Cure Your Fear of Driving with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Fear of driving is a crippling phobia for many people and reaching out for CBT with a therapist can be a great first step to overcoming your driving anxiety.

PsychotherapyThough it is not a “spotlight” phobia, it is very real and many people are affected by it.

In fact, it is believed by experts that driving phobia, also called carlanaphobia, is one of the top phobias that people suffer from.

A phobia is a fear that is not rational in nature.

When a person is in danger, they exhibit certain symptoms:

  • Sweating
  • Racing heart
  • Adrenaline rush
  • Severe feelings of anxiety

These are all normal responses to real and present danger or the threat of a real danger.

Feeling fearful in situations such as those is a normal process our bodies go through. Phobias are fears that are not rational in nature yet cause the same symptoms of fear and anxiety.

Anxiety is not always a bad thing. Feelings of fear are what keep us safe. Our bodies warn us when there is danger and help us choose the proper path (flight or fight).

For this reason, it should not be a goal to rid you of anxiety completely but to bring it down to a lower, more manageable level.


What Causes Fear of Driving

Fear of driving can come from various sources. For some people there are particular triggers involved that bring about this phobia.

Possibly you have been in an accident (or several accidents). If this is the root of the fear, you do not have to have been the driver in the accident, you could have also been the passenger.

Maybe you have seen a horrible accident and therefore connect driving with the scene you saw.

It is also possible that you have a parent or other family member who is overly nervous about driving and has issued numerous warning about being careful behind the wheel.

However, even with the absence of triggers, you can still have a driving phobia that’s root is non-specific. It can be a fear that begins gradually and builds up over the years, of something that just comes on quickly.

No matter what the cause is, the really important issue is finding a way to overcome this fear so that you can take control over your life!

Can Carlanaphobia Be Cured?

Though it has likely been a rough road for one who suffers from carlanaphobia, the good news is that they are not alone and there is indeed help.


One specific treatment for this and other phobias is CBT or Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and can be provided by a trained therapist or psychologist.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy works by helping you to reframe your way of thinking or viewing the situation at hand.

CBT is an approach that combines both behavioral (Your actions and response to situations) and cognitive (The way you view the world around you with all of your senses) methods and principles and is generally a brief therapeutic process.

There are certain attributes that are focused on during this type of treatment:

Focus on changing your views in order to produce the desired effect of therapy

A collaborative venture between you and your therapist (Both work together to set and reach goals.)

The existing premise is that the distress you are feeling from the phobia is a function of a disturbance on the cognitive process. (Like a bump in the road of your ability to view the world properly and rationally.)

Overall, CBT assumes that by reorganizing your own self-statements and thoughts, that the result will be the reorganization of the unwanted behavior, in this case, fear and anxiety resulting from driving or the thought of driving.


REBT (Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy) is a sub category of CBT and A-B-C framework is essential to its success.

According to the sub category of REBT, people are mostly responsible for their own psychological problems due to the way they interpret different events and situations and that there are three things that interact within a person creating a cause and effect relationship.

These three things are:

  • Behavior
  • Cognition
  • Emotion

The main pillar for understanding human behavior, according to REBT, is that irrational ways of thinking are the main cause of anxiety and since phobias are irrational, this type of treatment if tailor made to treat driving phobias.

How Does the A-B-C Framework Work?

The A-B-C model helps provide understanding for the client’s thoughts, behaviors, and feelings. Using this to treat a driving phobia would look something like this:

A (Activating Event) – You witnesses a horrific car accident as a child

B (Belief) – When I drive it is a distinct possibility that I can get in a horrific accident because I saw this is possible when I saw the past accident.

C (Behavioral/Emotional Consequence) – The belief causes an emotional reaction, in this case being fearful of driving an automobile.

The belief (B) is what perpetuates the anxiety (C). The event (A) does not cause the emotional/behavioral response (C). Instead, the belief (B) is what causes the anxiety (C).

It is not the fact that you viewed the accident when you were a child, it is the belief that you took from the experience (your cognition of the event).

The next three steps lead the client to the goal.

  • D (Disputing intervention)
  • E (Effect)
  • F (New Feeling)


The main goal of the therapeutic process is to dispute irrational beliefs. (Just because you had or had seen a bad experience does not mean that it will happen to you.)

Your therapist will ask “why” questions during this phase. “Why is it imminent that you too will get into an accident?” or “Just because you saw something happen to someone else, why do you think you are doomed to have it happen to you as well?”

By answering these questions, the you can begin to see that there is no real reason that you should think that you will get into an accident also and can start to see just how irrational this thinking is.


The effect of D is helping to create the desired effect and give you insight into your issue. While it is unlikely that we can get rid of irrational thinking altogether, we can learn to become more flexible in our thought patterns.

Once it is realized that we stay anxious and fearful because we cling to these irrational thoughts we can step back and see that it is okay to be upset or scared, but by pulling back a bit, we can keep these fears under control and cure our phobias.

New Feeling

The new feelings are those of acceptance. Once at this stage, you can accept that life does not always have to go the way you want it to and while not everything can be pleasant, it does not have to become something that becomes unbearable or takes control your life.


It is clear that CBT, and its sub-category REBT, can be a brief and effective intervention for your fear of driving. Seeking therapy may not be for you or maybe it is something that is financially out of reach.

If this is the case, you can find other programs that follow similar steps to what are used in CBT such as The Driving Fear Program.

Used alone or in conjunction with therapy, The Driving Fear Program can help you to overcome all your anxieties.

Whatever course of action is best for you, reach out now! By getting help for your driving anxiety you are not only bringing freedom into your life, you are improving the quality of it!