Fear of driving: how do I know if I have a phobia?

Fear of driving is a relatively common phenomenon in all types of people of age to drive these vehicles, and it is not in itself something that should be a problem in all cases. Sometimes nothing happens to suffer this type of discomfort simply because you have neither the desire nor the need to drive, and it can also happen that this fear is easy to overcome in a matter of hours or a few days, and that it does not hinder driving .

However, there are cases in which the anxiety caused by driving leads to many problems, to the point where it is a factor that damages the quality of life of the person.

In these cases we speak of amaxophobia, or phobia of driving. But… How to recognize the boundary that separates the simply unpleasant or uncomfortable, on the one hand, and the pathological, on the other?

The keys to recognizing a driving phobia

It is estimated that around 20% of drivers suffer to a greater or lesser extent a certain level of anxiety when driving. However, in most cases we cannot speak of a phobia. To a certain extent it is to be expected: the high speeds that we experience while driving one of these vehicles, combined with the awareness that in a few seconds we could cause moral accidents, can be interpreted as a source of constant danger.

And after all, natural evolution has not been shaping our brains so that we are very good at moving so fast; We need months of practice just to start doing it without serious danger, and even with a license, accidents are frequent (very rarely we will see birds colliding with natural elements of their environment when flying, for example).

Normally, we reach a point where we learn to handle ourselves well with the car, motorcycle or whatever vehicle. But in the same way that we can learn to stop being afraid of driving, we can also learn to earn it (involuntarily, of course). And sometimes, this fear is so intense that it ceases to be fear and becomes a psychopathology.

Thus, phobias are a mixture of biological predispositions (the fact that we can experience anxiety allows us to react in time to dangers) and learning (we can associate any emotion with any stimulus).

However, it is not always easy to understand well what type of emotions we are experiencing, and if what happens to us is a psychological disorder or not. Although the diagnoses are ultimately made by mental health professionals, it is important to know some keys to detect signs and symptoms of psychopathologies. And in the case of driving phobia, the key ideas that help to know if we are suffering from it or not are the following (it is not necessary that they all occur in the same person).

1. When driving or trying, we feel that we lose control over the body

The feeling of loss of control over oneself is typical in phobias all types. Tremors and respiratory agitation also appear.

2. The very idea of ​​driving produces anxiety

Wherever there is a phobia of driving, The act of closing our eyes and imagining that we are driving makes our anxiety levels rise significantly.

3. We look for excuses not to drive

Those who do not drive for economic, ecological or logistical reasons (for example, lack of parking) do not look for excuses not to choose the car and motorcycle as a means of transport. But those who suffer from a driving phobia are inclined towards lying or concealing their main motive.

4. Catastrophic thoughts appear when driving or going to drive

As in all phobias, the phobic stimulus causes pessimistic forecasts to emerge about what will happen in the next few minutes.

5. We are concerned that in emergencies we will be forced to drive

Those who suffer from driving phobia too experience, from time to time, anxiety at the idea of ​​circumstances in which they must drive due to an emergency or for something that a family member or friend needs.

Are you interested in having psychotherapeutic support?

If you are thinking of starting a psychotherapy process to overcome a phobia, a source of stress or any other type of emotional or behavioral discomfort, get in touch with our team of professionals. In Cepsim Psychological Center We have been serving adults, children and adolescents for years, and we offer our services in person, in our centers located in Madrid, and online through video call sessions.

Bibliographic references:

  • Barp, M. & Mahl, AC (2013). Amaxophobia: a study on the causes of fear of driving. UNOESC and Science – ACBS, 4: pp. 39 – 48.
  • Clapp, JD; et al. (2011). The Driving Behavior Survey: Scale construction and validation. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 25 (1): pp. 96-105.
  • Hickling, EJ; Blanchard, EB (1992). Post-traumatic stress disorder and motor vehicle accidents. Journal of Anxiety Disorders. 6 (3): pp. 285-291.
  • Sáiz Vicente, E., Bañuls Egeda, R. and Monteagudo Soto, MJ (1997). Exploring anxiety in novice and professional drivers. Annals of Psychology, 13 (1): pp. 65 – 75.
  • Taylor, Joanne; Deane, Frank; Podd, John (June 2002). “Driving-related Fear: A Review”. Clinical Psychology Review. 22 (5): pp. 631-645.


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