Can You Have a Phobia of Driving?

There’s no doubt about the fact that driving can be scary. In fact, driving is one of those things we do every day without really thinking about the inherent risk of being in an accident that it comes with. 

At the same time, there are some people who have a fear that interferes with their daily lives. 

With that in mind, can you have an actual phobia of driving? The short answer is yes, and it’s a topic we explore below. 

Phobia of Driving

Amaxophobia—The Fear of Driving

Amaxophobia, also called hamaxophobia, is a fear of driving. You’re anxious or fearful when you’re driving, but also when you’re riding in a vehicle, even with someone else as a passenger. 

If you have amaxophobia, your fear could be so intense that even just the thought of being in a vehicle feels crippling for you. This fear can keep you from getting to work or other places you need to go. 

A phobia is generally a type of anxiety disorder. When a person has a phobia, they have an extremely fearful reaction to something that isn’t harmful. Of course, driving or being in a car can be harmful, but in the case of this phobia, the fear isn’t in proportion to the risk. 

Sometimes, a fear of driving is also known as vehopohbia. 

When you have a phobia of driving, you could avoid it altogether, you could panic when thinking about it, or you could have extreme discomfort with driving. 

The condition can develop on its own, or it can be something that develops after you’re involved in an accident. 

You might find that you take irrational actions to avoid driving, and if you are in a situation where you have to drive, you could have fear throughout the process. 

Around 9% of the U.S. population has issues with one or more specific phobia every year. 

If you have a fear or phobia of driving, you might have a hard time getting to work or school, maintaining social connections, or doing routine tasks like buying groceries. It can also prevent you from attending appointments, including doctor and mental health appointments. 

What Are the Symptoms of a Driving Phobia?

If you have a driving phobia, your symptoms can include the following:

  • Intense worry, fear, and anxiety associated with driving
  • Experiencing anxiety when thinking or talking about driving
  • Actively trying to avoid driving 
  • Having high, escalating fear of driving

You could also have panic attacks when thinking about driving or when you’re actually driving. Symptoms of panic attacks include:

  • Pounding, rapid heartbeat
  • Sweating
  • Feeling short of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Shaking
  • Nausea and stomach problems
  • Feeling faint or lightheaded
  • Dizziness
  • Chills or hot flashes
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Feeling disconnected from the situation that’s happening
  • Fear of losing control
  • Fear of dying

You could have specific worries that involve driving, such as:

  • Being in an accident
  • Hurting yourself or someone else
  • Drowning in a car
  • Being trapped in a burning car
  • Being stranded
  • Getting lost

What Causes a Driving Phobia?

Phobias can develop from a lot of sources, but often they occur because of a traumatic event that directly endangers a person. If you hear about a scary situation or witness one, it can also trigger a driving phobia. 

If you were in a serious accident, for example, and you were injured, you could develop a driving phobia. 

The Effects

There are far-reaching effects of a fear of driving that can be damaging to your quality of life if this is something you suffer from. 

You could find that you’re isolated, and that can worsen existing mental health issues. You might not be able to function in your daily life at a high level because you lack transportation. You could be unemployed and deal with financial challenges. 

You might not be able to meet even your most basic needs in difficult situations. 

Treatment Options

If someone has a driving phobia, there are treatment options available. 

Typically, for treating phobias, a mental health provider will use cognitive behavioral therapy combined with medication if needed. Most people experience significant improvements in their symptoms when they follow a treatment plan individualized to their needs and stick with it. 

Cognitive behavioral therapy is something that works for many mental health conditions, and you can work to understand and then gain control over your thoughts and feelings, along with your behaviors. You can begin to change your unwanted feelings and behavioral patterns. 

If you’re struggling with a driving phobia, you aren’t alone, and resources are available to help you make a change. 

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