How Relaxation While Driving Can Induce Other Fears

by on January 4, 2013

When your driving anxiety and driving fears kick in, you have probably been told to relax. The act of relaxation, however, has been found to induce its own slate of fears in people, according to a survey taken at the University of Cincinnati.

Yes, you read that right. The very act of relaxation that’s meant to quell driving anxiety can actually induce a whole new set of fears. Researchers surveyed 300 college students with a 21-item questionnaire dubbed the “Relaxation Sensitivity Index,” or RSI.

The RSI examined relaxation anxiety and fears associated with it in three main categories: physical, cognitive and social issues, with examples as follows:

Physical Issues – “It scares me when my breathing becomes deeper; I hate getting massages because of the feeling it creates when my muscles relax…”

Cognitive Issues – “I don’t like to relax because I don’t like it when my thoughts slow down; I don’t like to relax because it makes me feel out of control…”

Social Issues – “I worry that when I let my body relax, I’ll look unattractive; I worry that if I relax, other people will think I’m lazy…”

We are sincerely not making this up, and neither were the participants, most of whom were white, 21-year-old females. About 15 percent of the participants admitted they suffer from some form of relaxation anxiety, according to an article at

“Relaxation-induced anxiety, or the paradoxical increase in anxiety as a result of relaxation, is a relatively common occurrence,” says Christina Luberto, a doctoral student in the University of Cincinnati’s Department of Psychology who created the RSI. “We wanted to develop a test to examine why certain individuals fear relaxation events or sensations associated with taking a time-out just to relax.

“This suggests that for some people, any deviation from normal functioning, whether it is arousal or relaxation, is stressful,” says Luberto.

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