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Hidden Relationship Between Vehicle Driving and Mental Health


Anxiety may be fueled by past trauma or pre-existing anxiety disorders.

This article talks about possible causes of driving anxiety. Additionally, it looks at the condition’s signs and symptoms as well as possible therapies and other management options.

For a variety of reasons, driving might make someone anxious. There are many methods and remedies that can be used to get over driving-related fears and anxieties.

What is the cause of anxiety?

A person may experience driving anxiety if they have a fear or phobia of driving. It can cause serious distress and have an effect on a person’s daily life. Driving can cause emotional distress, which can make one avoid specific scenarios on the road or just driving altogether. An extreme and unreasonable fear of something that presents little to no genuine risk is known as a specific phobia. According to estimates, 12.5% of adults have ever had a particular fear.

The mere thought of going behind the wheel might make someone who has driving anxiety feel anxious. Additionally, a person might make an effort to stay out of circumstances that need them to operate a car. Even by itself, this may result in further stress or anxiety symptoms.

It’s crucial to note that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) does not list driving anxiety as a disorder. However, a person could suffer from a phobia related to driving phobia. Nomophobia is a fear of operating a motor vehicle, while amaxophobia is a dread of being a passenger in one.

In addition, if symptoms interfere with a person’s daily activities, a medical expert may identify generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or another mental health problem.

Causes of Anxiety Due to Driving

Some persons may develop driving anxiety as a result of being involved in or witnessing a car accident. However, the majority of driving phobias are unrelated to having been in an accident. The following are some typical driving-related phobias and anxiety triggers.

History of bad experiences

A person can be concerned about a situation comparable to one they’ve previously had bad experiences in a car. Examples comprise:

  • Being a victim of road rage when driving in unfavorable conditions, such as a storm, snow, or fog
  • Getting lost having a panic attack while driving

Anxiety disorders that are present

If they have an anxiety problem, drivers may feel symptoms. For instance, GAD may make it difficult for a person to focus or make decisions while driving. A person might become less confident in their ability to drive as a result of this.

Additionally, a person who is under a lot of stress or going through a lot of changes in their life may be more prone to driving anxiety.

Driving alone in a foreign environment

Some people could be afraid of running out of petrol, breaking down, or getting lost while driving. They might be concerned that if their phone loses signal, they won’t be able to call for assistance.

People may also fear that they cannot see possible hazards clearly in the dark when they are driving alone at night or feel unsafe.

I’m afraid I’ll die in an accident

Fear might make someone think about worst-case scenarios and lose faith in their own or other drivers’ ability. Even if someone hasn’t personally been in a car accident, they could nevertheless worry about dying in one because of their imagination.

Experiencing a panic attack while trapped

People who already experience claustrophobia or other forms of anxiety about being trapped could get anxious while stuck in traffic. Additionally, persons who have previously experienced a panic attack could be afraid of doing so while operating a motor vehicle.

Losing control of Vehicle

People who experience the physical signs of anxiety, such as perspiration and a racing heartbeat, may worry that they will crash their car and lose control of it. A person may be quite uncomfortable and worried out when driving, grasping the steering wheel and worrying about what other motorists might be thinking.

Symptoms of driving anxiety

The following signs of driving anxiety are common, and many of them are also suggestive of a panic attack:

Health issues

A sudden, strong feeling of panic that is accompanied by trembling, sweating, and a racing heart as well as nausea, dry mouth, and shortness of breath. Additionally, some people would go out of their way to avoid operating a vehicle or being in one, which can have a serious negative effect on their lives.

Anxiety treatment for drivers

Anxiety related to driving may be treated with psychotherapy (talk therapy).  recommends that a person may be able to identify and alter specific emotions, thoughts, and actions through a variety of psychotherapy techniques. A patient might want to discuss cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychotherapy, or mindfulness practices with a medical provider. Hire a monthly safe driver for those days in which you are suffering from anxiety.

Exposure treatment

To help a patient get over their fear, a therapist exposes them to their phobia in a safe and controlled setting. It looked at how virtual reality exposure therapy affected 14 patients who had a driving phobia. The techniques comprised:

  • Two initial sessions of psychotherapy.
  • Five exposure sessions to virtual reality.
  • A last test of behavioral avoidance in active traffic.
  • A concluding meeting.
  • Two further phone follow-ups after six and twelve weeks.

All participants mastered driving tasks they had previously avoided, according to the authors, and 71% of them displayed acceptable driving conduct when judged by a Safe Driver DXB. It has been suggested that exposure therapy is frequently used by medical experts to address particular phobias. Desensitization therapy is another name for exposure therapy.

Other anxiety coping mechanisms

Someone with driving anxiety may find it easier to control their symptoms if they maintain a healthy lifestyle. The ADAA urges those who feel anxiety to employ the following techniques.

  • Discussing their anxiety with a partner, friend, or doctor.
  • Keeping a journal, being active, eating a balanced diet, and not missing meals will help you identify what makes you anxious.
  • Avoiding caffeine, which can exacerbate symptoms of anxiety

Substitutes for driving on your own

If driving makes you anxious, you can think about Safe Driver the best option instead. For shorter excursions, walking might be a healthier option. However, residents of rural locations can have less access to public transportation, and individuals with particular disabilities might not be able to walk.


One specific phobia that can have an impact on someone’s mental health and lead to anxiety symptoms is driving anxiety. Additionally, it could limit a person’s regular activities. Exposure therapy, CBT, and other talk therapies are possible treatments. Instead of driving, some people may opt to take the bus or walk.

A person may think about discussing driving anxiety treatment with a medical practitioner.