Phobias are fears. Fear is a normal part of life, and there are many things in life which can be dangerous or painful – such as wasps, muggers, car crashes and having operations. Anyone might be afraid of such things – or at least anxious about them. This is normal. Sensible people take precautions to avoid being hurt or injured by things that are genuinely dangerous.
In this sense, anxiety is very useful. It warns you when danger is threatening. Severe anxiety – fear – can also be useful. When we find ourselves in a situation of real danger – like being faced by a robber in a dark alley – the fear reaction is just what we need. It releases adrenaline and other chemicals into our blood, and these speed up our heartbeat, sharpen our senses and heighten our physical powers. These changes prepare us for what is called ‘flight or fight’ – either to fight for our lives, or to run for them.
A phobia is a disorder in which the body reacts in exactly the same way, and we experience exactly the same feelings of anxiety and fear – but in situations where there is absolutely no need for ‘flight or fight’. It is as if our body and mind have lost all sense of proportion, and internally scream ‘danger!’ at the least little thing – like crossing a footbridge, encountering a cat, or driving across town. But no matter how harmless the feared thing may be, for a phobic person the fear reaction is every bit as real as if the cause was really life threatening. People with phobias usually realise all too well that their reaction is irrational, but this makes no difference to its effect.
Vehophobia or the fear of driving can impact one’s daily life especially since most of us are dependent on this activity to get by. It can affect one to an extent that s/he refuses to go shopping, visit a doctor or even drive to work. Individuals with the extreme fear of driving prefer public transport or request friends or family members to drive them each time. This is fine, so long as these options are available at one’s disposal. However, this might not be the case always affecting the individual’s education, job and other activities negatively.
Symptoms of Vehophobia.
Vehophobia can lead to various symptoms that can be characterized as emotional and physical.
Physical symptoms will come on when starting a journey or en route when exposed to a particular driving situation (typically a certain kind of road). The symptoms usually stop once the driver is out of the situation or out of the car.
The physical symptoms include: shaking, trembling, having a dry mouth, rapid heart rate, shallow breathing, chest pains, nausea, sweaty hands etc. Such a panic attack can occur each time the individual gets behind the wheel. It can cause one to freeze up so that s/he is unable to change gears or apply the brakes.
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Before driving there maybe a build-up of dread and anxiety for hours or even days before a “big journey”, leading to sleeping problems and loss of appetite. When actually driving, psychological symptoms may include feeling that you:
- Might lose control
- Might do something stupid
- Might swerve
- Are being pulled or drawn to the left or right
- The car might tip over
- Have to focus and concentrate intensely
- Can’t tolerate distractions (engage in conversation, listen to the radio)
Causes Of Driving Phobia. It’s hard to be precise, though sometimes an unpleasant experience triggers it off. Being in a bad road accident (or even just seeing one) can also be the trigger. On the other hand, lots of people find that their driving phobia comes on gradually, or comes and goes over a long period, and no particular trigger is involved. It may just be anxiety focusing on a regular activity as part of a generally rising anxiety state.
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As a result, people with panic disorder may make frequent trips to emergency rooms or doctor’s offices. They may believe they are experiencing life-threatening health conditions other than anxiety.
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