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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Overcoming the Fear of Driving After a Car Crash – What to Do 

Besides causing excruciating pain, car accidents can be incredibly traumatizing and overwhelming experiences for victims. Those who are involved in these incidents or simply witness them can sustain emotional wounds that may require time to heal, including anxiety and the fear of driving again.


Although not all people will experience this phenomenon, the fear of driving is a genuine phobia that can affect those who have been injured in a car accident or witnessed one. It's known as vehophobia.


However, there are some things victims can do to overcome fear and driving anxiety to regain confidence when getting back behind the wheel. Below is more information about this topic.


What Is Vehophobia?

What Is Vehophobia?


"Vehophobia" is a term used to describe the fear of driving if it's considered an anxiety disorder. People who have been involved in a motor vehicle accident are more likely to experience this. However, it also occurs in those who have witnessed a traumatic event either in person while on the road, on the news, or in a movie or TV show.


More often than not, vehophobia results from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Patients often have flashbacks of the accident and intrusive thoughts that can cause fear, increase blood pressure, and even lead to panic attacks.


Sometimes, vehophobia involves more than just the fear of driving again, as the intensity and extent of this anxiety disorder can be different in each person. Some individuals only feel like their lives are in danger when they think about driving on the highway.


However, other people with vehophobia develop an aversion to anything related to operating a motor vehicle, such as riding in a car as a passenger.


This phobia can interfere with people's daily lives. Since sufferers make a great effort to avoid stressors, it can affect their ability to get to work and socialize with their family or friends, for example.


Unfortunately, thousands of people in the United States experience vehophobia and struggle with the effects of its symptoms, so they need help from mental health experts to treat them.


Symptoms Of Vehophobia


Vehophobia can cause significant distress. As mentioned, people who develop this anxiety disorder often find themselves avoiding activities that require driving, such as attending a doctor's appointment, going to work, or running errands.


This usually occurs because people with vehophobia experience intense anxiety when thinking about getting behind the wheel or simply riding in a vehicle as passengers. Consequently, this disorder can lead to social isolation.


However, a person with vehophobia not only experiences fear but may develop several symptoms, including the following:


  • Difficulty concentrating when behind the wheel

  • Panic attacks when in a motor vehicle

  • Fear of losing control while driving

  • Avoidance of roads and highways because they're considered dangerous

  • Avoidance of any activity that involves driving, especially under specific circumstances, such as when in heavy traffic or at night

  • Intense anxiety, feeling tense even when not driving


Physical Symptoms

People with vehophobia can also experience physical symptoms, including the following:


  • Tension in the muscles of the face, shoulders, and neck

  • Nausea

  • Chest pain

  • Trembling

  • Increased heart rate

  • Sweating

  • Shallow breathing


Related Fears

A person who suffers from vehophobia or extreme fear of driving may also experience any of the following:


  • Claustrophobia, or the fear of being in a closed or confined space that doesn't have a clear and accessible exit

  • Amaxophobia, or the fear of being in any motor vehicle as a driver or passenger

  • Hodophobia, or the fear of traveling in any capacity


Common Causes Of Vehophobia


The most common cause of vehophobia is being involved in a serious car accident, especially one where someone was killed or severely injured. However, this anxiety disorder can result from many things.


According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), at least one-third of people involved in a car crash experience PTSD symptoms within 30 days after the accident. As explained above, vehophobia often results from post-traumatic stress disorder.


In this regard, these are the common causes of vehophobia:


  • Driving in congested traffic

  • Witnessing an accident, especially one where a person is severely injured or killed

  • Having an extremely strict driving instructor

  • Watching a tragic car accident in a TV show or movie

  • Reading about a bad car accident in the news

  • Growing up with people who experience anxiety while in vehicles

  • Traveling in dangerous conditions, including heavy rain, snow, and wind


While tragic accidents trigger vehophobia in most cases, some sufferers can also experience anxiety even if driving conditions are safe and calm.


PTSD and Vehophobia: Is There a Relationship?


As mentioned, vehophobia may result from PTSD. This psychological condition is triggered by a traumatic event, such as a motor vehicle accident. The fear of driving is, in essence, a form of post-traumatic stress disorder.


PTSD can manifest itself in many forms, including the fear of being involved in another car accident, harming others, killing someone, or suffering from panic attacks and generalized anxiety. This can make it extremely difficult to focus or concentrate on the road.


A person with vehophobia often experiences flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, and nightmares, which are caused by the fear of being behind the wheel. Some even avoid roads and locations that remind them about the crash.


How is Vehophobia Diagnosed?


Like other anxiety disorders, vehophobia can only be diagnosed by mental health professionals based on the criteria found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V).


Most people with vehophobia experience immediate and intense anxiety when they find themselves in a situation that involves driving or being a passenger in a vehicle.


Only individuals who experience anxiety out of proportion to the risks involved in a driving activity and develop symptoms that last for over six consecutive months are usually diagnosed with vehophobia.


Treatment Options and Techniques For Overcoming Fear of Driving


It isn't easy to overcome driving anxiety and the fear of getting back behind the wheel. However, some treatment options and techniques can make this process less challenging.


Overall, this is what could help individuals struggling with vehophobia overcome the extreme fear of driving:


Therapy Options

Through therapy, people can identify the root cause of their anxieties and traumas, which is essential to developing coping strategies and overcoming fears. Fortunately, there are different types. Each one addresses specific issues or needs. These are some of the most common:


  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This is a type of psychotherapy and one of the most common treatment options for PTSD, as it helps people recognize unhelpful behavioral patterns to reduce anxiety. CBT also teaches individuals to identify the sources of their fear, develop coping strategies, and challenge irrational thoughts.

  • Exposure therapy: This cognitive behavioral therapy option is used to treat PTSD and anxiety disorders, allowing patients to confront their fears by progressively exposing them to their source to help them develop tolerance to the objects or situations that cause them.

  • Hypnotherapy: This type of therapy, commonly known as "hypnosis," can help patients process certain thoughts and situations through guided relaxation and optimal concentration. If paired with psychotherapy, it can be an excellent tool for people with vehophobia who want to explore their feelings and memories in a calm state.


Relaxation Techniques

This treatment option focuses on implementing strategies, such as deep breathing techniques, to decrease muscle tension and achieve progressive muscle relaxation, which helps manage the anxiety caused by vehophobia. Individuals learn to stay calm when fear appears.


Support Groups

Whether meeting in person or online, support groups provide a safe space for people with vehophobia. They help them feel comfortable sharing their experiences and offer opportunities to get support from individuals in similar situations.


Defensive Driving Classes

Many people take classes to learn defensive driving strategies, which can help them overcome their fear of driving and reduce anxiety.


In these courses, instructors teach learners what they need to know to avoid reacting to certain situations or issues that may arise while on the road, helping them regain confidence while driving.


Medication

Sometimes, anti-anxiety medication is necessary to treat vehophobia, as it can help reduce the intensity of the fear and its impact on people's lives. Drugs also have longer-lasting results when combined with therapies.


Many experts prefer to try other treatment options first, but medication is recommended when vehophobia becomes extreme or debilitating. These are the types of drugs that most mental health professionals prescribe to people experiencing this anxiety disorder:


  • Beta-blockers: They block adrenaline's stimulating effects, which usually cause increased heart rate, high blood pressure, and shaking.

  • Sedatives: They reduce people's feelings of anxiety, helping them relax. However, these drugs can have several adverse side effects, such as dependence and drowsiness.


Why People with Vehophobia May Need Help from a Lawyer

Why People with Vehophobia May Need Help from a Lawyer


Since driving is part of most people's daily lives, vehophobia can be quite disruptive and devastating. However, treatment is expensive, and it isn't fair for victims to experience this if the accident was caused by someone else.


Car accident victims who develop vehophobia have the right to recover at their own pace without having to worry about bills piling up. Fortunately, they may be entitled to compensation to cover medical expenses.


However, the legal process can be challenging. Therefore, people who experience extreme fear of driving after a car accident caused by someone else should contact an attorney who is also able to help when a car accident other driver has no insurance.


Good automobile accident attorneys in Indianapolis can fight for their rights and build a solid case to get them the compensation they deserve while they focus on recovering emotionally.


Contact Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Today!


Did you or a family member develop vehophobia after a traumatic car accident caused by someone else? At Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys, you can find an experienced personal injury lawyer. Contact us today!

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