Driving Anxiety: What’s Ruining My Life?

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driving anxiety is ruining my life


Driving anxiety is when someone feels scared or worried about driving or riding in a car. It can make them feel nervous or even avoid getting into a car altogether. Symptoms can vary, like sweating, trembling, or feeling panicky while driving. But there are ways to help manage it, like practicing relaxation techniques, talking to someone about it, and gradually facing fears by driving in different situations. With support and patience, people can learn to feel more confident on the road.

In case your anxiety is ruining your life on the roads, you might be avoiding it too much, which could be making it worse. Drive in a safe environment, such as an empty parking lot, and gradually expose yourself to higher-stress driving environments.

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What Is Driving Anxiety?

Driving anxiety means feeling scared or worried when driving or riding in a car. It can range from feeling nervous to being so afraid that you avoid getting into a car altogether. This fear can make it hard to do everyday things like going to work, seeing friends, or going to appointments.

When someone has driving anxiety, they feel scared while driving. It’s not just about being afraid of getting into a crash. It’s also about feeling like you’re not in control and that the car is going too fast. This fear can be about things you can’t expect or control, which makes it tough to feel okay driving.

Driving phobia or driving anxiety

Driving anxiety means feeling uncomfortable or worried about driving or riding in a car. Some people might feel a little nervous, while others might get scared, even having panic attacks. This fear can come up in specific situations like going on a busy highway or trying to park, but it doesn’t always mean avoiding driving altogether.

On the other hand, driving phobia is when someone is extremely scared of driving, being in a car, or even being near cars. People with this fear can have big panic attacks or feel extreme anxiety just thinking about driving or being a passenger. It can be so bad that they won’t even get into a car, even if they’re not driving.

While driving anxiety covers a range of fears and discomfort, driving phobia is specifically about the extreme fear that makes life hard. It’s tough to know exactly how common driving anxiety is because a lot of people don’t talk about their fears, but it’s clear that many people deal with it in today’s world.

Driving Anxiety Symptoms

Driving anxiety can manifest in various symptoms, both physical and psychological. Here are some common symptoms:

Physical Symptoms

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Shortness of breath or hyperventilation
  • Nausea or upset stomach
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Muscle tension or stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain or discomfort

Psychological Symptoms

  • Fear or panic attacks while driving or thinking about driving
  • Intense worry or apprehension about driving situations (e.g., highways, bridges, tunnels, heavy traffic)
  • Feeling detached from reality or experiencing depersonalization
  • Overwhelming sense of dread or doom
  • Obsessive thoughts about potential accidents or harm
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Avoidance of driving altogether or specific driving situations

Behavioral Symptoms

  • Avoidance driving or driving only on familiar routes
  • Excessive planning or overpreparation before driving trips
  • Overly cautious driving behaviors (e.g., driving too slowly, excessive lane changes)
  • Dependence on others for transportation
  • Difficulty maintaining focus while driving
  • Frequent checking of mirrors or blind spots
  • Aggressive driving or road rage as a coping mechanism

Cognitive Symptoms

  • Catastrophic thinking (imagining the worst-case scenarios)
  • Negative self-talk or self-doubt regarding driving abilities
  • Racing thoughts or mind going blank while driving
  • Difficulty remembering driving routes or instructions
  • Hypervigilance towards potential dangers on the road

These symptoms can vary in intensity and may occur in different combinations depending on the individual and the specific triggers of their driving anxiety. If these symptoms significantly interfere with daily functioning or cause distress, seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in anxiety disorders can be beneficial. Additionally, there are various techniques and therapies available, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, relaxation techniques, and medication, that can help manage and alleviate driving anxiety.

How Does One Deal With Driving Anxiety?

Dealing with driving anxiety involves a combination of strategies to address both the physical and psychological aspects of the condition. Here are some tips to help manage driving anxiety:

  • Gradual Exposure: Start by gradually exposing yourself to driving situations that trigger anxiety. Begin with short, familiar routes and gradually work your way up to more challenging driving scenarios.
  • Relaxation Techniques: Practice relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, or visualization to calm your mind and body before and during driving.
  • Mindfulness: Stay present and focused on the task of driving. Practice mindfulness techniques to observe your thoughts and emotions without judgment, allowing them to pass without getting caught up in them.
  • Positive Self-Talk: Challenge negative thoughts and replace them with positive affirmations about your driving abilities. Remind yourself of past successful driving experiences and your capability to handle challenging situations.
  • Education: Learn about driving and road safety to increase your confidence and understanding of potential risks. Knowing how to react in different situations can help alleviate anxiety.
  • Seek Support: Talk to friends, family members, or a therapist about your driving anxiety. Sharing your feelings with others can provide support and perspective and help you feel less alone in dealing with your struggles.
  • Practice Relaxation Techniques: Engage in regular physical exercise, meditation, or yoga to reduce overall stress levels and promote relaxation, which can help manage driving anxiety.
  • Professional Help: Consider seeking guidance from a therapist or counselor who specializes in anxiety disorders. They can provide personalized strategies and therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), exposure therapy, or medication if necessary.
  • Stay Prepared: Plan your driving trips, familiarize yourself with the route, and allow extra time to avoid feeling rushed. Having a plan can help alleviate anxiety about getting lost or encountering unexpected situations.
  • Take Breaks: If you start feeling overwhelmed while driving, pull over to a safe location and take a break. Use this time to practice relaxation techniques or simply give yourself a moment to calm down before continuing your journey.

You can try these methods one at a time or together to see what works best for you. It might take some time, but don’t give up – there are ways to manage your driving anxiety and start feeling better.


If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your fear of driving, there are several things you can do to help yourself. First, try to figure out what exactly makes you anxious about driving. Maybe it’s certain situations, like changing lanes or driving in heavy traffic. Once you know what triggers your anxiety, you can start finding ways to cope with it.

One helpful technique is called mindfulness, which means paying attention to what’s happening around you and how you’re feeling. Being mindful while you’re driving can help you stay calm and focused, even when you’re feeling anxious.

Another thing you can try is exposure therapy. This means gradually facing your fears by driving in different situations, starting with ones that aren’t too scary and gradually working up to more challenging ones. Over time, this can help you feel more comfortable behind the wheel.

Lastly, talking to a therapist who understands anxiety can be beneficial. They can help you understand why driving makes you anxious and give you strategies to manage your anxiety better. Remember, it’s okay to take things one step at a time, and with patience and support, you can overcome your driving anxiety and feel more confident on the road.


Q1. Can fear of driving be cured?

A1. CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is the gold standard for treating anxiety disorders, including driving phobias.

Q2. What is the best therapy for driving anxiety?

A2. It is only cognitive-behavioral treatment that is proven effective for treating highway driving anxiety and fear.

Q3. What is the root cause of the fear of driving?

A3. The book Defeating Phobia suggests that driving phobia is caused by many factors, including driving accidents, specific phobias such as bridges, tunnels, or other traffic, and agoraphobia, which is an anxiety disorder about open spaces.

Q4. Has anyone overcome driving anxiety?

A4. If you have high anxiety about driving, you will avoid certain driving situations or you will stop driving altogether. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective way to treat driving-related panic and avoidance, which involves facing situations where you are frightened.

Q5. Is driving anxiety a mental illness?

A5. A person may have a driving anxiety phobia despite driving anxiety not being a diagnosable condition in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-5).

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