How Counseling Helps In Overcoming Driving Anxiety

Driving is probably one of the most exhilarating experiences. Some people relate it to thrilling and enjoyable experiences. And yet, it is one of the most common situations that can trigger anxiety and panic behaviors. The American Psychiatric Association created the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to classify mental disorders. While driving-related anxiety isn’t an entry just yet, we know that driving anxiety is real. Those who have it can experience mild to extreme symptoms of distress.

People with driving anxiety feel the most challenged when they get stuck on bridges or tunnels. These individuals are likely afraid of how there is no easy or safe escape from these situations. They are also at risk of being completely home-bound. Additionally, they also tend to cause frequent traffic accidents.

A man driving on a busy street. People with driving anxiety feel the most challenged when they get stuck on bridges or tunnels.

They need to take precautions to reduce the risk of this occurrence. Counseling can help people with driving anxiety in identifying the symptoms and sources of their stress.  Understanding the roots of this anxiety can help counselors develop a treatment plan to help their clients cope. A counselor can also teach specific strategies to deal with driving-related anxiety effectively.

Determining Signs Of Driving Anxiety

There is no well-defined range of symptoms or signals for driving-related anxiety. This is because it can manifest differently among individuals. It can be anything from subtle distress when grabbing car keys to having a full-blown panic attack while driving.

Additionally, driving-related anxiety may have varying effects on a person’s thoughts, emotions, and actions. Some people will find it a slight inconvenience, while others will find it a major challenge to deal with.

A fine traphic captured on a camera.

Your counselor will assist you in recognizing signs that driving is giving you mild anxiety. It may include:

  • Feeling restlessness when thinking or doing anything related to driving
  • Being easily exhausted before, during, and after driving
  • Struggling to concentrate while driving
  • Having nightmares about driving
  • Feeling extreme tension when driving

Understanding The Causes Of Your Driving Anxiety

Like other types of anxiety, driving anxiety has a variety of possible underlying causes. It can be biological, environmental, or social experiences. Counseling can help you understand its causes. The following are some of the more common causes of anxiety when driving:

  • Have experienced car crash or accident
  • Have experienced uncomfortable driving situations
  • Having agoraphobia or fear of open spaces
  • Having a family history of anxiety disorder

You can learn if your driving anxiety is a symptom of a specific mental health disorder through counseling. If you have suffered any driving-related accident, you might also have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Coping With Your Driving Anxiety

Your counselor can help you cope with your driving anxiety by helping you understand its causes. Counseling can help you explore strategies that can minimize your symptoms. Your counselor can guide you in implementing behavioral interventions to overcome your anxiety. Here are some strategies your counselor can help you with:

Making Achievable Goals

Your counselor can help you determine long-term and short-term achievable goals to overcome your driving anxiety. You must take concrete steps if you wish to achieve a long-term improvement of your anxiety. Your counselor can also help you be deliberate in your actions.

Practicing Relaxation Techniques For Driving Anxiety

In counseling, you will also be taught relaxation techniques you can do on your own. The following are some relaxation exercises that can help you deal with your driving anxiety:

  • Breathing exercises
  • Mindful meditation
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Autogenic training
  • Guided imagery

Promoting Group Support

Having driving-related anxiety can be isolating. Another strategy your counselor may teach you is to find a supportive group. Support groups can improve your coping skills and keep you on track of your goals: tackle driving with your family and friends. Sharing your story with them can be a helpful process in reducing your anxiety.


Treating Driving Anxiety

Your counselor can help you in getting your driving-related anxiety treated. They can recommend a mental health professional who can tailor a treatment plan to manage your anxiety: therapy sessions and medication prescriptions are examples of possible treatment recommendations.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

People who are clinically diagnosed with anxiety are often treated with cognitive-behavioral therapy. The goal of this therapy is to explore the connection between your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Through this, your counselor can identify negative thought patterns and behavior on your driving-related anxiety. They can offer you healthier and more positive alternatives to initiate behavioral change. 

Exposure Therapy

Part of reducing your anxiety is to take bold steps. In exposure therapy, you will be required to confront the stressful situation causing your anxiety. Your counselor may suggest that you try out driving a little. This process is called systematic desensitization. Your tolerance for driving can improve as these stimuli are gradually increased. Eventually, you will develop healthier coping mechanisms to overcome the anxiety associated with driving, and you will have a better relationship with driving overall.


Like other anxiety disorders, the use of medications can also be beneficial in decreasing symptoms of anxiety. A counselor can help you find medications you can use while driving. Some of the common medications for driving-related anxiety include:

  • Selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  • Serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  • Other antidepressants

Overcoming driving-related anxiety, like any other anxiety disorder, is a lengthy and challenging process. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of this condition is important. Despite having no definitive list of these symptoms, a counselor can help determine if you have mild anxiety related to driving. Understanding the causes of your driving-related anxiety is also significant in creating a tailored treatment plan for you.

Your counselor can help you generate strategies and techniques to reduce your anxiety symptoms. With the repetition of these steps, you can develop resiliency and a healthier coping mechanism towards your driving-related anxiety. 

Suffering from anxiety related to driving can also be isolating. Besides seeking a counselor, it is also crucial for you to have a strong support group to guide you to recovery. Having as many ways to help you with your driving-related anxiety can only be good for you. Slowly get help for your anxiety, and have more freedom on the road!

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