.
They may also have been affected after the following events:
- Having suffered an accident in the past.
- Having suffered the experience of feeling lost.
- Traveling through heavy traffic.
- Having seen a traumatic accident on television.
- Having a close person who has suffered an accident.
- Not having enough confidence or confidence in driving skills.
It is easy to understand that each of these situations will have a different emotional impact on each person. In some, it can become traumatic, so it will be the therapist who determines, after evaluation, which therapeutic tools are the most appropriate to overcome the blockage.
WHAT SYMPTOMS CAN I EXPERIENCE?
We found that much of anticipatory anxiety is expressed on the body map by:
Abundant physiological alterations such as:
- Excessive sweating.
- Shortness of breath, shortness of breath and shallow.
- Chest pain.
- Feel the beat of a racing heart.
Manifestations in the behavioral sphere:
- Feeling an uncontrollable desire to hastily leave the situation in search of a safe haven.
Changes in the emotional sphere:
- Feeling that you have lost control of the situation that is inherent to the experience, which generates a deep insecurity regarding your coping skills in case of being involved in an unforeseen event or in an emergency situation.
HOW TO OVERCOME FEAR OF DRIVING
Although we have mentioned that it is necessary for a Psychologist to evaluate each case, since we may be faced with anxious personalities prone to feeling anxiety in a variety of situations, this being one among others, it can help you a lot to take into account some of these guidelines:
1. EMBRACE THE DISCOMFORT
If you are going to face a situation that scares you, understand that it is natural for you to react with nervousness and anxiety. That is why it is important to familiarize yourself with tolerating a certain degree of discomfort and discomfort because it is natural and inherent to facing a feared situation.
2. TRAIN YOURSELF IN RELAXATION AND MINDFULNESS TECHNIQUES.
Relaxation techniques such as mindfulness will help you calm down and stay focused on the task at hand.
3. FOCUS ON THE NOW
Fear is nurtured and fattened by negative thoughts that frighten us. That is why focusing your attention on the task you carry out and on what is happening in the present moment will work as a powerful antidote when you detect that you are in “negative anticipations” mode: “I am going to have an accident”, or “I do not control the situation”, can be examples of the internal dialogues that one directs towards oneself.
Check that none of what you think is happening. Observe that thought is one thing and reality is another.
Accompany it with phrases that give you confidence and security such as: “Everything is going well, nothing I fear is happening. I drive safely and responsibly. Everything is fine.”
4. FACE THE DREADED SITUATION “LITTLE BY LITTLE”
Researchers have shown that the best way to deal with a feared situation is to do it “little by little” and in phases, so that we expose ourselves to the situation that progressively frightens us and we work on reducing anxiety levels to make it more manageable.
- When you start the exhibition, a person who you trust can accompany you, even if the ultimate goal is for you to drive alone.
- So, for example, the first step may be to just sit in the car without starting it. When anxiety levels drop, we move on to the next point, turning the key, then driving around the neighborhood, and so on. It is important to give yourself time.
- Prepare the situation and spend some time visualizing that you successfully carry out your goal.
- Imagine yourself safe and happy, conducting proper and responsible driving and reaching the point you have imagined.
5. PRACTICE EVERY DAY
Dedicate an average of an hour each day. The more you practice, the more familiar you will be with the real situation and the easier it will be for you to overcome the phobia. Get exposed and familiarize yourself with the various scenarios you are exposed to while driving.
There will be times when you see that you face very difficult situations, but it is important that you use all these strategies to cope with the situation. Give yourself a break if you need it, 15-20 minutes, before you resume driving (but understand this as part of the coping experience).