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Controlling panic attacks while driving can be a challenge for many but it doesn’t have to be that way. Whether you are driving through a city, bridge, highway, or tunnel, this scary feeling can affect your confidence, judgment, and even your daily life. In the event of a panic attack focus on your driving and find parking in a safe area. If it is night time, find a lighted area and avoid isolated places. Also, shift the “what-ifs” and worrying thoughts to positive or enlighting ones.
You can either stay in the car to practice your breathing or go for a walk to distract yourself during the day. If you are with someone, explain to them how you feel and decide whether you can continue driving. Otherwise, call your spouse, family or friend for help if needed. If it is the first time you are feeling severe anxiety driving and you are not sure whether it is a panic attack call your local emergency for assistance.
To defeat panic attacks while driving, it is very important to know what triggers them, such as life events or family issues that may be causing you a lot of tension. Also, if you are learning how to drive, speak to your driving instructor. Keep in mind that the first times are a bit scary but practice will help you to gain confidence.
Whether you just started to drive or are a seasoned driver who has experienced panic attacks or anxiety while driving we will show you effective solutions to control them.
No matter whether you are driving in the night or day, either with someone or alone, this article will help get you confidence in driving.
Recommended reading: 13 effective stress relief products we’ll never stop using
How is severe anxiety driving manifested?
Now, to help you understand driving phobia we will discuss the symptoms, consequences, causes, and how to overcome the panic attacks.
No matter its causes or triggers, panic attacks symptoms are the same, although they vary in many ways from one person to another. It is important to identify the signs to help you deal with them.
The sufferer can experience the following symptoms:
- rapid heartbeat
- cold sweat
- uncontrollable worries
- thinking you are going to die or get crazy
- tingling sensation or numbness
- upset stomach
- tight chest
Depending on stress levels while you are operating a vehicle, symptoms may become worse. Therefore, it is very important to identify and learn how to manage the symptoms. Our article What are the panic attack symptoms and how to beat them can help control and eventually stop panic attacks.
5 Consequences of driving fears and how they can affect you
Suffering a panic attack while driving can interfere with your life and it may limit you in many ways. Living in an area where public transportation is non-existent or living far from amenities will add more stress.
Knowing and identifying the consequences of your driving anxiety is an important step toward beating your panic attacks. How does driving phobia affect your life?
- Financial problems
Some people will quit the jobs or reject any good career opportunities if their fear of driving escalates or get in the way their lives.
- Affects social life
Also, any friendship or love relationship will be affected because the sufferer may not want to drive long distances or drive at all.
The fear of driving will lead to dependency in which the individual will not be able to move around unless they take a taxi, carpool, or find other ways of transportation.
- Driving fear may be related to other phobias
It is very important to handle your panic attack to prevent escalating into other phobias such as agoraphobia, fear of public and open spaces. Speak to a mental health practitioner if you feel that they are unmanageable.
- It keeps you from doing what you like
Long term anxiety driving will keep you at home and will prevent you from enjoying your favorite hobbies or visiting places you like to go.
- Self-confidence can be affected
The inability to control driving fears can contribute and leads to low self-esteem which may trigger depression and/or worsen panic attacks. Therefore, it is crucial to seek medical assistance if it interferes with your normal life.
Is driving phobia really the cause?
Last year, someone I know told me she had panic attacks while driving a few days ago. Knowing that she is a seasoned driver, I asked her if everything was fine. Then she mentioned that family issues were making her feel stressed out.
The first thing that came to my mind was that her personal issues may have triggered panic attacks. Then, I suggested her to shift her bad thoughts for affirmations to control the panic attacks. Days later, she told me that she was able to control them just as I explained to her. As of now, she moved on and still drives without any problems.
On the other hand, many people can suffer from vehophobia or fear of driving due to the fear of getting lost, bad experiences, driving during the night, heavy traffic, and others. This phobia can trigger panic attacks as well.
However, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “most of the driving phobias have nothing to do with accidents”.
Also, people that have experienced panic attacks also develop the fear of driving like me. Once I was able to beat my panic attacks my fear of driving also went away.
No matter what triggers them the great news is that you can overcome them and gain confidence while driving.
How to get over panic attacks while driving
You may wonder whether you can stop, ask for help or simply wait until the symptoms go away. However, there are simple ways to prevent them. So, how can you overcome panic attacks while driving?
Manage your panic attacks
If you have suffered them before, learning how to cope is a great way to fight them. Keep in mind that panic attacks are not dangerous. However, if you don’t do anything to manage them they may become uncontrollable and more difficult to deal with.
Speak to your driving instructor
If you are learning how to drive, being a bit afraid is normal. However, it is best to ask any questions to clarify any doubts or concerns. Know that driving is a skill that you can improve with continuous practice.
Get a GPS tracking device for your car
Years ago you had to memorize addresses and consult road maps which added a bit more stress to your driving experience. However, nowadays you get virtually anywhere without being lost thanks to GPS satellite tracking. Having one in your car will help reduce your driving anxiety level.
Start driving early in the morning
One of the best ways to get used to driving is to drive at the beginning of the day when traffic is not too heavy and especially on the weekends. This is an effective way of becoming confident with your driving. You can tell a friend or a relative to go in the car and accompany you while you become more comfortable.
Breathe deeply when driving
Learning how to relax while driving helps you stay confident, focus, and alert on the road. Inhale and exhale very deeply to release any tensions. To help you overcome panic attacks while driving you can find our effective breathing techniques here.
Talk to your mental health practitioner
If you are following a medical treatment, it is best to tell your specialist how you feel and whether your panic attacks have become worse. He may adjust your treatment accordingly to help you manage them.
Enjoy your driving
Operating a vehicle should not be a reason to feel anxious. However, always stay alert and aware of the surroundings. Road conditions, weather, traffic, signals, etc are some of the elements you need to think of. Also, it is very important to follow traffic laws to prevent accidents and make driving an enjoyable and safe experience.
When to seek medical assistance
Although some people like us have successfully defeated panic attacks without prescription drugs, we understand that there are sufferers who may need mental health professional assistance to help them cope.
It is not easy to control panic attacks in general, let alone while you are driving. Therefore, if your panic attacks escalate or get worse to the point that has greatly affected your health and lifestyle we would strongly suggest you consider speaking with a doctor.
They may run some blood tests to rule out any health conditions and prescribe you some medications to help you deal with your intense fears. If you prefer not to take medicines you can talk to your doctor about a drug-free treatment.
Whether you choose to use medications or not, keep in mind that you will still need to learn how to identify and control the symptoms. Our site is a great place to start with. We share effective strategies that we have used to help overcome panic attacks while driving. This great source of information is free and you can access it anytime. We will continue adding new content with effective tips, suggestions, success stories, and more!
B.L.A. is a web developer/designer and writer who enjoys country life in western Pennsylvania, USA along with her husband C.C.A, who is also a contributor, co-author, and editor.
Check out their other blog SmartAroundyourWrist.com.