What Is Vehophobia and How Do You Overcome It?

What Is Vehophobia?

Learn How To Identify And Overcome Vehophobia To Get Back On The Road

When people with vehophobia get behind the wheel of a car, their heart rate immediately increases, their breathing becomes shallow, and their hands start to sweat.

It’s an uncomfortable feeling that can prohibit them from driving entirely. Instead, they often decide to use a ride-sharing company or just stay home, missing important life events and professional duties. This prevents them from participating in their favorite activities.

Vehophobia—fear of driving—can have a measurable impact on a sufferer’s life. It’s an actual medical condition that can reduce the person’s quality of life and cause medical bills to pile up.

And it doesn’t just impact one person. If you live in an area where driving is a must, your loved ones could also feel the effects of vehophobia.

Let’s look at what causes vehophobia, the symptoms, and what you can do to get back on the road to good health and regain your independence.

What Is Vehophobia?

Vehophobia is the fear of driving, much like agoraphobia is the fear of going outside. It’s a specific phobia caused by a traumatic experience related to the action, location, or event that causes severe anxiety.

Those with vehophobia have a debilitating fear about some aspects of driving, but the extent of their fear varies. Some are only anxious about driving on the freeway or on particular routes, while others might not even be able to ride as a passenger in a car.

While it’s normal to feel some emotional discomfort after a car crash, post-accident vehophobia can interfere with daily life. It can occur in people who have been involved in a vehicular accident and those who have not. Those who are suffering from vehophobia experience crippling anxiety whenever they are behind the wheel of a car or even experience fear of riding in a car.

Even though people with vehophobia can feel like they are alone, thousands of Americans suffer from the condition and require mental health services.

One study found that 25 to 33% of people experience PTSD at least 30 days after a motor vehicle accident. Given that there are about 6 million car accidents in the U.S. every year, it’s no wonder that vehophobia is such a common condition.

The cause of vehophobia also varies. Usually, people develop a fear of driving after being involved in an accident. In those cases, the person most likely suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). PTSD can cause the person to feel anxious or experience flashbacks of the traumatic event.

Vehophobia can also be an issue for people who have not been involved in an accident. Instead, they might have witnessed a terrible accident or watched one on the news or in a movie.

Regardless of the cause, there are several treatment options for those who have vehophobia. They can overcome their fears and get back to living unconstrained by vehophobia.

What Are Some Symptoms of Vehophobia?

It’s important for those who have vehophobia to understand its symptoms. Then, they can identify when they are experiencing it and seek treatment.

The symptoms of vehophobia are similar to anxiety disorders and include:

  • Trembling: You may find it challenging to steady your hands and limbs, which prevents a firm grip on the steering wheel when driving.
  • Sweating: People experiencing vehophobia will sweat even in cold conditions.
  • Shallow Breathing: You may feel like you cannot draw a full breath, which will heighten your anxiety level.
  • Increased Heart Rate: Fear of driving causes your heart rate to increase, even when sitting still.
  • Tense Muscles: You may notice your shoulder, neck, and facial muscles are tight, and you are unable to relax.
  • Chest Pain: Tightening muscles can make your chest ache.
    Nausea: You may feel as though you’re about to be sick.
  • Excessive Fear: This means you constantly think about getting into an accident, even in safe driving conditions. These fears can overtake your thought and flood your brain.
  • Panic Attacks: Your body goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode, causing you to have a physical response while driving or before getting into a vehicle.
  • Task Avoidance: You may seem to always have an excuse not to drive or ride in a car. You may stick to public transportation or avoid going out altogether.

A driving phobia isn’t just in your head. It’s an actual medical diagnosis that requires proper treatment and can be caused by a variety of vehicle-related experiences.

What Causes Vehophobia?

The most common cause of vehophobia is being involved in a bad accident. If someone is involved in an accident where they almost died or thought they might die, they may develop a fear of driving.

Additionally, if another person was badly injured or killed as a result of the accident, getting behind the wheel after this traumatic experience can be seemingly impossible.

But, accident victims are not the only reason someone might develop vehophobia. Other events that contribute to anxious driving behavior are:

  • Witnessing an accident while driving or walking
  • Growing up with parents who were always anxious or reckless in the car
  • Driving in dangerous conditions, such as intense rain, heavy snow, or strong winds
  • Having an overly strict driving instructor who reacted to every small error you made
  • Experiencing road rage from someone inside or outside of the car that made you feel threatened
  • Seeing a large animal run in front of a car or witnessing an animal be killed by a vehicle
  • Reading about or watching bad accidents in the news, on TV, or in a movie

Any of the above situations might trigger someone who has a fear of driving. They can also experience increased anxiety in congested traffic or around aggressive drivers. These incidents can happen once or continuously and trigger vehophobia at any time.

It’s common for people with vehophobia to experience anxiety when they are driving in completely safe conditions. They constantly anticipate dangerous situations, which causes them to experience driving anxiety. They face intense flashbacks of the serious car accident, causing their body to respond as if they are in that situation all over again.

People with vehophobia might also have other extreme fears, such as: amaxophobia, the fear of being in and riding in a vehicle; claustrophobia, the fear of confined places with no clear exit; and hodophobia, the fear of traveling.

When these phobias and their symptoms compound, they can cause you to be less diligent on the road and may actually lead to the accident you’re trying to avoid. So you must get the proper treatment for vehophobia in order to stay safe.

Vehophobia

Is Vehophobia Curable?

People with vehophobia often find workarounds to avoid driving. They use public transportation or ride-sharing services because their fear controls them.

But, they don’t have to live that way. There are several effective treatments for vehophobia that can help you and your loved ones return to normal.

Below are some of the most popular treatment options for overcoming the fear of driving.

Defensive Driving Courses

Many people fear driving because they don’t feel comfortable with their driving skills, especially if they must react quickly. Taking a course that offers solutions for typical driving scenarios is a great way to ease back into the car and feel more comfortable on the roads.

Defensive driving courses teach people to be aware of other drivers and react safely to unexpected situations. These courses boost people’s confidence, help erase their fears, and give them the tools to drive safely in various traffic situations.

Therapy

Since vehophobia is a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, you can face your anxieties by enrolling in psychotherapy. This form of treatment involves sessions with a medical professional who can offer insight into what’s behind your driving anxiety and coping mechanisms to use that can help you move forward.

A therapist might employ several types of therapy to treat vehophobia and/or PTSD, but cognitive behavioral therapy is one of the most common. This therapy helps individuals alter their thought patterns and behaviors to move on from their trauma and anxiety.

Exposure therapy, which exposes the patient to the source of anxiety, can also help people overcome vehophobia. You can even use technology to help you get back on the road.

Virtual reality exposure therapy allows patients to safely practice driving on a digital simulation application. It’s an excellent approach for overcoming the fear of driving within a controlled environment.

Hypnotherapy is another form of therapy used to help people with extreme fears. This treatment uses hypnosis to explore and process the thoughts and feelings associated with the painful memory. The patient can then confront their fear of driving once the associations are altered and mended.

Medication

Medication can help with debilitating anxiety, but it is not a long-term treatment. There are many different types of drugs one can take to control anxiety, so there may be some trial and error, equating to many doctor visits and copays.

Medications typically don’t work to their maximum capacity in isolation. Those taking medication should also attend regular therapy sessions to help them heal from their anxiety.

Always consult a trusted health professional to determine which medications are right for you. Be sure to disclose any medications, supplements, or treatments to your doctor to prevent harmful drug interactions and ensure the safest care for you.

Support Groups

There are support groups for people who are suffering from vehophobia. The group might meet in person, or it could be an online community of people.

These groups are a great way to connect with others who have experienced similar traumatic events and find a network of people like you who need help.

Participants typically share their experiences, offer coping strategies that have worked for them, and celebrate each other’s milestones and successes.

If you want support from others who understand what you’re going through, search for a group near you online or ask a health care provider for more information.

How Quickly Can Vehophobia Be Cured?

While seeking treatment for vehophobia, remember that it takes time to overcome a fear of driving. Those undergoing treatment should take small steps, confronting the least anxiety-provoking situations first before going after their biggest driving worries.

There’s also no one-size-fits-all solution. You may have to mix and match different methods to formulate a treatment plan that’s right for you and your loved ones.

People with vehophobia should also remember that it is completely normal to experience some setbacks. They will be able to overcome their fear if they keep following their treatment plan. When they get behind the wheel, they should take a few deep breaths and remind themselves that they can do it.

If your driving anxiety was caused by a car accident that was no fault of your own, you might be entitled to compensation. Here’s how to contact a personal injury lawyer who can get you funds to cover treatment and help you get your life back.

How to Get Legal Assistance

Experiencing anxiety and fear while driving can be detrimental to one’s well-being. It can get in the way of daily life for accident victims and their family members, causing them to miss out on critical moments in their lives and preventing them from living life to the fullest.

Vehophobia attacks your independence and alters your life forever. The team at Shook & Stone understands that one bad accident can negatively impact the lives of everyone involved.

Suppose you are experiencing vehophobia because of a car accident in Las Vegas or Reno, Nevada, that you did not cause. In that case, you need to hire an experienced Las Vegas car accident lawyer.

Receiving treatment for your vehophobia can be costly, and you deserve to receive fair compensation to cover the expenses.

Shook & Stone has more than 85 years of combined legal experience in automobile-related injuries. Our law firm knows how to get results.

Contact our team for a free consultation today or call us at (702) 570-0000.

Resources:

Beck, J. G., & Coffey, S. F. (2007). Assessment and treatment of PTSD after a motor vehicle collision: Empirical findings and clinical observations. Professional psychology, research and practice, 38(6), 629–639. https://doi.org/10.1037/0735-7028.38.6.629

Clapp, J. D., Olsen, S. A., Danoff-Burg, S., Hagewood, J. H., Hickling, E. J., Hwang, V. S., & Beck, J. G. (2011). Factors contributing to anxious driving behavior: the role of stress history and accident severity. Journal of anxiety disorders, 25(4), 592–598. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.janxdis.2011.01.008

da Costa, R. T., Carvalho, M. R., Riberio, P., & Nardi, A. E. (2018, June). Virtual reality exposure therapy for fear of driving: analysis of clinical characteristics, physiological response, and sense of presence. Retrieved from https://www.scielo.br/j/rbp/a/S65fjNHBDSzh7vX9fB7tjHc/?lang=en

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2022). Specific Phobias. In Mayo Clinic. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/specific-phobias/symptoms-causes/syc-20355156

Vehophobia is the fear of vehicles. This can include cars, trucks, buses, trains, and more. People with this phobia may feel anxious when they are around vehicles or when they think about them. They may also avoid driving or using public transportation.

Vehophobia is treated with a combination of therapy and medication. Therapy can help people manage their fear and anxiety, while medication can help reduce the symptoms. With treatment, people with vehophobia can learn to cope with their fear and live normal, productive lives.

Vehophobia is a relatively common phobia. It is estimated that around 5% of the population has this phobia. However, it is often underdiagnosed and many people do not seek treatment.

There is no one cause of vehophobia. It may be caused by a traumatic event, such as a car accident. It may also be the result of watching someone else have a bad experience with vehicles. In some cases, it may be a learned behavior.

Vehophobia can also be caused by other anxiety disorders, such as agoraphobia or claustrophobia.

The fear of car accidents is known as dystychiphobia.

Vehophobia is the fear of driving. 

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