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How to conquer the fear of driving (yes it’s a real thing)

Amaxophobia is the fear of driving or being driven

Some people have a phobia of driving or riding in a car.
Some people have a phobia of driving or riding in a car.
Image: Supplied

A fear of driving is a phobia that’s been given a number of different names: amaxophobia, hamaxophobia, or motorphobia. It is the persistent and intense fear of driving or riding in a car.

“People experience the fear differently. Some people fear driving in a particular situation, like driving over a bridge, through a tunnel, at night, at high speeds, changing lanes or merging. Others fear being a passenger in a vehicle,” says Barend Smit, marketing director of MotorHappy, a supplier of motor management solutions and car insurance options.

“If you leave this phobia untreated, it can obviously become disruptive to your daily routine.”

Not surprisingly, one of the most common causes of amaxophobia is having been involved in a car accident. The fear can also be triggered by witnessing an accident in real life or in a movie, or even knowing someone who was involved in a traumatic accident.

Other causes can be travelling in excessive traffic, being lost while driving or not trusting the skills of the person driving.

Symptoms of amaxophobia vary, but it usually starts with feeling physically sick or intense psychological resistance to sitting in a car, whether in the driver’s seat or as a passenger. A person with amaxophobia might experience panic or anxiety attacks, sweaty palms, disorientation, shortness of breath, dizziness — all accompanied by a strong desire to get away from the car.

“If a person has a severe case of amaxophobia, they might need the assistance of a medical professional or specialist. It would require mental commitment and perseverance to overcome the phobia,” explains Smit. “The good news is it is possible to learn how to become comfortable on the roads again, and to drive without worrying.”

Below are some additional steps to help you work through a fear of driving:

  • Try taking short drives on familiar roads and having someone with you to help you stay calm;
  • Take a driving training course, so you can become more confident in your driving skills;
  • Drive only during the day at first;
  • Play relaxing music, at a low volume, while driving.

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