Why Am I Experiencing Anxiety Symptoms
Some people are more prone to experiencing anxiety than others and it is not caused by just one thing but by a combination of factors including: genetics, family environment and traumatic life experiences. Sufferers may have unhelpful thinking patterns such as perfectionist standards. Nevertheless, you can learn to manage your anxiety more effectively.
Types Of Stress: Acute Stress
Most people would assume that having panic attacks while driving is due to having experienced a traumatic auto accident. And it is true that such experiences can be the basis for both anxiety and panic disorder. Below is an example of how acute stress contributes to causing panic attacks.
Acute Stress Case Example:
Injury Auto Accident
George was driving along a three-lane boulevard on a sunny afternoon. All was right in his world until he routinely went through the intersection. That’s when a fellow motorist ran a red light and crashed directly into the side of George’s car. Both cars were severely damaged. George suffered several injuries. An ambulance ride to the hospital put him on the path to his body recovering. Six months later he was physically OK.
The problem is that he developed a panic disorder. He now experiences a panic attack every time he passes the accident scene. When he goes through other stop lights he feels anxiety too. Sometimes, his anxiety also became panic.
This is one cause of people having panic attacks while driving. But it is not the most common. What I mainly see in my practice is the second cause. That is cumulative stress build-up.
Two Cumulative Stress Case Examples:
1. Fight-or-Flight on the Side of a Freeway
2. Panic Attack on a Mountain Road
Tips For Coping With Panic Attacks While Driving
Preventing all panic attacks while driving could be impossible. Anyone hoping to reduce the risks from attacks, or help someone else manage their attacks, should consider exploring healthy ways to cope, including identifying the panic, pulling over safely, and reminding yourself that panic equals discomfort, not danger.
Six tips to cope with panic attacks while driving are:4
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Drug And Alcohol Misuse
Some studies have shown that conditions that cause intense anxiety, such as panic disorder, can also increase your risk of developing an alcohol or drug problem.
The side effects or withdrawal symptoms of both prescribed medication and illegal drugs can increase the symptoms of anxiety.
Smoking and caffeine can also make your anxiety symptoms worse, so you should try to give up smoking and limit the amount of caffeine in your diet.
Coping With A Driving
Panic attacks are always troubling. Experiencing one while driving can not only be uncomfortable, but it can be dangerous as well.
Dealing with a panic attack while driving will take intentional, quick action. At the first sign of a panic attack, someone should:
- Acknowledge the physical and mental sensations related to a panic attack
- Let others in the car know what to do and how to respond
- Pull over immediately but safely
- Put on hazard lights to alert other drivers
- Stay in the car to avoid traffic
- Practice and employ healthy coping skills until panic attack passes
The first time a person endures a panic attack while driving, the situation will create tremendous fear and uncertainty. As they gain experience, though, they will discover a helpful process for effectively reducing symptoms and keeping themselves safe.
Facing driving anxiety is not something you have to do alone. BetterHelp has over 20,000 licensed therapists who provide convenient and affordable online therapy. BetterHelp starts at $60 per week. Complete a brief questionnaire and get matched with the right therapist for you.
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Agoraphobia And Other Phobias
Agoraphobia is a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult, or help wouldn’t be available if things go wrong.
If you have agoraphobia, leaving home, going out in public and travelling alone can cause intense anxiety. Many people with agoraphobia avoid everyday activities because of their phobia.
Agoraphobia is one of the conditions that can develop alongside panic disorder. People with panic disorder can develop agoraphobia because of their fear of having a panic attack in a public place.
You may worry that a panic attack in a public place will be embarrassing, or that you’ll have difficulty getting help if you need it. You may also worry about public places that you would have difficulty leaving, such as a train, if you were to have a panic attack.
If you have agoraphobia, you may find it difficult to leave the house, particularly if you’re not with a trusted family member or a friend.
If you have panic disorder, you may also develop other fears and phobias, which can often seem irrational. For example, you may start to worry about a particular object or action that triggers your attacks and become fearful of those things.
How Is Amaxophobia Diagnosed
If amaxophobia disrupts your life, your healthcare provider may recommend seeing a mental health professional like a psychologist. The American Psychiatric Associations Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders doesnt recognize amaxophobia as a phobic disorder. But a psychologist may make a diagnosis after evaluating your symptoms.
You may have a specific phobic disorder if the fear:
- Occurs when you are in or near a vehicle.
- Causes you to miss out on work, social events and life.
- Affects your ability to enjoy life.
- Brings on symptoms of fear or anxiety that dont match the actual danger.
- Lasts at least six months.
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How To Overcome Panic Attacks Caused By Driving
If you experience panic attacks related to driving, its important to do something to stop them from worsening and having such a big impact on your life.
There are things that you can do – with the right support – to get them under control. Many people find it useful to work through a therapy programme to learn ways to manage their anxiety and panic attacks.
Advice and information often given to people during a therapy programme includes the following:
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What Are The Causes Of Amaxophobia
Potential amaxophobia causes include:
- Past traumatic experience: People who have been injured in car accidents or stuck on an unmoving subway train or another vehicle may develop amaxophobia. Youre also at risk if a loved one is seriously injured or dies in a vehicle accident or you witness an accident. In these instances, there may be a link between amaxophobia and post-traumatic stress disorder .
- Family history: Having a parent or close relative with a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder increases your risk. A gene mutation may make you more anxious than others.
- Modeling: Observing someone with amaxophobia or hearing a person talk about their fear of driving can cause you to have the same phobia.
How To Control Panic Attacks While Driving
Driving panic attacks are obviously very difficult to live with. You drive everywhere, and if you’re also dealing with severe panic attacks, then you’re going to be extremely scared while on the road.
The key to preventing these car attacks is to learn to prevent all panic attacks. It’s hard to cure panic attacks in only one location since panic attacks can occur anywhere, and any time you have a panic attack you put yourself at risk for associating the attack with the location and having these attacks more often. You can, however, try the following:
None of these are going to act as a rapid cure for anxiety, nor are they going to provide you with a way to prevent all of your anxiety and panic attacks. But they may reduce either the frequency or severity of your anxiety attacks while driving so that hopefully you’ll find it easier to be on the road.
Ultimately, the solution is going to be learning how to manage your anxiety. Only then will you give yourself the best opportunity to prevent any and all panic attacks while in the car.
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Ways To Calm A Panic Attack While Driving
There are many ways to reduce anxiety while driving. You can do some things in the moment when the panic attack arises, but a lot of the care comes in the times you are not driving. Here are a few things you can do.
Safety is Key
First, the number one priority is your safety and the safety of those around you. If you are experiencing a panic attack while behind the wheel, it can be hard to remember this. If you do decide to slow your car or pull off the road, make sure you do so safely. Dramatic movements and swerving can make the panic worse, so keep it in mind to drive safely. Theres nothing wrong with parking your car while you allow the panic attack to pass!
Daily Anxiety Relief Methods
One of the best things you can do to help relieve anxiety and panic attacks is change your lifestyle. You can remove things that worsen anxiety, such as stimulants, stressful situations, and difficult people. You can also add in things that support ease like exercise, healthy eating, and periods of relaxation. Seeking help from a therapist or support group has also proven beneficial for many. Individual therapy sessions have been found to be helpful, as have therapy groups and social support.
Change the Focus
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Roll Down The Windows
Some of the side effects of a panic attack are sweating, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Rolling down the windows to get some fresh air can help relieve that discomfort. However, the tactile sensation of feeling the breeze on your face is more than just refreshing. It can also be a helpful tool to keep you in the present moment behind the wheel. If the climate outside is uncomfortable, then try blasting the air conditioning instead.
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Panic Attacks And Their Causes
First, it can be helpful to understand what a panic attack is and what causes them. Panic attacks are periods of intense fear and debilitating anxiety. They can be so severe that many people believe they are having a heart attack when one is present.
About one-third of US adults have a panic attack in their lifetime. Out of these, only a small percentage have chronic panic attacks, known as a panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterized by repeated panic attacks and bouts of fear and anxiety.
The causes of panic attacks vary greatly. There is a large genetic factor, with panic disorders and panic attacks running in families. Other life experiences such as large transitions , withdrawal from medication, and trauma may also increase risk of anxiety and panic attacks. The use of stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamine, caffeine, and nicotine can also significantly increase the risk of panic attacks and panic disorder.
Finally, a panic attack may arise when you are perfectly safe. The overwhelming anxiety and fear may not be accurate to what you are facing. However, a small moment of anxiety or fear may kick off a panic attack. This is often the case while driving, as driving can be anxiety-producing for many people.
What Else You Can Do To Deal With Driving Anxiety
Whether you are getting professional help with your driving anxiety or not, it is important to know some relaxation techniques and other handy tips to ensure you can continue your daily routine as much as possible.
Figure out the cause of your fear
Often, this is something that you will do as part of your treatment with a professional. However, it may be quite helpful if you have not done this already.
Some causes of driving anxiety include a crash that you were involved in or being stuck in the wrong lane at a busy roundabout. Once you have worked out the cause of your driving anxiety, you can brainstorm ways to get over it.
For example, lets say your anxiety is caused by navigating roundabouts. One step you can take toward getting over this problem is to try driving around a roundabout that you are very familiar with at a time when it is not busy.
Or, if you are not quite ready for that yet, you might find that watching videos online about how to drive around roundabouts is a good place to start. Research has shown that working out the cause of your fears³ and problem-solving them helps reduce anxiety.
Plan your route
If you are driving to a new place and that causes anxiety, plan your trip in advance. Do some research on the place you are going. Find out what kind of area it is. Is it a busy city, or is it more rural? Are you going to be there during the rush hour?
Allow extra time
Take a support person
Stay local when you can
Take the time to congratulate yourself
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How Are Panic Attacks Diagnosed
To diagnose a panic attack, a mental health professional such as a therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist will ask you to describe what you experienced, when it happened, what you were doing, and where you were.
Mental health professionals compare the symptoms you describe to those listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition to help identify panic attacks.
A panic attack itself isnt a mental health condition, but it can happen as part of another condition, such as anxiety, social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder , depression, and panic disorder, to name a few.
Its also considered to be a specifier for some mental health conditions, including depression, PTSD, and substance misuse disorder.
If you have regular panic attacks, worry about having more, and change your daily life or behavior in order to avoid having them, you could have panic disorder. This condition is classified as an anxiety disorders in the DSM-5.
Panic disorder is very treatable, but youll need to see a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and to determine the best treatment for you.
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How Do You Treat Panic Attacks While Driving
Iâve gotten a couple of panic attacks in recent months, and Iâm worried itâll happen to me while Iâm driving. What should you do if you have a panic attack while driving?
pull over as soon as possibletake deep breaths and waitmeditationmedicationlimit drivingput your car in parksaves $887 a year
What Is The Treatment For Panic Attacks
If you believe you could have Panic Disorder it will be helpful and important to seek consultation with a mental health professional to first verify the diagnosis and then receive appropriate treatment.
Treatment often consists of a combination of medication and psychotherapy.
Medication helps take the edge off the physical symptoms of anxiety and psychotherapy helps to challenge irrational thinking and beliefs that lead to the panic attacks.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a well-researched and highly effective form of talk therapy that focuses on learning more helpful ways of thinking and behaving.
You learn different ways of responding to the symptoms of a panic attack. CBT helps challenge and change unhelpful beliefs that cause anxiety by restructuring your automatic thinking.
CBT sessions also provide education on the symptoms of panic disorder.
Cognitive restructuring is used to identify and dispute unhelpful, automatic, and irrational thinking so that you can create highly effective thoughts with the power to alter your emotions and behavior.
An example of an irrational thought is What if I lose control of my car. Ill have a panic attack and crash.
We develop beliefs about ourselves, other people, and the world. These beliefs influence how we think. If you believe that the world is basically a dangerous place, then your thoughts will follow.
Commonly prescribed benzodiazepines are:
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Determining Your Driving Anxiety
There are a few symptoms that might indicate that you suffer from driving anxiety. Apart from the obvious panic attacks, which are a clear sign you have a problem, there are certain behavior changes that you might notice. First, avoiding certain routes or being scared of driving alone is usually a red flag that something is wrong. Along with that, if you notice that you are finding excuses not to drive, even if it results in you not seeing your family or missing out on opportunities, it is an indicator that your driving anxiety might be a problem.
Determining this by your panic attacks is quite easy as these are manifested through a variety of physical symptoms as well as overall anxiety and discomfort. A feeling of lost control is the one that often accompanies both driving anxiety as well as panic attacks. Our recommendation is to check out The Driving Fear Program it is one of the best ways to start the treatment of the existing problem, and you will learn quite a few useful tips from it.
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