Driving stress and anxiety while driving: what solutions?
Written by: Loris Vitry (coach and Yoga teacher)
Validated by: Cathy Maillot (Osteopath)
Caution: If you have any medical questions or concerns, please speak to your doctor. Even if the articles on this site are based on scientific studies, they do not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
While many people enjoy driving, others are traumatized.
Still called amaxophobia, the fear of driving may seem unjustified for many people, but it is a real pathology that affects 27% of French people.
It is not well known because most of those who suffer from it are ashamed of it.
And yet, driving stress can be very disabling on a daily basis, as it is a source of anxiety and significant discomfort.
What are the causes of amaxophobia and how can you overcome it?
The causes of amaxophobia
The fear of driving is in most cases the result of trauma related to a traffic accident.
It results in temporary or permanent anxiety in some cases.
It becomes pathological when it lasts over time.
It is often aggravated by the oppressive state of certain road infrastructures such as bridges, tunnels which annoy claustrophobes, traffic jams, etc.
This trauma can also affect people whose loved ones have been victims of an accident and who have affected them emotionally.
In both cases, therefore, they are post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, amaxophobia can also affect people who have not been involved in a traffic accident.
In this kind of case, it can be linked to other phobias such as agoraphobia and / or fear of heights.
Some drivers are confused while behind the wheel when there are passengers in their car, while others are anxious when they are alone in their car.
A large proportion of people with fear of driving say they are affected by the unsafe behavior of some road users.
These cases are linked to a strong feeling of lack of self-confidence.
For some still, the fear of driving is of hereditary origin.
Although this perception is unconvincing, it may have its source in the transmission of a lack of confidence to the young driver.
Indeed, if during his training, the young driver is often devalued and assailed by negative information about the dangers associated with driving, he can unfortunately be affected.
Manifestations of amaxophobia
The phobia of driving manifests itself in different ways.
The degree of seizures varies from subject to subject.
In some people, the handicap can be very heavy and can even constitute a real blockage.
The subject is completely unable to drive.
These cases are rare and deserve psychological care.
In others, driving stress arises as a result of coming into contact with triggers or haunting ideas.
These people may have a sudden panic attack that causes discomfort and loss of control of their senses.
Usually a series of unpleasant symptoms follows such as excessive sweating, tremors, dizziness, palpitations, lightheadedness, etc.
In other subjects, the handicap is more or less mild and the discomfort may be present throughout the time spent at the wheel and manifests itself in a state of stress which disturbs their concentration.
It also results in an inner discomfort, the signs of which are perceptible.
The driver has sweaty hands and lacks confidence at the wheel.
Driving becomes a real pain and a source of anxiety.
Solutions to overcome amaxophobia
Several approaches are necessary to overcome the fear of driving.
A combination of these different techniques can help the subject quickly overcome his fear of driving.
Take reinforcement classes
One approach to overcoming amaxophobia is to take strengthening classes.
While this phobia is not the cause of incompetent driving, reinforcement driving lessons can help increase driver confidence.
Feeding on positive thoughts to combat obsessive ideas
Psychic reprogramming is also necessary to break the vicious circle of negative and obsessive thoughts.
The negative thoughts that we may harbor about the dangers of the road are difficult to fight, but good discipline and the help of those close to us can help.
Full-sentence statements about your ability to drive well and arrive safely at your destination are a great solution.
However, they do not produce a miracle effect at first.
It will take conviction and patience over several days to see the beneficial effects on your state of confidence behind the wheel.
Practice breathing exercises to lower blood pressure
As in all stressful and panic situations, breathing plays an important role.
People heavily affected by amaxophobia can get by by accepting their pathology first and practicing breathing exercises secondly.
They need to anticipate panic attacks every time they need to get behind the wheel by giving themselves a few minutes’ break.
During this break, diligent practice of a slow, deep belly breathing exercise and loosening of the muscles will help reduce stress associated with the fear of driving.
These breathing and relaxation exercises should be practiced assiduously and daily to have good results.
Whether at home or when getting behind the wheel, those few minutes are important for releasing the tension caused by stress.
It is also highly recommended to stop along the way as needed to do so when we feel the onset of a panic attack.
In addition to all these different techniques, there is the technique of desensitization.
It is virtual reality therapy.
It consists of putting the patient in a situation of driving by wearing a helmet which acts as a simulator.
It helps the brain to become familiar with and demystify fear through adaptation of the senses.
These exercises should be repeated several times to familiarize the brain with driving situations.
Even though driving is an activity that can sometimes subject us to real dangers, the fear of driving is not fully justified by the fear of having traffic accidents.
It is safe to say that it has its roots in the fear of being afraid.
It thus becomes a real pathology when it prevents us from doing what we have yet learned to do, which is to drive.
Hence the need to be aware of this and to take responsibility for regaining control over this anomaly.