What is driving anxiety? Causes, symptoms, and treatment

For some people, driving anxiety may result from being in a road accident or witnessing one. However, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), most driving phobias are not related to an experience with an accident.

Below are some common fears and causes of anxiety about driving.

Past negative experiences

A person may remember past negative experiences they have had in a vehicle and worry that a similar scenario will play out again. Examples include:

  • driving through bad weather, such as a storm, snow, or fog
  • being a victim of road rage
  • having a panic attack while driving
  • getting lost

Existing anxiety disorders

People who have an anxiety disorder may experience symptoms while driving. For example, GAD may cause someone to have difficulty concentrating or making decisions while driving. This may lead to a person losing confidence in their driving ability.

Additionally, someone who is experiencing significant stress or life changes may be susceptible to driving anxiety.

Driving alone in an unfamiliar place

Some people may fear getting lost while driving, breaking down, or running out of gas. They may worry that their phone will have no signal, and they will not be able to get help if they need it.

Additionally, people may feel unsafe driving alone at night or worry that they cannot see potential hazards clearly when it is dark outside.

Fear of dying in an accident

Fear may cause a person to consider worst-case scenarios and not trust their own or other drivers’ abilities.

Even though someone may not have directly experienced a car accident, their imagination may make them feel anxious about the possibility of dying in an accident.

Being trapped and having a panic attack

People with existing anxiety about being trapped, such as claustrophobia, may become anxious while stationary in traffic. Additionally, people who have had a previous panic attack may fear that they will have one again while driving.

Losing control of the vehicle

Physical symptoms of anxiety, such as a racing heartbeat and sweating, may lead someone to believe they will lose control of their car and cause an accident. A person may feel highly stressed and uncomfortable, clutching at the wheel and worrying about what other drivers might be thinking.