How to handle having a panic attack while driving

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calm a panic attack while driving


Educates readers about the reasons behind panic attacks while driving and offers strategies for managing them. Factors contributing to panic attacks include panic disorder, phobias related to driving, anxiety about driving, past car accidents, stress before driving, and life stress. Signs of a panic attack are outlined, emphasizing physical symptoms like rapid heartbeat, dizziness, and difficulty breathing. The blog distinguishes panic attacks from anxiety attacks and suggests healthy coping mechanisms such as talking to someone, exercising, and engaging in enjoyable activities. Therapy is recommended for overcoming panic attacks, with strategies like questioning scary thoughts and staying focused on the present. Ultimately, the blog emphasizes the importance of seeking help and learning techniques to regain control and reduce fear while driving.

We’ll discuss these topics in this blog: 

What is the reason for panic attacks while driving?

Panic Disorder

Panic Disorder is when someone gets sudden and intense feelings of fear, called panic attacks, for no clear reason. It can happen anytime, even when driving. People with this disorder often worry a lot about having another panic attack, which can make it more likely to happen.


Phobias Panic attacks can also come with specific fears, called phobias. For instance, some people might be terrified of driving, or certain things, like bridges or tunnels. Facing these fears while driving can trigger a panic attack.

Anxiety Driving

Anxiety about Driving Lots of people feel nervous about driving. This nervousness can make panic attacks more likely. People might worry about things like driving too fast, going long distances, or driving in bad weather. Even getting honked at by other drivers can add to the anxiety and trigger a panic attack.

Past Car Accidents

If someone has been in a bad car accident before, they might be more likely to have panic attacks while driving. This could be because they’re afraid of getting into another accident or because they have PTSD symptoms from a past crash.

Stress Before Driving

High stress levels can bring on panic attacks. So, if someone is stressed out before they start driving, it might increase their chances of having a panic attack while on the road. These stressors could come from work, relationships, or personal problems.

Life Stress

Having a history of tough life experiences, like trauma or abuse, can cause ongoing stress and anxiety. This can make panic attacks more likely, even when someone seems to be doing okay otherwise.

What are the signs that this is a panic attack?

Panic attacks and panic disorder are part of anxiety disorders, but they’re not the same as anxiety attacks.

Panic attacks mainly bring on physical symptoms that can disrupt what you’re doing for a short time. They might make you feel like you’re not yourself or not connected to the world around you. Unlike anxiety, panic attacks often happen suddenly and without a clear reason.

Here are some signs of a panic attack

  • A sudden feeling of extreme fear
  • Your heart beating fast or racing
  • Feeling tingly or dizzy
  • Feeling like you might pass out
  • Trouble breathing or feeling choked
  • Feeling sick to your stomach
  • Sweating or feeling cold
  • Pain in your head, chest, or stomach
  • Feeling like you might lose control or die

Intense anxiety can have similar symptoms. You might even feel like you’re having a panic attack. But anxiety can develop more slowly and also bring emotional symptoms like worry or nervousness. It might last longer than a panic attack, and it doesn’t always take over completely.

Just one panic attack can make you scared of having another. You might start changing your daily routine to try to avoid them.

Take note of your behavior when you are nervous.

When you’re nervous about driving, do you try to do things to make yourself feel better? Some things people do when they’re anxious about driving include

  • Not driving during specific times or on certain roads
  • Not driving to new places
  • Spending a lot of time researching and planning new routes
  • Checking the internet too much for traffic information
  • Stop driving altogether
  • But doing these things just makes your anxiety worse. It tells your brain there’s a reason to be scared.

Instead of these fear-based actions, try these healthy ways to cope:

  • Talk to someone
  • Exercise
  • Listen to your favorite music or podcast
  • Watch videos that make you feel good

These strategies can help you calm down before your worries get out of control and cause a panic attack.

How to overcome panic attacks caused by driving

If you have panic attacks while driving, it’s important to find ways to stop them from getting worse and affecting your life too much.

With the right help, there are things you can do to control them. Many people find it helpful to go through therapy to learn how to manage their anxiety and panic attacks.

Here are some tips you might get during therapy

Question your scary thoughts

Do you always imagine the worst things happening when you drive or think about driving? Like crashing or getting lost? These scary thoughts can trigger panic attacks. Learning to pause and challenge these thoughts can help you see they’re not rational. This can stop them from causing panic attacks.

Stay focused on the present

Do you worry a lot about what might happen in the future when you drive? Thinking about all the bad stuff that could happen can make you panic. Learning to be in the moment can help you stop worrying about the future. Practicing mindfulness and relaxation techniques can teach you how to focus on what’s happening right now. If you’re having a panic attack, focusing on your breathing can help calm you down. There are simple breathing exercises you can try to calm your symptoms and keep driving safely.

These techniques can be handy when you’re feeling anxious or when you sense a panic attack coming on. They give you a chance to let go of worrying thoughts that might lead to panic attacks.


 if you’re having panic attacks while driving, it can be tough, but there are ways to deal with them. Getting help from therapy programs can teach you useful ways to handle anxiety and panic attacks while driving. By challenging scary thoughts and staying focused on the present, you can learn to lessen your worries and prevent panic attacks. Also, practicing mindfulness, relaxation, and breathing exercises can help calm you down when you’re feeling anxious while driving. With the right support and techniques, you can feel more in control and less scared when you’re behind the wheel.


Q1. Why does driving make me have panic attacks?

A1. As driving is an extremely visual activity, this is the main reason. Your visual system is under even greater pressure as you move, as you are surrounded by visual elements that you must pay close attention to to drive safely.

Q2. How do you stop a panic attack quickly?

A2. You should breathe deeply from your abdomen and fill your lungs slowly and steadily while counting to 4 as you inhale and exhale. It is also possible to use 4-7-8 breathing, also known as “relaxing breath.” When using this technique, the person inhales for four seconds, holds the breath for seven seconds, and exhales slowly for eight seconds.

Q3. What medication is used for anxiety while driving?

A3. A rapidly acting benzodiazepine medication, such as Klonopin (clonazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), Valium (diazepam), or Ativan (lorazepam), is a medication for treating anxiety symptoms as they occur. 1 These medications can also be taken right before you ride in a car to help you feel calmer.

Q4.  Why am I scared when driving?

A4. A panic attack during a drive is the most common cause. Other causes may include: Having been involved in a car accident in the past, witnessing another car’s tragic accident, or hearing about someone close to you being involved in a car accident.

Q5. Has anyone overcome driving anxiety?

A5. When a person is anxious about driving, they avoid certain driving situations or even stop driving altogether. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective ways to treat driving-related panic and avoidance, which involves facing situations where they are afraid of panicking.

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