Driving is an invaluable skill to have in this day and age, and many people cannot wait to pass their test. The freedom of being able to jump in a car and drive wherever you like, is a huge draw. The practical benefits are another plus, allowing you to be mobile and flexible.
However, for some the idea of getting behind the wheel fills them with dread. Vehophobia is the excessive fear of driving, and is derived from the Latin word Veho, meaning to drive. Many people are afflicted with a slight fear or anxiety of driving at some point – after all, there is a certain element of danger.
It is when the anxiety begins to overwhelm you that Vehophobia begins to set in. Sufferers tend to avoid driving at all costs, though most are ok as a passenger. When behind the wheel, they can become a danger to themselves and others.
CAUSES OF VEHOPHOBIA
By far the most common cause of Vehophobia is some degree of trauma involving driving. There are countless possible scenarios.
- Being in a crash. From serious, life threatening accidents to small bumps, even the smallest prang can lead to Vehophobia. The sufferer may have developed PTSD, which makes them prone to developing additional conditions.
- Witnessing an accident. Having seen a serious accident, you may be left thinking what if that had been me?
- Experiencing road rage. To be beeped or yelled at can be hugely distressing to some people, and they will want to avoid repeating the experience at all costs.
- A near miss. Anything from swerving to avoid a deer, or braking just in time, can lead to huge anxiety when driving.
- Unpleasant learning experiences. Some people develop Vehophobia while learning how to drive. Having a strict or unpleasant instructor is a frequent cause, as the driver fears ‘getting it wrong’.
- Stress inducing driving conditions. Being stuck in traffic when you have somewhere important to be or getting lost in terrible conditions can be extremely stressful. In some people, the brain may associate driving with stress and overcompensate with extreme anxiety.
Those with general anxiety disorders or suffering from adrenal deficiency, are often more prone to developing a fear of driving, and it may only take one small event to set the phobia in motion.
SYMPTOMS OF VEHOPHOBIA
Depending on the severity of the case, symptoms can include anything from an increased heartbeat, to a full-blown panic attack. Typical symptoms include;
- Nausea or vomiting
- Gastrointestinal distress
- Profuse sweating
- Goose bumps
- Trouble breathing
- Thoughts of impending doom or death
- Detachment from reality
As a result, many sufferers will do their utmost to avoid driving, often asking friends or family to drive them, or taking public transport. Indeed, many sufferers will pay whatever the cost to avoid driving, even if public transport options are inconvenient and time consuming.
In some cases, the sufferer will dream of car accidents on a regular basis. This can be associated with a real accident they were involved in, or an imagined accident on a particular road they know.
Some sufferers only fear driving in certain conditions, or on certain roads, for example, small lanes or highways. On the other hand, more extreme cases feel anxious just thinking about driving.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is an effective means of treating your phobia, and can provide efficient, long lasting results. Talk Therapy will encourage the sufferer to discover the root of their fear, and from there, build up positive associations.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Hypnotherapy are also fantastic methods. They work on the same principles, but deal with the subconscious mind. Subliminal suggestions are used to help replace negative thought processes with more positive ones.
Exposure Therapy has consistently provided effective results, especially when used with Virtual Reality Therapy. The patient is encouraged to confront their fear, armed with numerous relaxation techniques that help keep anxiety attacks at bay. As they gradually become desensitized to their fear, they find they are able to cope with driving.
In today’s digital world, there are even apps or audio therapy sessions such as subliminals you can download to help rid you of your phobia.
BENEFITS OF OVERCOMING FEAR OF DRIVING
The ability to drive is incredibly useful in the modern world. Not only does it open up numerous professional opportunities, but it’s a skill you can use socially as well. Road trips with friends, visiting family and traveling the world are all far easier when you don’t fear driving.
More importantly however, is the fact that once you’ve treated your Vehophobia, you are no longer a danger to yourself and others. A panic attack at the wheel can have devastating consequences. By overcoming your fear of driving, you become a safer driver – able to cope with anything that comes your way.