Vehophobia (Fear Of Driving)

Patients with vehophobia has an extreme, irrational fear of driving. In most cases, these intense fear prevents people from driving at all and causes them to rely on alternative forms of transport.

What is Vehophobia?

Vehophobia is a fear of driving and, although the condition normally relates to driving a car, it can extend to any type of people. People with vehophobia may fear driving a truck, van, motorbike, boat or even a pushbike.

In some cases, people may experience vehophobia in specific situations, such as driving on a freeway. Although they may feel relatively comfortable driving on smaller or slower roads, they may take a longer route in order to avoid driving on freeways and highways. Alternatively, some patients with vehophobia may feel confident driving on local roads but may feel unable to drive in an unknown location.

In extreme cases of vehophobia, patients feel unable to drive at all, even though they are qualified to do so. If patients have previously passed their driving test, they may have a license but refuse to drive. Alternatively, if patients have yet to take a test, their phobia may prevent them from learning to drive at all.

In most instances, patients with vehophobia will use other forms of transport to get around and may rely on lifts from family members and friends, as well as public transport.

What are the symptoms of vehophobia?

In general, vehophobia causes avoidant behavior. Patients will simply refuse to drive or will refuse to drive on roads which trigger their fears. If they do attempt to drive or expose themselves to a trigger, they will develop a phobic response.

Often characterized as a panic attack, patients may exhibit the following physical symptoms:

  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Shaking
  • Nausea
  • Palpitations
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Pounding in the ears or head
  • Vomiting
  • Feeling faint or fainting
  • Dizziness

Due to the impact of these physical symptoms, patients who are experiencing a phobic response or panic attack should not drive while these symptoms are affecting them. If a driver is feeling dizzy due to vehophobia, for example, their physical symptoms may make it unsafe for them to continue attempting to drive. Once the feeling has passed, however, the individual may be able to continue driving without posing a risk to themselves or any other road users.

As well as experiencing physical symptoms when exposed to their feared stimulus, patients with vehophobia (fear of driving) may also report emotional symptoms, such as:

  • Feelings of doom
  • Desire to escape the situation
  • Feelings of being a failure
  • Low self-esteem
  • Constant anxiety
  • Embarrassment

As people often underestimate the impact of vehophobia, they may unwittingly make the patient feel more self-conscious about their conditions. Well-meaning attempts to reassure the patient may be interpreted as feelings of pressure and may make the patient more unwilling to tell people about their condition.

Due to the fear of being forced to drive, patients with vehophobia may lie to others and say that they don’t know how to drive or that they don’t have a license.

What causes Vehophobia?

There is not one, single cause of vehophobia but many patients with this condition have previously experienced a road traffic accident. If patients have been involved in a serious car wreck or have witnessed a major accident, it can make them fearful of getting behind the wheel.

Although this is natural to a certain extent, patients with vehophobia will develop an overwhelming fear which prevents them from driving as they did before the incident took place. Also referred to as ‘driving PTSD’, the patient may have been so affected by the previous event that they are unable to rationalize the risk of another, similar event occurring.

As driving can be dangerous, it is natural and normal to have some fear when on the road. This can help to keep us safe and prevent us from taking dangerous risks. However, when the fear becomes irrational and exceeds the risk of injury, it may be termed a phobia. Even if someone has not witnessed an accident take place, the mere thought of an incident occurring on the road could be enough to trigger vehophobia.

Alternatively, vehophobia can be associated with agoraphobia. If the patient fears being outside, away from home or in any unknown location, they may develop a fear of driving. As their vehicle is designed to take them to places other than their home, they may project their fears of being outside and away from home on to the act of driving, rather than their destination.

Is there treatment available for Vehophobia?

As one of the most common types of phobias, many people seek treatment for vehophobia. Although vehophobia is a specific phobia, therapists may employ techniques used to treat PTSD if the patient developed the phobia after witnessing or being involved in a road traffic accident.

Often, treatments are categorized in the following way:

  • Exposure therapy
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Hypnotherapy
  • Medication

Similarly, there are some driving instructors who specialize in working with people with vehophobia. Even if the individual already has a driving license, they may want to work with an instructor in order to reduce their fears and rebuild their confidence.

In addition to this, there are general therapies which can be used to treat vehophobia. Counseling and hypnotherapy are often used to treated phobias, such as vehophobia, and are often used with great success. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has also been deemed effective in the treatment of vehophobia and can be used to help patients to rationalize any existing fears they have.

If patients are able to overcome vehophobia without using medication, they are often advised to do so. In some cases, however, anti-anxiety medication may be used to help reduce the patient’s phobic response. If patients are prescribed medication for the treatment of vehophobia, it’s essential that they follow their physician’s instructions. For example, patients may be advised not to drive until they are used to the effects of the medication or not to drive immediately after taking the medicine.

Providing patients have access to a variety of treatments, it’s likely that their vehophobia can be treated. Despite being a common phobia, vehophobia can often be successfully treated and patients are generally able to drive without fear and without eliciting anxiety and panic.

Preventing vehophobia (Fear Of Driving)

As many driving phobias occur because of a previous traumatic experience, it may be possible for individuals to reduce their risk of developing vehophobia or prevent the condition from affecting them at all. When people are involved in a road traffic accident or witness a collision, providing them with psychological support may help to reduce the trauma. By enabling the individual to deal with the negative psychological consequences soon after the incident, they may be less likely to develop vehophobia or PTSD at a later date.

Whilst this could certainly reduce the rate of vehophobia, it may not be possible to prevent vehophobia in all cases. If individuals are unsure why they are affected by vehophobia or what prompted their condition, it can be difficult to identify preventative steps which could have been taken. Like most phobias, vehophobia can be more easily treated with early intervention. If people with a fear of driving seek professional help before they develop a phobia, the condition could be avoided and prevented.