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Driving Anxiety and Panic Attacks While Driving

Driving Anxiety

Do you know fear is a defense mechanism? Fear helps you act against potential danger and not do dangerous things.

Fear of driving, in its innate and sublime form, is there to protect you. But when it turns into driving anxiety and panic attacks while driving, it hampers your performance rather than help you in any way.

Here we present you with solid tips and techniques to cure your panic and anxiety attacks while driving. When you apply these techniques you will see your panic attacks disappear, and what will remain is awareness to spot signs of fear and take appropriate action to protect yourself.

So don’t worry about fear, let it come to you whenever it is useful. And it is definitely not useful when you pull it towards you and multiply it a hundred times to create panic for yourself.

How to Prevent Fear Turning Into Panic or Anxiety While Driving

Most of us have a slight fear of driving. A frightful incident while driving creates an impression in our mind that plays to itself the next time we drive.

While most people manage to douse the fear, some tend to kindle it and inflame it with every passing incident. They make fuss over physical symptoms of fear like sweaty palms, trembling or dizziness, which makes them even more scared of driving, eventually ballooning into driving anxiety and panic attacks while driving.

The trick is to catch the moment of fear before it soars to uncontrollable heights. Just keep yourself occupied in the present moment and you’ll be just fine. This article is all about remaining in the present. Anxiety is nothing but anticipation of fear.

The fear may or may not be real, but the anticipation of fear is definitely real, detrimental, and hard to bear.

Just look at the present moment. Look at the cars ahead of you. Enjoy the experience of operating a marvelous machine on wheels. Keep your breath flowing and don’t let it lock up. Be aware.

Trick to Quickly Dissolve Panic Attack While Driving

Here is a fantastic technique to avoid an impending panic attack while driving. It may look insane upfront, but it works every time to douse your driving anxiety. Here is how you do it.

Consider you are driving on a freeway or a long bridge, places most of you would tend to panic. Suddenly you start feeling the heat and you get squirmy with fear. Your hands start trembling and your palms start sweating.

Now what you need to do is observe your feelings (identify them), accept them and worsen them. Yes you heard right. Worsen the feelings and symptoms yourself.

Once you have identified and accepted your feelings, make them worse on your own. If your hands are trembling, you make them tremble more by putting in a conscious effort.

If you are feeling jittery, consciously take control of your body and make it jitter more. If you feel like shrieking, gather yourself and consciously shout out something.

What happens is you gain control over your feelings. You realize that you cannot really make them worse. You remain firmly in the present and avoid spiraling into anxiety and panic. This technique will help you relax and avoid panic attacks while driving.

Periodically as you drive, you can perform a relaxation procedure to keep yourself nice and composed. Here is one relaxation technique to help you relax from time to time as you drive, especially if you feel anxiety building up in your system.

Relaxation Technique While Driving

1. Relax your forehead, eyes and jaws. You’ll be surprised how much tension you had unnecessarily built up around that region. Tell yourself it’s fine to relax the muscles of your face.

Relax your jaws and slightly part your teeth. A relaxed face is not going to drop your stance; it is going to equip you with more awareness and alertness.

2. Slightly roll your head both ways. Roll your shoulders clockwise and anticlockwise. Bend your shoulders blades backwards and press them against each other. Hold for a few seconds and relax.

This will soothe your nerves. The best time to perform this exercise is when you stop at traffic signals.

3. Squeeze the wheel tightly with both your hands and relax. Repeat a couple of times. This will make sure you are not holding the wheel with more effort than needed.

4. Squeeze your buttocks together and relax. Repeat twice more. If you have been clenching your buttocks too much while driving, this exercise will relax them and your nerves.

Practice this relaxation technique periodically to get rid of any anxiety while driving. You can practice it on freeways, traffic signals, or before entering a bridge.

There’s nothing really to be scared of while driving if you know how to drive. Unless your driving capabilities are not up to the mark, the only thing stopping you from driving confidently is your mind.

If you engage it in the present moment, anxiety and panic are never going to haunt you. Panic and anxiety attacks while driving are only due to the mind running into the future or harking back to the past.

Use the techniques given above to good effect and keep your mind in the present.

Driving is easy. Just look at those that text as they drive, eat and drink as they drive. This is not to scare you away from the roads but you have you realize that driving is a piece of cake!

Final Words

Practice. Practice your way up and resist the temptation to test yourself directly over bridges spanning water or speeding on the freeway. Each time you drive, increase the duration of your drive.

Remember, your aim is to get better. Don’t try to achieve perfection; it will only lead to more anxiety attacks while driving and make you more scared of driving.

Having said that, it is better for you to go and drive rather than sit at home thinking of fear, anxiety and panic. If you have decided to follow the techniques given here, it is your best chance ever to get rid of driving anxiety and panic attacks while driving. Good luck!

Check out the Driving Fear Program in which you can find ample tips and tricks and proven methods to eliminate fear, anxiety and panic attacks while driving.

The program is a well thought out guide that comes from the actual experiences of the author as he learned how to drive fearlessly from being a nervous driver.

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{ 23 comments… add one }
  • tia silva July 8, 2010, 5:32 pm

    I had never had a problum driving but one day i just couldnot drive eney more

  • panic relief July 26, 2010, 7:47 am

    The best thing to do during panic attack while driving is to park the car immediately in a safe place.
    Better that than to risk lives.

  • James November 3, 2010, 1:27 pm

    If you get panic attacks while driving try to identify the signs of it coming and pull over to a safe location off the road. Breathe, in through the nose, out through the mouth, relax your body and tell yourself that others have beat this and so can you. Seek professional help right away.

  • Mark March 20, 2011, 12:30 am

    For some, this problem can be cured with therapy and talking yourself down. For others, it’s a chemical imbalance that can only be fixed with medication.

    I have moderate-to-severe SA and Asperger’s. I had to give up my career as a driver. It stinks because I was making over 50k a year. Most professional drivers don’t have college degrees and a myriad of marketable skills. That’s generally why they choose to drive for a living (and because they love driving, which used to be me).

    Can’t drive a truck on mood-altering drugs, so either way, I won’t be driving again. At least professionally.

    One step forward, one step back. I think someone is trying to tell me something: Aim extremely low and maintain that pace until sweet relief comes to free me from this burden of a life.

    Lower-class, here I come! Break out the section-8 housing, bus pass, and shorter lifespan.

  • a May 13, 2011, 3:25 pm

    I’ve never had a problem driving until recently I avoid highways when I get on them I get this “stuck” feeling because there’s only exits here and there.I only drive around town,it really sucks I don’t go out much because of this.I wish I could get over it or at the least have a reason for them.

  • Maureen June 3, 2011, 1:14 pm

    I barely drive anymore; just local; never highways. ?I moved from an urban area to one that is wide open next to the highway leading to just about all I need to go to. I got so tense, so anxious to get off the road. Don’t know why. Also noticed before I retired that driving up to open areas (e.g., towards a beach), would make me anxious. Sure wish this didn’t happen.

  • Ryan H June 4, 2011, 11:06 am

    I have had lots of panic attacks while i was driving earlier in the year. But for 3 months i had no problems with driving anywhere. Now the panic attacks are coming back, and the only way i can drive a long distance is have someone in the car with me. What’s happening to me?

  • tia July 10, 2011, 10:15 pm

    my anxiety while driving started after i had my son..sort of due to my fear of dying in a car accident and leaving my son..have a fear of driving out in the country or anywhere that i think is “too far away from home”..i used to live in town, now i’m closer to the country which makes it harder to drive into town..counseling did help but i’m back to where i started because i stopped going..hopefully it will get better

  • Donna August 9, 2011, 9:22 am

    I started having panic attacks at age 19. I’m in my 40’s now. I was on the usual meds Prozac and Xanax back then. FINALLY, in my 30’s I got control of this thing. Now, it is rearing its ugly head again and has been manifesting while I’m driving. I don’t want to have to back on medication. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one here going thru this but hate it!!! Hopefully we all will get better. It’s so debilitating.

  • Kim November 14, 2011, 1:39 pm

    I had never had issues driving. Now I freak out whenever I drive roads that have imbankments. I shake, my hands sweat and I get dizzy. My parents live an hour from me and I must go through a few areas where there are imbankments. This fear is starting to infringe on the time I can see my family. I have got to get control of this. I use to drive this same road 3 days a week before I moved and did fine, so what the heck happened that screwed me up. I get less anxious if my husband goes with me, but sometimes he can’t go. I have been going anyway and each time the drive is fine, I just stay anxious and stressed the entire ride so I am totally exhausted when I get home.

  • Nicole January 17, 2012, 1:13 am

    I empathize with everyone’s posts here. I don’t understand what triggered my driving panic attacks that started 4 years ago. I was completely fine before then. I just had one today, and the onset is having these feelings of “what if” it strikes today. Sure enough, it happens, and the next fear is, now that I do not have control over my body, I hope I do not hurt anyone else on the road. I make my way through the next exit, and took side streets for miles to get home. I will try to use the techniques suggested here, and hope it helps me get over this for the rest of my life.

  • nicol January 19, 2012, 4:08 am

    I have been driving for 13 yrs. My job consist of driving all day trough out my country for long hours and for the last 6mths i began having attacks while diving. When it happens i find myself pulling my staring very hard to the left, causing me to now drive only on the left and at 60kms. Driving on other lanes and over taking increase the attacks.
    Need help now so i dont have to be on medication and taking days away from my job to often…

  • Celdoubleu Bella January 26, 2012, 3:46 pm

    I didn’t start driving until I was in my early 30’s, the first day of driving school I tried to put on my brakes right on the freeway, the instructor was so nice that his voice calmed me to drive on. Every now and then I get this overwhelming (the-plunging-feeling-you-get-on-that-drop-down-on-the-rollercoaster-kinda) feeling. I started breathing slowing through my mouth to stop it and it causes me to tear up really bad. Once the ‘feeling’ leaves I’m left having to use the bathroom and nervous. I hate it, and now I’m relocating to Texas from Michigan (1,354 miles). I’m going to do it, without medication, and without hypnosis, I refuse to live in fear!

  • anna April 9, 2012, 4:21 pm

    FEAR (Face Everything And Recover)

  • davida May 14, 2012, 6:37 pm

    ive been having anxiety attacks since i was in the third grade.And am 47 yrs of age now.when i got my license at 16 i had panic attacks so bad i would take only back roads to get to where i was going,sometimes an hour out of my way.A few years ago the doctor put me on clonazepam, and for the first time in my life i could drive anywhere. I felt so normal.Now within the last 6-8 mos, the meds dont work anymore,i had the doctor increase the dose but still no help.I hate it and it makes me so angry because im a very independent person.I feel for anyone who has anxiety of any kind,it steals from your life.

  • Janet September 4, 2012, 12:27 pm

    “Driving is easy. Just look at those that text as they drive, eat and drink as they drive. This is not to scare you away from the roads but you have you realize that driving is a piece of cake!”

    Driving is not easy. It requires AWARENESS. Texting while driving? Yes, knowing some people are doing this creates anxiety and hypervigilance…especially when I see the car ahead of me weaving!

  • ed December 6, 2012, 3:16 pm

    I have experienced intense fear over the past 2 years. I was taking e-citlopram for anxiety and it helped. However I dediced to get off the meds and the panic attacks came back. I now take 2 products (Natural) I buy at my natural foods store and have not experiecnced these attacks since. I now can drive with the same confidence under all road conditions without ever thinking about it.

  • Nicole January 13, 2014, 1:27 am

    Ed, what are the natural remidies you use?

  • Brandon February 2, 2014, 11:55 pm

    I have anxiety/panic attacks when driving mostly at night on the highway. This started about 1 year ago when taking a road trip. When out of the blue, I thought I was going to crash off the side of the road. When I had this particular attack, I had some tingling sensation in my face and arm. The anxiety comes and goes. I just turned 40 and have never experienced these feelings before. Is there any natural supplements that can help with this? It seems really awkward to have this problem but it is very real and I want to take care of it. Any help would be appreciated.

  • denise June 25, 2015, 1:57 pm

    I have several of these phobias, driveing, leaving my house, not comfortable anywhere but my house, going anywhere, what might happen to my son’s while not at home where I know they are safe. No Shrink can pinpoint a problem just throw pills that dont work

  • Nick June 27, 2015, 9:43 am

    HGV Driver for 20+ years . Had a panic attack going over a high/long bridge . Now any bridge and any height and I fly into another panic attack . I sometimes wonder how I don’t drive off and lose control !

  • James May 24, 2016, 11:29 pm

    Ive suffered from panic attacks for many years now. Highway and bridges/tunnels mostly. The fear of not being able to get out of a situation, off the highway or off the bridge. Sometimes at traffic lights while boxed in by other cars. It’s horrible and no words can describe it. Riding in a car is even worse. Ive tried meds and hypnosis with little relief. Snapping a rubber band on my wrist is a little trick I found tbat helps a little but not much. Ill pull over and get out, then im fine. This anxiety has stolen so much from me.

  • Estelle Roberts December 29, 2017, 10:49 am


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