Driving Anxiety and Common Treatments.
By Stephanie Slater MA RCC CCC
Fear of driving, also known as driving anxiety, is a common issue for many people. In fact, it is estimated that up to 33% of people experience driving anxiety at some point in their lives. While the severity of this anxiety can vary, it can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, limiting their ability to travel and participate in daily activities. The good news is driving anxiety is treatable and the therapists at Slater & Associates Counselling and Psychotherapy can help you overcome driving anxiety.
People often ask, “but WHY am I afraid of driving? I know logically it is fairly safe.”
There are several factors that contribute to driving anxiety. Here are the top five:
- Past Trauma: Individuals who have experienced a traumatic event while driving, such as a car accident or witnessing one, are more likely to develop driving anxiety (Moser, 2007). This is because the traumatic experience becomes associated with driving, making it a trigger for anxiety.
- Fear of Losing Control: Driving requires a certain level of control, which can be frightening for some people. The fear of losing control, whether it be of the vehicle or one’s own emotions, can lead to driving anxiety (Taylor, 2013).
- Social Anxiety: For some people, driving anxiety is not just about the act of driving itself, but also the fear of being judged by others while driving. This can be particularly challenging for those with social anxiety (Friedman, 2010).
- Generalized Anxiety: Individuals with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) may experience driving anxiety as a symptom of their condition. GAD is characterized by excessive worry and anxiety about a variety of everyday events and activities (Cox, 2005).
- Perceived Lack of Ability: Some people may feel that they lack the necessary skills or ability to drive safely. This can lead to feelings of insecurity and anxiety while driving (Moser, 2007).
Despite the challenges posed by driving anxiety, there are several effective treatments available. Here are the three most commonly used:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT is a type of talk therapy that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors. It has been found to be effective in treating driving anxiety (Taylor, 2013). This type of therapy helps clients identify their negative thoughts and beliefs about driving, and then teaches them how to challenge and reframe those thoughts.
- Exposure Therapy: Exposure therapy is a type of therapy that involves gradually exposing the individual to the feared situation, in this case driving, in a controlled and safe environment. This helps to desensitize the individual to the anxiety-provoking stimulus (Friedman, 2010). Exposure therapy has been found to be particularly effective for driving anxiety.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help alleviate symptoms of driving anxiety. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can be effective in reducing anxiety levels (Cox, 2005). However, medication should typically be used in conjunction with therapy, not as a standalone treatment (talk to your doctor about what might be right for you.)
It is important to note that avoidance can actually make driving anxiety worse. Avoiding driving or situations that trigger anxiety can lead to increased anxiety and reinforce negative beliefs about driving. Facing one’s fears and gradually exposing oneself to the feared situation is key in overcoming driving anxiety (Moser, 2007).
In conclusion, driving anxiety is a common issue that can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life.
Understanding the factors that contribute to driving anxiety, such as past trauma or fear of losing control, is important in developing effective treatments. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, exposure therapy, and medication are all effective treatments for driving anxiety. It is important to seek help if driving anxiety is impacting your life, as avoiding the issue can actually make it worse. With the right treatment, it is possible to overcome driving anxiety and regain the ability to travel and participate in daily activities.
If you’re ready to put driving anxiety in your rear view mirror please book a free 20 minute consultation with one of our experienced therapists, we look forward to hearing from you!
Driving anxiety is treatable! Let us show you how. Our team of therapists are trained to be able to help you and are covered by most insurance plans.
Cox, B. J. (2005). Understanding and treating driving phobia: A guide for therapists. Oxford University Press.
Friedman, L. (2010). Driving phobia and driving anxiety. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 24(5), 565-571.
Moser, K. S. (2007). Driving anxiety: Prevalence, etiology, and treatment. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 21(4), 495-503.
Taylor, C. T. (2013). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for driving anxiety. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy, 27(2), 180-194.