Driving anxiety is a fear/phobia response ranging in intensity from hesitation to complete refusal to enter a vehicle. On the most fundamental level, driving anxiety may manifest as fear or phobia, requiring different treatment strategies.
The term anxiety covers a broad spectrum of conditions. For this article, anxiety is a feeling of unease and worry about future events. Intensity levels vary from mild discomfort to outright fear in the absence of a particular reason or threat. Some people describe the sensation as being in a constant state of alertness accompanied by feelings of helplessness.
Fear is a feeling of anxiety or apprehension resulting from the anticipation of danger, whether real or imagined. Fear is a fundamental instinct and is among the most substantial feelings humans and other cognisant beings experience. It frequently flies in the face of logic, and many people suffer from guilt and anxiety because they consider their responses unjustified.
Driving Anxiety - Is it a Fear or Phobia?
Let's agree that fear and phobias originate from real-world events or imagination to keep things simple. Thus, the causes of fear-based anxiety are real-life situations, like an accident or another incident that triggers traumatizing feelings.
In contrast, a phobia does not originate from a tangible origin or cause. Therefore the paralyzing emotions appear to be irrational. Phobias, for example, anxiety about driving (without any trigger), typically surface later in life and can seem absurd since their source is unknown.
Consequently, driving anxiety can begin at any time, even years after an accident, if another event activates those feelings. A person might also develop "driving anxiety" through the Law of Association, such as a bike accident or tripping and falling while walking.
What is the cause of anxiety?
In most cases, driving anxiety extends from agoraphobia, which is the fear of open spaces. But, it's not necessarily a fear of being in open areas, as much as being stuck in a car and worrying about not being able to get off the road in the event of a panic attack.
Therefore, being trapped in road congestion and unable to escape during an anxiety attack can cause people to be frightened. Additionally, people experience fear of losing control or causing an accident amid a fight/flight response, aka panic attack.
Driving anxiety is a vast topic covering everything from mild discomfort to a total loss of control and crying fits due to merging onto freeways, crossing bridges, or simply driving somewhere unfamiliar.
Symptoms of Driving Anxiety
Driving anxiety symptoms are similar to other types of stress, including:
The above reactions are integral components of the fight/flight response, which originates in the amygdala. This part of the brain is also known as the lizard's brain in therapeutic circles. What people experience under stress is essentially an amygdala hijack, where emotion takes precedence over logic.
It can be frightening, and some people report feeling like they're dying, which explains the initial panic-based response. It also affects people's ability to function and why they'll do practically anything to avoid such extreme sensations.
It's essential to recognize that "driving anxiety" is just a feeling, and even the most intense panic attacks are not likely to result in long-term adverse effects. It's crucial to learn how to control our emotions.
The ability to take control of our emotions is crucial to gain control since we generate feelings inside our bodies. Therefore, it's essential to learn how to calm down quickly and decide how to respond using logic and reason.
How Does Driving Anxiety Start?
People experience anxiety while driving for various reasons, including accidents or close encounters, but it can also originate in our imaginations. Essentially, the mind is trying to safeguard the body by creating heightened awareness, but it can backfire on us.
Anxious feelings involving driving can appear suddenly and seem to begin without any specific reason or trigger. However, it is usually possible to determine the cause during the initial interview phase of treatment. Regardless, it's not necessary to know the root cause to overcome a fear or phobia; it's just something people like to know.
Consequently, people prone to feeling anxious may suffer from various anxieties and fears that trigger anxiety while driving. Surprisingly, low blood sugar levels are a little-known factor contributing to numerous phobia-based disorders, and eating healthy and balanced meals alleviates those feelings.
How to Overcome Anxious Feelings While Driving
If you're suffering from anxiety while driving, a well-meaning person may suggest that you "just need to get over it." The odds are you know from experience that particular advice isn't helpful. Sometimes confronting your fears and "getting back on the horse" creates more anxiety than reducing those feelings.
Desensitization techniques, such as visualization or guided imagery, can effectively overcome fears but increase anxiety if it's a phobia. In that scenario, it's best to tackle the root causes of phobias by eating a balanced diet and managing emotions.
We realize that a drop in blood sugar seems too simple a solution for overcoming driving anxiety. In our experience, low blood sugar is often the cause and effective treatment, along with learning to be calm, comfortable, and confident.
Imagine This Scenario
It's another busy day, and you're en route to somewhere crucial, and time is of the essence. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, you're running late. Breakfast in the car consists of coffee, a muffin, or a donut that provides a quick energy bump (that won't last).
There's massive traffic congestion on the freeway, which can be stressful but isn't unusual. However, it coincides with an abrupt drop in blood sugar levels caused by higher stress. The lizard brain activates before logic and reason, producing discomfort and the logical brain pinpoints driving as the reason.
Consequently, all this happens while you're navigating traffic on a subconscious level; logic and reason never enter the equation. The real problem starts sometime later when you imagine yourself in the same situation, and your brain scrambles to avoid those feelings.
Avoiding Driving Creates More Anxiety
Low blood sugar episodes may cause anxiety in various situations; the most typically occurs when you fly or drive. Many people aren't aware of the mind-body connection since they're focused on the external world when these events initially happen.
A lack of protein in your diet or eating foods high in simple carbohydrates, such as sugar, can trigger conditions caused by low blood sugar. That is particularly applicable to families with hypoglycemia or diabetes, but it can also affect anyone else.
Anxiety may turn into a fear of the unknown, leading to avoidance, such as stopping driving entirely. However, avoiding factors that trigger stress won't help ease the anxiety or fear and frequently leads to guilt.
Getting back into the driver's seat after you've stopped driving is complex and may shift your fear into high gear. Fortunately, drive-related fear is a learned habit you can unlearn with proper guidance.
If ever a time you've felt relaxed driving, you can feel calm and comfortable again. It's only a matter of gaining control of your feelings. Finding a more peaceful, comfortable state is the first step towards returning to the freedom, independence, and pleasure driving provides.
Hypnosis can help you enjoy more peace and tranquility and improve your ability to manage stress. Hypnotherapy is a great way to reduce anxiety while driving and other fears, such as the fear of flying.
Driving Anxiety Tips
Being relaxed, calm, and secure enough to drive confidently is necessary for this modern age. If you cannot move comfortably because of a fear or phobia, we suggest getting help from a certified professional.
Here are a few suggestions to get to your destination quicker in a safe, secure and confident manner. Start with the basics and be aware of your feelings after eating certain foods and ensure you consume something protein before heading out.
Avoid eating foods high in sugar, like pastries, bread, candy, and sweetened beverages. Caffeine is a major trigger of anxiety; therefore, many people experience relief after reducing their consumption of energy drinks, such as coffee and soda pop.
We all know that it's essential never to drive intoxicated; however, many people are unaware that alcohol consumption the night before driving can affect blood sugar levels the following day.
Lack of sleep or fatigue impacts blood sugar levels and may increase anxiety. In this situation, you must take more care of yourself and create self-care habits, such as exercise, meditation, and yoga.
Engaging in conversations or listening to an audiobook is another method to distract your mind from stressful triggers. However, it's also essential to maintain focus while driving, so listen to something interesting.
Studies have shown that exercising and physical activity significantly reduce stress and improve overall health. Long-term stress and fatigue are overwhelming and contribute to anxious feelings. Consequently, COVID-19 and global conditions contribute to fears and phobias being at an all-time high.
Not enjoying a Sunday drive is not a concept lost on us; however, there are other ways to unwind and relax. It is possible to reduce stress by walking, exercising, listening to music, and meditating or doing yoga.
Many people find that positive affirmations are an effective option to ease anxiety, particularly when they can connect listening to music as a way to relax. Hypnosis helps you tap into the power of the subconscious mind and experience increased peace, security, and self-confidence.
Overcoming Anticipatory Anxiety
Many people suffer from anticipatory anxiety, imagining worst-case scenarios that prevent them from driving. For example, they may think, "I have to go to the city tomorrow," and I'm afraid of driving over the bridge, through the tunnel, around the curve, and so on.
Try this when that happens, flip the script and say:
"Yeah, I'm anxious, but I am confident that I can handle it. "
The need for safety and control is a primary cause of anxiety and stress. Consequently, control and safety are feelings that are primarily a matter of perspective. Therefore, recall a time when you felt secure and secure, then increase that sensation. Build up those feelings and create a new trigger that enables you to activate those emotions automatically when the need arises.
Breathing slowly and deeply enable you to manage stress and anxiety anywhere, anytime, without special equipment or strategies. Most people are surprised by how quickly they can gain control over their emotions after only a few breaths.
Of course, remembering to breathe deeply when the lizard brain activates is challenging due to the fight/flight response. Thankfully, it becomes easier each time, and being aware of your triggers is the first step toward feeling better.
These valuable tips can assist you in managing your anxiety about driving and the jittery feelings accompanying this fear/phobia. However, most people benefit from programs customized to their specific circumstances.
Helping people overcome uncomfortable feelings, such as driving anxiety and the fear of flying, is a rewarding part of my Hypnotherapy practice. Hypnosis can help people overcome apprehension and live better lives, including getting them back on the road driving calmly, comfortably, and safely.