Building Driving Confidence

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Driving Phobia Anxiety

If you have had enough of driving anxiety or panic attacks and feeling your personal power has been exhausted, depleting your energy to go on with every drive, even just the thought of driving makes you feel like this. Then you have reached the temperamental point of a solution.

Which maybe at this point you may have gone to see a doctor or medical practitioner like a psychologist and wondering, whats happening in my life.

I can say confidently, if there is nothing wrong with your body or mind, and if your nervous system works correctly and your body does not have nerve damage or problems and you haven’t had any trauma then most likely there is nothing wrong with your body or mind. Your brain is not wired wrong and if there is nothing wrong with your heart, your then just a normal  person having a perfectly typically challenging life, having to deal with this.

Most people have developed some sort of driving fear or anxiety or dislike something about driving which makes you feel at times overwhelmed or anxious. Some feel much worse than others, understanding fear of driving is extremely underrated by its extensiveness and difficulties one must carry through normal everyday living. Many don’t understand the difficulties and voidness one carries, feeling incomplete as a person among many people who can’t see how confidence is lost in oneself because of driving.

Test this yourself by asking friends or family of any situation they dislike when driving, this will amaze you in reply. Some may say,” I feel 100% on every drive”.

How many people do you know dislike driving into the city or parking or driving in busy built up areas or driving in unpredictable environments.  For me the dislike is speed cameras, which is my paranoia, I also had anxiety in riding motorbikes, which now I treated the anxiety and diminished it to nothing, now I enjoy riding my motorbike. I had anxiety going down an escalator, I would freeze and avoid stepping onto it, instead of facing the fear I would turn around and use a lift. Which now I treated. I still have fear of heights which isn’t an obstacle that controls my environment or lifestyle, so maybe on the to-do list for later.

Is Driving phobia or anxiety a mental disorder or chemical imbalance in my brain, or a nervous system disorder? Fear of driving and treatment is extensively misdiagnosed with treatments that don’t reflect best results and at most worse results than before treatment, having one glove fits all does sometimes not fit every person. Your individual personality learns different from one person to another, because we have five different personality traits. This is based on the persons strengths and weaknesses, as driving is sensory skills based, (reflex reaction), this also depends on individual’s motivation and interest level and understanding the reason for treatment.

The learning to drive curriculum over the world has not changed much in the last 100 years of driver training, the rules may have changed and gone through reform but the teaching has never been reformed into effective driver skill learning. Much of which the focus is passing the driving test, rather the focus must be on driver skills. This is what causes anxiety to occur in many people while driving without proper driver awareness and skills based learning.

Don’t make the mistake that your driving is always going to be difficult and as long as you don’t have permanent anxiety or a nervous condition, then what you need to know is you have conditioned your body to react this way to stress.

When you get stressed your body releases adrenaline, adrenaline stimulates the fight or flight response. Panic attack symptoms are a conditioning response which you have subconsciously trained yourself to have internalised stress, often the person starts to fear the panic attack symptoms themselves which causes more stress to fuel more panic attacks, you start fearing this response your body is starting to feel each time you drive or think of driving, you have to break the cycle of fear and worrying causing adrenaline which causes fear and worry, you just need to relearn skills to the break the cycle. The first step is accepting you have a problem and accepting you have missing driving skills. But its not that easy, this why we can take you through the process.

The only way is to reprogram your brain in new driving skills, skills that make sense to decisions you make on the road. This is something which is very much possible and achievable, and must have the desire to want this. Your fear and stress comes from your mind, fear of past driving memories, worrying about current state or future mindset of driving situations and thinking about the worst that could happen even if this may likely never happen, but your mind has been wired this way for years or months. But what you must do is accept your past and driving fears and relearn new driving skills, the acceptance is the first step the next step is not suppressing and fighting these emotions which is necessary at this stage.  I would also ask you to stop driving and start getting professional help. This is because the more you drive the more you continue to make it worse and terrifying, there is no need to keep scaring yourself into driving.

We would need to sit with you and assess your driving skills and work on a lesson plan that best suits your individual needs and requirements. If you have come this far do not turn back, this is your first step in making this process easier for you. Not all conditions are mental or nervous system disorders, As a driving instructor we see the major cause is lack of driver skills. You also must disclose any medical conditions or any medication or drugs you may take.

Having a (Phobia) or panic attacks and Fear of driving on freeways, tunnels, bridges, or fear of unfamiliar roads is a common problem and many drivers  feel they need to suppress these emotions because of embarrassment or looked at as a weakness. Having a phobia or anxiety of driving is a loss of freedom which causes you to feel misplaced at times in certain situations among family, work and friends and as mentioned before can be embarrassing and a burden of weight, but  because treatment is possible, you may give yourself that freedom back and feeling like a whole person again.

Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Phobia and Fear are various forms of stress levels, these occur when the human body feels overwhelmed and your senses become over loaded and uncontrollable because the threat of the situation causes fight or flight.

When this happens stress hormones are released into the body. We all need healthy levels of stress for being competitive this makes us goal driven and successful in our life, which gives ambition to achieve,

Without stress we won’t be competitive, This relates to many things in life, a few examples, like love, anger, happy, sad, which is the attachment of emotions. If you didn’t have emotions how could express if your sad or happy or in love or angry.  We need a healthy balance of each to live healthy lives and feel rewarded. Emotions play a major role in the fear of driving condition, I don’t think this has been medically connected with stress and driving. Most of my students are very emotional when the anxiety becomes a burden on their driving. Drivers with this condition always express being sad and dislike the feeling of not being in control.

What is Anxiety and the difference between panic attacks and phobia, how does fear connect with all this and why?

We tend without knowing call the stress we have either Anxiety or phobia or panic attacks, so what’s the difference.

* Anxiety attack is when you are unsure of what to expect, feeling breathless or heavy breathing, fear of the unknown, heart races, sweating. you feel this for short periods and disappears away and its over, like maybe going on a scary roller coaster ride or going for a job interview or sitting a test or waiting for results, or maybe you are driving along a narrow road which is windy, driving down and up hills with the cliff face edge visually in sight knowing there is no room for error. But after any of those experiences your back to normal and it was just a thrill of experience and others fear and hate the feeling of unknown results.

* Panic Attacks very unpredictable because the level of the attack is related to stress but happens without provoking, fear is extreme that you think you will die or hurt someone, knowing you will lose all control. you will feel light headed, dizziness, shortness of breath, sweaty body parts, very short central vision, stiffness of body like very hard hand grip and you can’t take control of one self to manage the situation. you feel out of control to prevent it occurring.

These panic attacks you experience become part of your lifestyle and you learn to avoid the situations they occur in, for example you have panic attacks on bridges so you avoid bridges. otherwise you have a normal life and you just avoid these situations.

*Phobia is an extreme fear in a situation or object, changing ones life to avoid the situation that triggers the fear stress. Example like fear of heights so you avoid heights, fear of driving in tunnels so you avoid tunnels. You may have the fear so extreme that you may completely avoid getting into the car to avoid the reminder of what it feels like to be in a tunnel. Although it may not be that extreme but you prefer to avoid it anyway.

Phobia relates to a panic attack and is the same you just avoid the cause.

What are Stress Hormones?

A release of cortisol and adrenaline. The adrenaline raises your heart rate which also increases your blood pressure and sugar levels through the blood stream. This all happens in both adrenal glands.

What impact does a panic attack have on the human body and what does it effect?

I found in most cases my students with driving phobia will not drive in unfamiliar areas, they tend to stay in comfort zones they know really well. and if they need to avoid bridges tunnels or freeways finding alternative avoiding these situations, which unfortunately adds a much longer journey. Some find if the freeway has curvy corners, they will feel out of control or the car might roll over, also if the freeway/tunnel has no emergency lanes they will avoid because if they have a panic attack there is no where to pull over, making them feel unsafe as they need the space to pull over, or they might feel claustrophobic.

Students with Driving Anxiety also fear being beeped by motorists  behind or around them, feeling they are holding up traffic or if they drive at the speed limit they start speeding, most students focus on the rear vision mirror constantly having unbalanced focus on traffic in front and recognising traffic hazards that require forward vision, For example at an intersection and looking for a safe gap, most focus on the car behind and start to make irrational decisions about a safe gap choice and continue worrying about the car behind which makes them rush and pull out into the intersection making a rushed decision.

Panic attacks can be your worst enemy when driving and when fear triggers the vital parts of your body needed for safe driving you achieve uncontrollable body senses.  We require 2 body senses for driving and when these  senses are attacked by the nervous system causing the body into fetal position, your body tries to fight the fear causing more fear of losing control of the car, and all the safe decisions interrupted by your confused senses. Your body going into (fight or flight).  Of our senses the most important are vision and touch, i.e “Eyes, Hands and Legs”, so when driving fear triggers sweaty hands, grip on the steering wheel tightens up, shoulders become stiff, your body posture crouches forward, head comes down then this restricts oxygen to your brain, distorting your vision, terrifying you as vision is tunnel, feet become unstable with erratic accelerating  and braking, Vehicle feels more unstable with tight hand grip,  when this happens you feel the need to pull over as fear becomes overwhelming and uncontrollable.

Q. Is Driving Phobia or anxiety a problem and is there treatment?

A. Yes treatment is possible, you must be determined for best results.

Q. Can Driving Phobia or anxiety happen to anyone?

A. Driving phobia or anxiety can affect anyone at any point in their driving career, and on average, one in 10 people will experience some form of driving phobia/anxiety in their lifetime. Driving phobia can be caused by fear from any type of close-call driving scare, car accident, a traumatic event, the feel of being lost when driving,  or even the tendency to focus on anxiety-inducing scary thoughts while driving.

Symptoms can vary from experiencing dizziness, difficulty breathing, intense sweating, dry throat, restricted or  blurry vision, faintness, trembling, sense of reality loss, and the feeling of  losing control while driving. Sufferers often avoid long trips or driving in unfamiliar areas, and may eventually begin to avoid driving altogether.

We have years of experience and numerous success stories teaching phobic drivers. We can help you overcome your driving phobia now. We have often found that phobic drivers have reinforced their fears over the years because of unaddressed anxiety- tendencies: Bad habits while driving that put the driver at risk and on edge, insecurities arising from poor habits that have never been corrected, or focusing on post traumatic driving events.

It is crucial to address driving phobia or panic attacks as early as possible, training ones negative thoughts and tendencies can be more difficult to reverse the more they are reinforced. We will provide you with the skills and knowledge you need to be a safe, confident driver, giving you the freedom to enjoy driving, and to get behind the wheel without fear.

Driving Phobia or anxiety is very Dangerous to you and others on the road, Do not let yourself continue driving with having these driving conditions as they will worsen the longer you hold back from facing your fear of driving. 

Types of driving phobia are:

  • Driving on Bridges
  • Driving in Tunnels
  • Driving near trucks
  • Driving on freeways
  • Parking
  • Driving at night
  • Driving in the rain
  • Driving in Sydney CBD
  • Reversing your car
  • Sense of direction (feeling lost)
  • Spatial awareness

Q. Does Safe2Go have experience in helping treat people with fear of Driving?

A. Yes, treating driving phobia/anxiety is one of our core strengths, and we have developed a lesson structure focusing on what we call “The Missing Link,” which allows you to identify the cause of your fears. We encourage anyone with a driving phobia/anxiety to take a two-hour lesson with us, and start to feel the freedom you get from driving without fear.

Q. Is driving phobia/anxiety treatable and where can I get help?

A. Your fears can be overcome in different ways. Seeking the assistance of a psychologist can be very beneficial and can be a great complement to driving lessons. At Safe2Go, we can help take the right path for overcoming your anxiety, but this depends on many mental factors and nervous system conditions. You will be in a controlled environment, in a car with dual controls and with a professional, highly skilled instructor who will keep you safe at all times. We will help you identify what has triggered your fear of driving and working together, helping you feel confident and in control.

We will assess your driver skills and discuss the best treatment, depending on your condition we may have to connect you with a medical practitioner who can help with the medical side of your condition if you haven’t seen one yet. As each student is different and unique, we would need to assess and build a lesson structure that suits your needs. This is complex and making achievement with success needs to be dealt with correctly.

Its not safe to drive afraid. If you suffer from fear of driving, get help. Face the fear of driving, because you have the right to be Free! Get Treatment! YOU must notify RMS of your condition if medically you are unsafe to drive. 

*You must stop driving at this point until a medical assessment has been conducted. You must take responsibility of your condition.

*On the licence application form it asks these following questions;

  • Have you ever had attacks or giddiness, blackouts, fainting or other sudden periods of unconsciousness?
  • Do you have any medical, physical or mental disabilities which may affect your driving?

We can assess through a few sessions with skill based learning, if the skills you learn have not made any difference in your capacity to drive with confidence we would strongly recommend seeing a psychologist.

This is a responsibility of the driver to take action if you want to continue driving.

The skills we teach and the aid of the instructor in a controlled environment will help in the desensitisation approach, we see many drivers lose confidence because driving was always uncomfortable, because behavioural learning starts from the day you start learning to drive, what you need is a new acquisition of new skills. Driving is just like swimming, Relaxation is the key, learning to relax behind the wheel with new skills will grow your confidence. Cognitive reappraisal is very much the key with new skills approach. We understand how sensitive this is for you, which is a challenge for you and your instructor, but also we won’t be throwing you into the deep end, instilling confidence by a step by step exposure approach.

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 *Disclaimer: “Safe2go Driving Lessons” is a professional driving school which teaches the correct skills for operating a motor vehicle, which is required for increasing driving confidence, aiding in the reduction of driving phobia. “Safe2go Driving Lessons” is not a psychology clinic. For those with serious driving phobia, we highly recommend seeing a psychologist in addition to professional driving lessons. This not a guarantee of having you 100% of  earsing driving phobia or anxiety, we will do our best to help and we have helped many, but everyone is an individual with different personalities. Every assessment is individual based and takes time. Be wanting the change because you want to change works best with our skill development lessons. You must stop driving if you have any mental or nervous system disorder, seek medical advice, If we see that your condition poses a risk as a driver to the general public we must notify the authorities (RMS). This is for the safety of the general public and yourself. If you are unsure of your condition, that is either nervous system or mental then this must be looked at through the advice of a medical practitioner who can assist in further steps to help.
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