Riding With Panic: What to do if You Have a Panic Attack Behind the Wheel

What can be scarier than falling victim to a panic attack while driving? If you suffer from driving anxiety than the answer to that question is NOTHING!

Panic Attack Driving

If you have driving anxiety and are prone to panic attacks then it is highly important that you know what to do if one occurs while you are driving.

If you have driving anxiety then it is likely that panic attacks can become like a passenger in your car just waiting in the wings for its moment to rear its ugly head.

Having a panic attack can be the scariest thing that has ever happened to you but while driving they are not just scary…they can become deadly.

The only way to prevent tragedy for occurring is to inform yourself on ways to stop panic attacks from peaking and ways to safely take the control of the car out of your hands while one is occurring.

Panic Attack While Driving? DON’T PANIC!

While that may sound silly and nearly impossible, if you feel a panic attack coming on try not to outwardly panic. This could cause a fatal accident.

The best thing to do if you feel the tell tale signs of the panic attack take hold is pull over!

In addition to that, there are also other things you can do to reduce your anxiety and pull out of reach of the attack and/or keep yourself and others safe:

✔ Once again, PULL OVER if you feel an attack surfacing. Do so in the safest place and way you possibly can.

✔ If you feel that you may be able stop the attack from coming, practice your therapeutic exercises (deep breathing, soothing music, self-talk, etc.)

✔ If you have medication for your anxiety, take it. It may calm you enough to make it to your destination without having a full blown attack.

The Right Actions to Take

If you feel the need to pull over do not fight it. Your body and mind are sending you a message that you should definitely listen to.

Once you are pulled over in a safe place, get out of the car and walk around a bit.  This will help to clear your head and give oxygen to your over hyper body systems.

Breathe deeply and breathe slowly. If getting out of your car is not an option then lay your seat back and do your breathing exercises.

If you are a seasoned expert about these things, try your self-help techniques. (Only do this if you are sure that you can be safe in doing so. Again, do not try to be a hero. Pull over if it you are unsure of your ability to come down from the panic peak.)

Talk to yourself about whatever calms you. Listen to the radio, playing only soothing music or self-help CD’s.

The main thing during a panic attack, or the beginnings of a panic attack, is to retain safety. This protects not only you but the other drivers on the road as well.

Always keep a paper bag and a bottle of water in the car with you. The paper bag can prevent hyperventilation and the water is needed to take any medications that you have had prescribed by your health care professional to help you deal with your anxiety.

If you feel an attack coming on, by taking your medication as prescribed you can possibly overt the attack.

Be Prepared!

If you already know that you are prone to panic attacks while driving, be prepared before you enter your vehicle. Make a checklist:

  • Water
  • Paper bag
  • Medication
  • Music/Self-help audio
  • Cell phone (It is ALWAYS important to be able to reach someone in case of emergency.)

Knowing that an attack could come on is half the battle won. If this has happened to you in the past then you can look back and understand your triggers.

Maybe being in the enclosed space for too long triggers an attack. If so, if you are making a long trip, pull over frequently.

Getting some air and stretching your legs can help with any anxiety you may be feeling and help stave off any attacks.

If all else fails, do not fight the attack. As someone who has had a panic attack before, you know that sometimes resistance is futile. You also know that it will pass.

Keep up your breathing and allow the attack to wash over you with the understanding that it will be over soon and you will be okay once again.

If you frequently suffer from panic attacks, or the feeling of oncoming panic attacks while driving, you may want to seek help overcoming this debilitating issue.

Either talk with a mental health professional or seek out some form of alternate treatment such a self-help assistant like The Original Driving Fear Program.

A program of this nature allows you to overcome your fear in your own time and on your own terms. Help is out there…you just have to reach out for it.

By recognizing and admitting the fear exists you have already taken the first step in the process of recovery. Don’t stop now! Push forward into a healthy lifestyle and get rid of your driving anxieties for good!