The automobile and driving are symbols of freedom and mobility in America, both physical and economic. As of 2007 there were over 250 million passenger vehicles on the road in America. When a person suffers from a fear of driving, it can be an especially debilitating condition in a country where the automobile is the primary mode of transportation. Anxiety can strike at a moment's notice, heedless of a person's age, gender or status. There are a number of different causes for anxiety and it can affect people in numerous ways, such as fear of driving a vehicle. A person may experience anxiety while driving when they are first learning to drive, or in other cases a person may develop a fear of driving after years of experience. Fear of driving may be associated with driving in general, regardless of location, or a person may feel anxious, afraid, or overly nervous in certain situations such as driving on the freeway or across a bridge. Regardless of the onset or why you are experiencing it, if you are a person who has developed a fear of driving there are ways to overcome it.

Driver's anxiety can be caused by a number of different factors, although it is rarely if ever genetically inherited. In some cases it can develop unexpectedly, without any known cause, but in many cases it is the cause of previous traumatic incidents. One example is persistent negative reinforcement during one's period of driver education. For instance, if when learning how to drive you are constantly yelled at or excessively chastised, this may cause long-term driver's anxiety. A traumatic incident, such as an accident or near-collision, could also be the cause. Excessive exposure to news about traffic accidents could be another trigger. The daily stress of commuting in high-traffic areas could also lead to chronic attacks of anxiety while driving.

In order to conquer your fears of driving there are important steps that must be taken. The first is to resolve to face the fear of driving. Often this is easiest if you know the cause of your anxiety. If your reaction isn't to the degree that it is a danger to yourself and others on the road, then it is important that you not avoid driving as it only intensifies the fear or threat that driving represents. Before getting in the car, attempt to face and dispel any black and white thinking that you may have about driving. With black and white thinking, a person can see only one possible outcome to an action. With driving, people may feel that if they drive, it will result in an accident; however, if they do not drive, they will be safe. This is black and white thinking that there is no middle ground. You must realize that you are thinking this way and take steps to overcome it. One way to do that is to use positive thinking or affirmations. Create positive affirmations that can be repeated while driving to help dispel negative thinking. An example of a positive affirmation may be "I am a safe driver and will arrive safely at my destination."
When driving, don't feel as if you need to drive in the fast lane or drive in a way that you are uncomfortable with. If you are anxious about driving on the freeway, for example, remain in the right-hand lane. If you haven't driven for a while or feel overwhelmed when behind the wheel of your car, then take short trips and work your way towards longer drives. It is also important that you do not take rush trips. Always allow enough time to reach your destination to avoid feeling hurried while driving. In addition, consciously obeying the rules of the road and keeping up with the maintenance of your vehicle will also go a long way in alleviating fears of driving. If you are prone to attacks of anxiety, it is important that you learn to recognize what the impending signs of an attack are so that you can confront and potentially head them off. Often taking a few deep breaths, repeating affirmations, or if necessary, pulling over for a few moments will help.
Overcoming your fear of driving by yourself isn't always possible or safe, particularly if your reactions are extreme, such as fainting, when behind the wheel. In some instances, you may require the help of a doctor or therapist in order to conquer your fears. A therapist can help you to recognize the source of your anxiety towards driving and come up with a course of action that works best for you. In some cases, doctors may prescribe drugs to treat the effects of driver's anxiety. These include antidepressants, such as Prozac. Other types of drugs that doctors may use to fight the condition include beta-blockers, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI), and benzodiazepines (for instance, Valium). These drugs have various side-effects, however, and in some cases can be addictive or habit-forming. Some of these drugs also interact dangerously with cheese, alcohol, or even decongestant drugs.
While driving can be a luxury and call to freedom, it can also be the source of anxiety and debilitating fear. If you suffer from a fear of driving it can have a huge impact on many aspects of your life. Overcoming this fear is a challenge but it is not impossible. By taking the right steps it is possible to overcome driving anxiety and regain your driving independence.
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