Everything about Fear of Driving

Fear of Driving

The hands are wet with sweat and the heart is racing. The head turns back and forth nervously. This is roughly how it works with people who suffer from driving anxiety.

What is fear of driving?

Some people are just afraid to drive. It seems too risky to them because they are afraid of making mistakes, failing, or causing an accident. Sitting behind the steering wheel is simply torture for them. There are two types of driving anxiety: the specific and the unspecific fear.

  • Specific fear of driving

According to howsmb.com, the specific fear relates primarily to the fear of the car, which is difficult to understand and control, or of driving itself, for example due to uncertainty or excessive demands in certain traffic situations. It can usually be treated quickly and well.

  • Unspecific fear of driving

In the case of unspecific fear, it arises from other fears. It usually only occurs in certain situations that are related to driving a car, for example the density of traffic, the confined spaces in the car, the high speed and the resulting risk of accidents.


The fear of driving has different causes and backgrounds in every person. The person concerned must first become aware of these. Many of them have already been involved in an accident or have witnessed one or accident reports in newspapers, television reports or the like have resulted in trauma.

The viewer or reader becomes aware of the risks and dangers involved in driving a car, which can cause driving anxiety. The reactions of other road users also often lead to this, for example constant honking at the traffic lights or jostling on the motorways. Mocking remarks by the passenger about their own driving skills can also create insecurity, raise self-doubts and trigger fear of driving.

Being overwhelmed is another common reason. After all, the car is a very complex machine. There is a lot to consider: steering, shifting, accelerating, braking, blinking, paying attention to the traffic rules and other road users, all of this can be overwhelming.

Finally, the fear that some people have of the car should also be mentioned. They fail to trust the functionality of the vehicle and are therefore afraid of a technical failure. This can also trigger fear of driving.

Symptoms, ailments & signs

Depending on the intensity of the fear of driving, the symptoms also vary. The physical symptoms of driving fear include damp palms up to sweating, tremors, difficulty concentrating, nervousness up to a racing heart and sleep problems.

In extreme cases, it can even lead to panic attacks. As a result, driving is increasingly restricted and ultimately avoided completely. The person concerned is unable to get into a car because they are paralyzed with fear. This not only restricts mobility, it is also a loss of quality of life.


The diagnosis of fear of driving is rarely made. This is because most people feel ashamed to see a doctor about it. However, if a doctor is consulted, the diagnosis can usually be made quickly based on the symptoms described.

Basically: the sooner the fear of driving is dealt with, the better. Anyone who suffers from panic attacks could stop driving at some point. This unspecific fear of driving can be treated more successfully if the person concerned has the root cause of the panic attack treated therapeutically.


In the case of fear of driving, there are usually no medical complications that could affect a person’s health. However, fear of driving has a very negative effect on the patient’s life and can lead to problems and difficulties in everyday life. The mobility of the affected person is limited, which also reduces the quality of life.

It is difficult for humans to move around without aids. This can also include the use of public transport. Friends and social contacts are negatively affected. The patient withdraws more and more and breaks off contact with other people. This can lead to depression and other psychological problems.

However, a complication also arises if the fear of driving arises for no reason or is transferred to other everyday things. This can lead to the development of an anxiety disorder, which can exert strong psychological influences on the patient.

The treatment is primarily aimed at therapy and conversations with people who also suffer from driving anxiety. Medicines are usually not used. There are no complications here. Special driving schools can also be used, which specialize in patients with driving anxiety.

When should you go to the doctor?

If you are afraid of driving, you don’t always have to go to a doctor. If you are afraid of driving, but do not perceive this as a major limitation, you do not necessarily need to have the phobia clarified or treated. Medical advice is required if the fear of driving significantly reduces the quality of life and well-being or is related to other psychological problems. If the phobia grows over time and causes complications, professional advice is required.

The person concerned should then speak to the family doctor or consult a therapist directly. If you have pronounced anxiety, it may make sense to visit a driving school that specializes in patients with driving anxiety. It is best to prescribe a light sedative for young people who have acute anxiety before their driving test.

In the case of panic attacks, however, a psychologist must be called in, with whose help the causes of the fear of driving can be determined and dealt with. Attending a self-help group can also help overcome a phobia.

Treatment & Therapy

Fear of driving should definitely be dealt with, because fear at the wheel can be very dangerous. It causes stress and distraction, which can even be fatal. The therapy is based on the strength of the fear. If it is mild, it may be enough to talk yourself out of the fear with autosuggestion.

It is a good support to face the fear, in that the person concerned becomes active as a driver or co-driver. If the fear of driving is more pronounced, psychotherapy is helpful. Here it can be determined what the fear results from and what reactions the situation evokes in order to be able to deal with it better.

It is also important to face the fear. During driver training it is helpful to have a passenger sitting in the car who exudes serenity. It also makes sense to take some practice lessons in the driving school.

In the beginning, it is advisable to drive in traffic-calmed areas and at low-traffic times. In this way, the fear of driving can be gradually brought under control. The hypnosis is another form of therapy. It usually takes several sessions to get rid of the fears.

Outlook & forecast

Anxiety disorder is one of the disorders of the psyche for which there is a prospect of a cure. Since fear is a natural companion and as a vital warning signal it is essential for survival, under no circumstances should and under any circumstances a permanent liberation from an experience of fear occur.

However, strong fears are tormenting and stressful for people. They can be processed and alleviated in targeted treatment. If no therapy is used for fear of driving, the symptoms can steadily worsen. Short-term relief from the intensity of the anxiety is possible at any time, but in most cases the symptoms will gradually increase. If further life challenges arise, a strong increase in driving anxiety can be expected.

The prognosis improves in patients who seek help from a therapist. As long as the person concerned cooperates and a good relationship of trust has been established between the patient and the therapist, there is a good chance that the symptoms will be significantly reduced. The duration of the therapy normally depends on the intensity of the symptoms developed.

If there are other anxiety disorders or other mental illnesses, complications or delays in the healing process can occur. In many cases, the fear of driving was triggered by experiencing traumatic circumstances that have remained unprocessed.


People with a fear of driving need to develop a routine to counteract their nervousness. For example, you can talk loudly while driving as this will calm your breath, bring your mind back quickly, and make you feel like the situation is simpler than expected.

The thought of beautiful experiences can also curb fear. Fresh air and exercises to relax the muscles are also helpful. In the end, the only thing that helps is to practice regularly, because sooner or later you can only overcome your fear of driving if you face it. Unsure drivers shouldn’t sit alone in the car at first.


Driving anxiety is a mental illness. It can usually be successfully treated with therapy. As a result, the typical symptoms are no longer present after initial medical monitoring. However, it must not be assumed that fear in itself disappears. The emotional state is vital and indispensable. Fear of driving can reappear after a recovery. There is no immunity.

Certain experiences trigger the trauma. Events that have not been processed play an important role. Those affected turn to a psychotherapist for treatment. This helps to reduce the signs via muscle relaxation or hypnosis.

The patient has a great deal of personal responsibility when they suffer from driving anxiety. This is not only a result of the high risk of injury that a car offers. Rather, the therapy also shows them forms of exercise that they have to use independently in everyday life. Only long-term training promises lasting success.

After another anxiety attack, the use of a traffic training area has proven useful. There you can get used to a vehicle under supervision and without endangering third parties. Patients also practice best in the artificial street environment how to behave in the event of an attack. The psychotherapist or a close friend should accompany such trips.

You can do that yourself

For self-help it is important to be able to independently bring about a state of relaxation. Breathing techniques are suitable for this, for example breathing according to a given rhythm, which counteract the physical symptoms of anxiety. Other types of distraction while driving, such as music or conversation, are also helpful. Here, however, a hazard must be excluded, which is why hypnosis or meditation programs should be avoided while driving.

If the journey can be interrupted, short periods of movement are useful to reduce stress. In this way, cramps can also be released or reduced.

Conversations with other sufferers help to gain a better understanding of your own fear and also to gain understanding from others. This is particularly indicated in cases in which the fear of driving leads to a deteriorated self-image.

In the long term, we recommend training under safe conditions, e.g. driving on a traffic training area. In this way, the processes of driving or the sensations as a passenger can be relived over and over again until a certain tolerance occurs. The feeling of loss of control goes down, which leads to a decrease in symptoms.

In general, a combination of relaxation techniques, distraction, and regular exercise is recommended for long-term success.

Fear of Driving