Overcoming a Fear of Driving

A fear of driving (also known as hodophobia) prohibits people from living normal lives, as their worlds are limited and they have to depend on others to get around. They suffer silently, staying away from social functions and family get-togethers simply because they fear getting on the road.

Other Forms of Highway Phobia

Fear of interstates—-Many people fear driving on busy highways. And for others it’s not so much driving on interstates, but merging on interstates. Although these people drive, they go out of their way, using backroads that take them twice the time to get somewhere than if they’d driven on interstates.

Passenger Fear—-On the other hand, you may not fear driving, but have anxiety as a passenger, not being in control. In an article by Nelly Edmonsdson Gupta for the “Journal News” (February 1, 2005), Dr. Fredric Neuman, (director of the Anxieity and Phobia Treatment Center), says he believes it’s a form of agoraphobia or “open spaces”. He further notes how people are fearful of not being in control, fearing they’ll “scream, vomit, soil themselves, or lose control of the wheel.”

Driving Phobias Are Treatable

A fear of driving usually results from trauma from an automobile accident, or having lost a loved one in one. If you fear driving and feel there’s nothing that can be done for you, take heart! Fortunately, it’s easily treatable. However, first you need to determine if you just harbor fear because you’re a new driver or if it’s a prolonged phobia, even though you’ve driven (although for short distances) for years.

How to Overcome Fear of Driving for the First Time

If you’re a new driver, or fear driving for the first time, then there’s probably no need to go for therapy.

Pick a calm teacher — Don’t take driving lessons from a nervous parent or someone who’s going to put fear in you.

Do a “dress rehearsal” —- Before actually turning the key and stepping on the gas, do a dress rehearsal, going through all the motions of driving a car. Then, even if you have earned your driver’s license, go out on the road for the first time,with that calm person who taught you to drive. Then go solo.

Eliminate all distractions—-This includes the radio (unless it’s quiet, relaxing musical.) Turn off your cell phone and make sure your have enough water, but don’t drink so much that you need to worry about finding a restroom on the road.

Make it a positive experience — Think positive thoughts, leaving no room for failure that you “just can’t do this.”

Professional Treatment

If you’ve driven for years and still struggle with major panic attacks, chances are you need professional counseling. A fear of driving is a phobia, and just as any fear it can be conquered with the right therapy.

Because the fear of driving is a learned behavior, you’ll need to erase the negative thoughts you’ve linked with driving. This systematic process can easily be done, although it may scary, as well as painful at first. If you realize that you can be afraid and still function you’re on your way to overcoming your fear. In other words, if you’re afraid, “just do it anyway”—don’t go by your feelings. If you have to even put on your flashers and get off at the road for a break, at least you’re making progress, doing better than if you’d not driven at all. After awhile you’ll gain more confidence and your fears will subside.

Originally published on Suite 101.

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