Tips for Managing or Overcoming Your Driving Phobia

panicDriving phobias can paralyze you – or you can fight back and overcome them. We already outlined the development and causes of driving phobias in our Anatomy of Driving Fear post, and now we’re serving up several solutions. Check out a host of tips that can work for short-term, long-term and immediate relief. 

Reducing Stress and Anxiety Levels 

Anxiety that creeps in your daily life from any source can work as fodder to fuel your driving fears. General stress-beating tips can help your specific driving fears, with freelance journalist Gemma Briggs offering several examples of general techniques she uses to manage her own fear of driving. 

“Stress appears to be one of the major factors in fear of driving and I’ve benefited from the advice to use music as a mood booster and watch my diet, exchanging a morning espresso for a bowl of porridge to keep my blood-sugar levels even,” she shares in a Telegraph article.

In addition to healthy eating, soothing music and skipping caffeine, additional general stress-reducing tips include:

  • Getting adequate sleep
  • Trying mindfulness and mediation
  • Exercising! Aerobic exercise, with something as simple as walking, produces stress-relieving endorphins
  • Unwinding with yoga and muscle relaxation techniques
  • Laughing out loud. A good guffaw pumps your body full of oxygen, beefs up your blood flow and kicks stress hormones to the curb, WebMD reports
  • Singing a song. Cars are a great place to belt out a tune, and WebMD says singing can improve your posture, increase your oxygen levels and give your heart and immune system a boost

You also have a slew of other tips that relate directly to your driving fears:

  • Remind yourself of your positive track record, recalling other driving experiences where you got to your destination safely and with none of the imaginary boogey-men-like situations your mind wants you to believe are just down the road.
  • Arm yourself with facts about phobias, your vehicle’s safety record and anything else that can help your brain on the logical level.
  • Try a mantra. In her book How to Overcome Fear of Driving, recovered driving phobic Joanne Mallon suggests chanting something like: “I love driving, I love driving” every time you get behind the wheel.
  • Give your car a new association. Mallon also advises doing things to make your vehicle a “happy place,” such as listening to comedy CDs while you’re hanging out and parked in your car.
  • Take a driving course. Choose one geared at teaching safe driving techniques, defensive driving tactics and other strategies that can help build your driving confidence.

Dealing with a Panic Attack

If your driving fears happen to come with panic attacks, you may need a quick and instant  solution to get through the attack without losing your mind (or control of the car). Pulling off the road is typically a good move, as are three incredibly useful tips noted by writer James Gummer at

Acceptance. Instead of attempting to fight off the attack, Gummer says to try embracing it. You may be surprised when you let your body go through each and every step of the attack, from the racing heart to the sweaty palms with the anxiety in between.

“Yes, it can get pretty nasty,” Gummer warns. “But usually at the point when I feel like my whole being is going to explode from so much anxiety, something almost unimaginable happens: a release.”

Breathing. Taking a deep breath is standard panic attack advice, but there’s a catch: make sure you exhale all your breath first. Piling more deep breaths into already overloaded lungs can backfire. Getting a deep-breathing rhythm going can help, as long as you’re exhaling as deeply as you’re exhaling. Gummer suggests taking a walk to achieve this, but that may not be possible if you’re in your vehicle.

Naming. Putting a “label” on what you’re thinking and feeling can also help, a technique Gummer picked up from Tara Brach’s podcasts (available free on iTunes). Here you note the lineup of physical sensations and mental bombardments, such as:

  • I feel my chest tighten
  • I feel my palms sweating
  • I feel like such a jerk, etc.… 

Medication may be helpful for managing stress, anxiety disorders, panic attacks and their symptoms. Mayo Clinic notes they can include:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, known as SSRIs, such as Zoloft and Prozac
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, or SNRIs, such as Effexor XR
  • Benzodiazepines such as Xanax, Klonopin and Ativan 

Going for a Longer-Term Solution

While engaging in tips that address the immediate issues of anxiety and panic attacks, they don’t typically delve deep enough to offer a long-term solution to your ongoing driving fears. It’s kind of like putting a fresh coat of paint on a crumbling wall. The wall is still going to crumble underneath, although the paint may look groovy for a week or two.

Going for a longer-term solution generally involves a fairly hefty commitment, along with the drive, determination and willingness to face your fears head-on.


Yes, good ole therapy has done wonders for many folks who face various phobias and other issues every day. A method that has been especially helpful for driving fears is exposure therapy. Exposure therapy works by placing you in a safe, controlled environment in which your therapist works with your to gradually face your fears that typically hit in a given situation.

In the case of driving phobias, that environment may eventually be behind the wheel of a car, but you won’t be alone and you are not facing any immediate danger other than those that your head tells you exist. Get a glimpse of how this type of therapy works in our post Video: Watch How Driving Phobia Is Treated.

Home Programs

We’d be remiss not to mention our Driving Fear Program, but ours is not the only game in town. Gads of self-help books, videos and other resources are available. Your therapist may also create a problem or recommend one that can work particularly well for your specific issues. Good luck, stay strong and please share any additional tips that have worked for you!


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