Before learning about driving anxiety let's understand anxiety in general.
Although anxiety may feel unpleasant, it is normal to experience anxiety in certain situations. Identified as a sense of unease, fear and nervousness, anxiety can be harmful if it is too powerful. However, in some situations, people may find that some anxiety is beneficial.
Many performers have feelings of nervousness or anxiety prior to going on stage, for example. Rather than harming their performance, some performers maintain that this nervousness actually enhances their abilities.
However, feelings of anxiety can become destructive in some circumstances. If anxiety prevents people from acting in a way they would like or from attending work or school, it can result in social isolation and feelings of depression.
There can be many causes of anxiety. While some are psychological, patients may suffer from a physical issue which exacerbates or causes anxiety. Fluctuating hormone levels, for example, can cause people to suffer from anxiety, if they are outside the normal ranges.
If there is a physical cause of anxiety, it's important that it is addressed. Patients may undergo intensive, long-term treatment for an anxiety disorder without success, only to find that the condition is resolved once the underlying cause is treated.
When psychological factors cause anxiety, they may be centered around a specific stressor or event. Many phobias arise in this way and they can lead to increased amounts of panic and anxiety.
Although generalized anxiety disorder is extremely common, some patients may experience feelings of anxiety in relation to specific situations. In the case of driving anxiety, individuals may develop a sense of dread when driving or a fear that something will go wrong.
As many people need to drive in order to get around, such kind of anxiety can have a detrimental effect on the patient's lifestyle. While some driving anxiety may be normal for learners and new drivers, if the condition persists, treatment should be sought.
Some patients may only experience driving anxiety when they're behind the wheel, whereas others may suffer from anxiety merely as a result of thinking about driving. Unfortunately, if people experience driving anxiety, it may increase the risk of an accident occurring.
If a driver is struggling to cope with feelings of anxiety, for example, they may be unable to focus fully on the road or their surroundings. As a result, they may drive too slowly or too quickly, miss vital road signs or fail to give way to other motorists when they should.
This tends to have a cumulative effect on driving anxiety and reinforces any fears or worries that the patient may already have.
Driving anxiety can occur as a result of a number of factors. If an individual has been involved in, or has witnessed, a serious road traffic accident, this may make it difficult for them to return to driving. Even if they weren't at fault, the accident may cause a form of post-traumatic stress disorder it could manifest as driving anxiety.
In other cases, feelings of fear can overwhelm a driver if they don't feel fully in control. If other vehicles are driving at high speeds, for example, a driver may feel unable to operate the car safely and driving anxiety can occur.
In some cases, driving anxiety may prevent people from driving in areas they are unfamiliar with. While they may feel relatively comfortable driving on local roads, taking new routes could trigger an episode of driving anxiety.
Once identified, driving anxiety is highly treatable. In fact, there are specific courses and lessons available to nervous drivers. Many people with driving anxiety find that these extra courses boost their confidence and, therefore, reduce the fear of being on the road.
However, if driving anxiety still persists, traditional anxiety treatments may be helpful. Patients can learn techniques to help regulate levels of anxiety and, therefore, reduce the incidence of panic attacks. Similarly, calming techniques may prevent the unpleasant physical symptoms of anxiety arising and this, in turn, can have a positive effect.
If driving anxiety is intense, it may be treated as a phobia. While medication can be given to reduce the impact of anxiety, cognitive behavior therapy, hypnotherapy or rapid eye movement therapy can all be used to manage or reduce phobias.
Although there are alternative forms of transport, driving is important and essential for many people. If patients present with driving anxiety, it's essential to determine the cause of the condition, as well as the patient's specific fears and stressors. Once this is established, an effective treatment plan can be put in place and driving anxiety should reduce accordingly.