Fear of driving is just one of many phobias that can afflict a person. A phobia is an irrational fear that will not go away. It interferes with a significant part of a person’s ability to enjoy life.
If you are afraid to drive, you are probably missing out on a lot of enjoyable experiences, as well as the freedom to come and go as you please.
You may depend on other people to take you shopping, avoid visiting friends and even find yourself restricted to a bus or train route when considering employment opportunities.
There are probably many places you would like to see but you do not go because you would have to drive there.
Perhaps you have not had a weekend getaway in years unless someone else is available to go with you and do the driving.
Why Are You Afraid To Drive?
If you recognize that you have an exaggerated fear of driving that keeps you from enjoying life, you may wonder what caused your phobia to develop.
Researchers are not exactly sure what causes phobias, but they do appear to be routed in past experiences and/or genetics.
It is possible, some believe, that a chemical imbalance is at least partly to blame for irrational fears. That is because all of our thoughts, emotions and actions are regulated by the brain, which directs the entire nervous system.
Structures in the brain called neurons connect to form pathways that send messages from the brain throughout the entire body.
Different chemicals control different types of actions, emotions and thought patterns.
Specifically in the case of phobias, the neurotransmitters norepinephrine, dopamine and serotonin are responsible for psychological well-being.
If there is a disruption in the function of these important brain chemicals, the result for some people may be the development of a phobia like fear of driving.
While a chemical imbalance can explain in part why a phobia exists, it does not tell the whole story.
Experts believe that a negative experience triggers irrational fears in the first place. For example, if you witness a car accident or are involved in one, you will naturally be afraid.
But what if your body is not able to turn off the fear response once the danger has past? This may be what happens when a phobia develops.
In order to manage an irrational fear, you must retrain your mind so that a new response to the thought of driving (one of calmness and the absence of fear) becomes automatic.
Desensitizing the Fear
The classic way in which psychologists treat phobias is a type of behavior modification called “desensitization.”
The goal, as the name suggests, is to make you less sensitive to fearful thoughts about driving. You do this by gradually being exposed to things associated with driving until you can actually drive without feeling debilitating fear.
The technique may involve learning about your specific version of the fear.
For example, was it triggered by a memory that you are aware of or are you not able to remember how it started? Are you more afraid of driving in certain situations, such as in bad weather or at night?
Behavior modification works for many people, but what if this approach doesn’t work for you?
It could be that your brain is not ready to process the new information because of that chemical imbalance mentioned earlier.
If you’ve tried behavioral therapy but are still afraid to drive, you might consider taking a short course of medication and then trying behavior modification again.
Think of this as similar to priming a wall before painting it. In most cases, some form of behavior (or thought) modification under the right mental conditions (with your brain chemistry working properly) will do the trick to reduce or eliminate your fear of driving.