How to overcome your driving phobia: 13 steps (with pictures)

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How to overcome your driving phobia: 13 steps (with pictures)
How to overcome your driving phobia: 13 steps (with pictures)

Some people say they don't like driving or are afraid of getting behind the wheel. If you are so afraid of driving that you end up in distress, you may have a driving phobia. This specific phobia could make you feel like your life is in danger while in the car. You may even experience panic attacks, a runaway heart rate, rapid breathing, or feelings of dread. If you are dominated by your anxiety behind the wheel and this makes it difficult for you to be comfortable behind the wheel, it is important that you confront your phobia. So you can take back both the wheel and control of your life.


Part 1 of 3: practicing relaxation techniques

Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 1
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 1

Step 1. Create a calm environment in the car

You should feel comfortable just sitting in the car, whether the car is in motion or not. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. Practice sitting in the car and relaxing before you even start driving. Consider listening to relaxing music. It might help you get past a feeling of panic and drown out the noise of other cars.

  • Even the most confident drivers can become anxious if their passengers are noisy. Keep the car quiet, free of litter or clutter.
  • Improve your sense of security by having all necessary repairs done on the car.
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 2
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 2

Step 2. Practice abdominal breathing

If you start to feel a panic attack on the rise or your neck and chest muscles tighten, start breathing deeply into your lungs. Breathe in slowly through your nose, with the goal of drawing air into the lower lungs. Pump up your stomach and hold your breath for a while. Slowly exhale and relax your whole body.

You could repeat this process 10 times, counting up to 10 on each exhale. Try to do 3 sets of 10

Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 3
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 3

Step 3. Try to relax your muscles gradually

Contract and then relax the muscle groups in your body so that you become aware of how to release the tension. Start by clenching your fists for 7-10 seconds. Release for 15 to 20 seconds as you focus on releasing the tension from the muscles in your hands. Repeat the exercise with the other muscle groups, raising your arms above your head, then tilting your upper body towards your feet and toes.

You could even practice this relaxation method for 20 minutes every day, even if you don't have a panic attack. This will help you improve your self-control and your mood, reduce the frequency of panic attacks and increase your concentration

Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 4
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 4

Step 4. Use positive affirmations

Affirmations are short, positive sentences that remind you that you are capable of change. In the case of driving, here is the type of affirmation you could use.

  • I drive carefully and obey the speed limits. Safe driving is a guarantee of safety.
  • Driving is a common activity that is part of everyday life. I am an alert driver who participates in a common activity with caution.
  • I don't have to drive fast. I can stay in the right lane if I want to go slower than the other cars.
  • I don't take the risk of changing lanes at the last moment. If I miss an intersection, it is safe to turn around later.
  • I planned this ride from start to finish. I know where I'm going and I know when to change lanes and turn. I prepared myself well.
  • Even though I am a passenger, I can control my reactions. If I feel bad at any point, I could always ask the driver to pull over.

Part 2 of 3: Using Exposure Therapy

Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 5
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 5

Step 1. Consider confronting your phobia

You've probably already been told that you need to face your fears. Exposing yourself to your fears is very important, especially if you avoid driving for fear of having a panic attack. Exposure therapy is one of the best ways to overcome a phobia, although you should also be able to use relaxation techniques before you start. This will give you the impression that you are in control of yourself during the session.

If you avoid your phobia, it may worsen over time and in turn lead to other phobias

Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 6
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 6

Step 2. Create an anxiety scale

Familiarize yourself with your anxiety levels so that you can take action before you reach your maximum panic attack level. Your anxiety scale will also let you know when to stop exposure - that is, before you reach moderate panic. Your scale should take into account the physical and mental characteristics of anxiety. Here is an example of such a scale:

  • 0 - Total relaxation: no tension, calm, peaceful
  • 1 - Minimal anxiety: a slight nervousness, you are a little alert or attentive
  • 2 - Medium anxiety: you feel muscle tension, tingling, butterflies in the stomach
  • 3- Moderate anxiety: increased heart and respiratory rate, slight discomfort, but you are still in control
  • 4 - Marked anxiety: a marked muscle tension, a feeling of increased discomfort, you begin to wonder if you are still in control
  • 5- The panic that begins: the heart starts to race or to beat irregularly, you are dizzy, you are clearly afraid of losing control, you want to escape
  • 6 - Moderate panic: you have palpitations, trouble breathing, you feel disoriented
  • 7 to10 - Total panic attack: you are terrified, you are afraid of dying, the sensations of moderate panic are multiplied
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 7
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 7

Step 3. Write down your fears

Be specific and write down the things that scare you when driving. Then examine these fears and rank them in order of what scares you the least and what makes you panic the most. This will help you gradually expose yourself to your fears. You will progress slowly, so that you never really feel out of control.

For example, what scares you the least might be holding the keys in the driveway, while what scares you the most is driving on the freeway

Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 8
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 8

Step 4. Go through the steps step by step

Start with the fear of the weakest list and expose yourself to it until that thing doesn't make you anxious at all. Once you have mastered one of the things on the list, move on to the next one. For example, your list could expose you to things like (from smallest fear to biggest):

  • hold the car keys and watch the car in the garage
  • sit in the car for 5 minutes
  • drive around the block
  • drive around the neighborhood making right turns, then left turns
  • drive on the main street and turn left at the lights or stop signs
  • drive on the highway in the right lane for 1 or 2 exits
  • drive on the highway in the left lane for 2 exits
  • drive on the freeway, changing lanes several times for 3 to 5 exits
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 9
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 9

Step 5. Get in the car with drivers you trust

If you can't even get in a car as a passenger, follow the steps for exposure therapy. Instead of driving, you could gradually face your fears by getting into a car driven by a trusted driver. Pick someone who you know will drive with the utmost care. Once you are comfortable with this person, try to ride with other drivers or make trips that are more difficult (for example on the motorway).

Determine what you are most comfortable with when you first start getting into the car as a passenger. You may prefer to sit in the back. Or maybe in the seat next to the driver. Experiment to find what works best for you

Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 10
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 10

Step 6. Make a commitment to learn to drive

Most people are afraid of getting behind the wheel the first time. To relieve your fear, choose a driving instructor who has a lot of experience. A good driver will reassure you and make you comfortable in the driver's seat.

Consider working with a driving instructor. You may realize that your anxiety about learning to drive came from your previous instructor, especially if it was someone in your family

Part 3 of 3: Getting help

Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 11
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 11

Step 1. Know when to see a doctor

If your fear of driving is interfering with your life, you should seek medical or psychological help. If you are unsure of who to ask for help, your doctor should be able to put you in touch with qualified professionals. You could work with your doctor, with a psychologist, with a psychiatrist or phobia therapist.

If you are increasingly depressed by your inability to drive, seek help. Don't just adjust to this fear by avoiding driving, as you risk developing additional phobias

Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 12
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 12

Step 2. Try psychotherapy

You could work one-on-one with a psychotherapist. In addition to taking relaxation techniques and exposure therapy, the therapist may encourage you to open up. It is important that you talk about it, so that your brain learns to deal with fear. This will give you a chance to think about what is behind this fear and you will come to cure your driving phobia.

Don't expect your therapist to give you advice. He is there to listen and to ask you questions to which you can provide thoughtful answers allowing you to explore your fear

Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 13
Overcome a Driving Phobia Step 13

Step 3. Join a support group

If you'd rather talk about your phobia in groups, find a driving phobia support group to talk to. You might also find an online support forum run by people with similar symptoms. Just knowing that you are not alone can put you on the road to recovery.

You could talk about it with your friends and family. Share your fears with them and explain to them the difficulties you are facing. Knowing that you have friends and family who understand what you are going through can help


  • Consider joining a driving school or improving your driving. Some people have specialized in the art of restoring the confidence of anxious drivers, through hands-on lessons that take place in safe places and reproduce the conditions you fear the most.
  • Try several types of therapies and treatments. You won't know a treatment is working well for you until you try it.
  • Hypnotherapy and Neuroemotional Eye Movement Integration (EMDR) are other forms of treatment, although their usefulness has not been formally demonstrated by scientific research.

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