What Causes Driving Phobia Is Less Important Than Its Solution

By Jessica Douglas

Human phobias, which are generally defined as an intense, irrational fear of an object, place, or event, are mysterious. They are very common - experts believe at least 1 in 10 people will develop a phobia at some point in their lives. Yet it's often unclear WHY they develop.Phobias are fears, and fear is a normal part of life. Fear is a good thing in many cases. It's good to be afraid of things that really can hurt us, like certain insects, dangerous animals, or falling off cliffs. But the human mind can fixate on some fears and over-exaggerate them out of proportion to their actual danger.

Being afraid of something (even something irrational) is not in and of itself a phobia. A phobia is formed when we anticipate danger and begin to avoid places and situations we associate with that danger. So a phobia is irrational fear PLUS habitual avoidance.The 2 Main Ways Phobias Develop.Phobias tend to either develop gradually with no definable cause, or suddenly as a response to a traumatic event.In the case of driving phobia, some sufferers report their fear came on gradually, steadily becoming worse over time. This type of phobia usually has no apparent cause and is often a simple misfire between the brain and the feelings / nervous system. Driving somehow becomes associated with danger, even though nothing dangerous actually happened.Some people develop driving phobia as a direct response to trauma; things like car accidents, bodily injury, injury to other drivers, property damage etc. It's more obvious why the person associates driving with danger in these cases.

Tell yourself.I trust that life supports me. I am safe. The truth is, you are safe. Driving is an everyday activity that untold millions engage in without incident. The thing that makes you feel anxious is the belief you're in danger. You're really, really not.I am solutions oriented. Driving anxiety disorder is solvable. One of the main reasons people become more and more afraid of driving is because they see it as an intractable problem with no real solution. This is false. This disorder is very treatable - IF you're willing to change your belief that it's not. That's the starting point for all therapies: the belief that change really is possible. I take charge of my emotions, my desires and my abilities. You've gotten in the habit of letting fear take charge of you instead of the other way around. I know the fear feels big and unmanageable. That's perfectly OK. It's still just a feeling, YOUR feeling. It's a feeling that belongs to you. You don't belong to it.I'm confident. I know I will solve my problems successfully. Confidence is simply the belief you can do something. The more you believe you can do it, the more likely you are to do just that. Confidence starts with belief. Beliefs are just thoughts, and affirmations are an effective way to start changing them.

Stop lights: Maybe it's the people in the cars, looking at you from behind, that you can't stand. This is a common symptom of social anxiety - being looked at, watched, judged. Do you feel the same way in elevators, crowded rooms, and checkout lines at the grocery store? Heavy traffic: While it's true that driving in heavy traffic is generally unpleasant, it's especially difficult for social anxiety sufferers. The reason is the same as for red lights - being in a crowd of other people who may be analyzing and criticizing your every move.Driving abilites: Feeling judged is one of the hallmarks of social anxiety. If you're a decent driver, there's no particular reason you'd be judged. Assuming you're being watched and judged may mean it's the people, not the driving, that's really bugging you.Love trips, dislike it in town: Yeah, driving in crowded cities does suck. It's true. But this is a dead give-away for possible social anxiety. What's the main difference between city and highway driving? The proximity of other people. If blasting down the open road gives you a sense of freedom, maybe it's because you don't feel judged or watched.

These will probably feel strange at first because you're arguing with your negative, irrational thoughts and you won't believe the new things you're telling yourself. Remember that repetition is a key part of success for affirmations.Repeating healthy, life-affirming thoughts has a hypnotic, mantra-like calming and soothing effect that will eventually change how you feel. Say these affirmations to yourself (out loud, if possible) whenever you experience driving anxiety. They have a cumulative effect which may not seem like much at first, but it will lead to surprisingly positive changes over time.You're nearing the onramp. Suddenly, you notice a constriction in your chest. Driving up the ramp, you feel a rush of fear as adrenaline surges through you. It's like being on a rollercoaster; the sweaty, dizzy feeling as the chain drags the coaster to the top of that first monster drop. Except being scared on a rollercoaster is kind of fun. Feeling scared when you're accelerating, trying to merge safely into the steel river of traffic looming in front of you...NOT fun. Not fun at all.

If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. You're one of millions of people gripped by intense fear of driving on freeways, a type of driving phobia.Wikipedia defines a phobia as "persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer commits to great lengths in avoiding". If you have driving phobia, it's probably specific to only a few situations. You may have no problems most of the time, but certain settings trigger powerful sensations of anxiety, panic, and being trapped. Freeways are one of the most common trigger environments.Breaking Down Freeway Fear: What Are You REALLY Afraid Of? It's likely you struggle with one or more of the following:

For someone who suffers from driving anxiety, driving their automobile can be one of the worst regular occurring experiences in their lives. Traffic can be too congested, others may be driving too erratic, or it could be too dark out; whatever the reason is for your driving anxiety, it is nothing to take lightly.Driving anxiety should be addressed the moment it is discovered. People who become anxious while driving will often experience an increased heart beat, sweaty palms, and difficulty breathing. These symptoms will force your mind to think even more irrationally than it was before, forcing you into a state of panic, and possibly, a state of unconsciousness. What will happen to someone who loses unconsciousness behind the wheel on an expressway? This is why driving anxiety tends to be one of the most feared forms of panic and anxiety people can experience.

One option, of course, is to just avoid freeways altogether. But what if you live in a densely populated area? Many people live in places where freeway driving is a fact of life. Some have reported driving an extra 2 hours a day to avoid them, but this is not a viable solution for most people.So what can you do to overcome or reduce your fear of driving on freeways? Are there viable options out there? 5 Effective Treatment Options Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). Generally considered the most effective for phobia, CBT helps you identify factors which contribute to your anxiety. It shows how your thoughts contribute to the problem, and how to change destructive thinking. It also helps reduce or stop unwanted, anxious behavior patterns.

A very effective way of approaching driving anxiety is to examine your mindset going into your "trigger" situations. A trigger situation may be a certain street, bridge, highway, etc. where you tend to feel most anxious. Going into these trigger situations, anxious and panicked drivers often convince themselves they will have a panic attack.These types of thoughts tend to defeat any attempted efforts being made to help yourself with driving anxiety. Someone who has a strong desire to be able to drive comfortably will never achieve that state of mind when they are preparing to panic in certain situations.

Instead of flooding your mind with irrational, negative thinking, focus on thoughts that will calm you in a state of possible anxiety. Instead of panicking because there is not enough room for you to merge lanes, turn on your signal and be patient for other drivers to move. If before you "freaked out" whenever a police officer began to follow your car, know that if you follow traffic laws you cannot be at fault for anything. Do not become engulfed in your situation. So what if you get nervous when merging onto highway #1 or when you pass through intersection ABC, the key is not to focus on what makes you nervous. You most focus on what calms you in order to reach your goal.

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