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What can you do about driving anxiety?

There are quite a few people who are afraid of driving. This can happen even before you get your driving licence. During the lessons you will be under great stress and therefore there are even driving instructors who offer special driving lessons for people who are afraid of driving. If you are afraid of driving, you will avoid certain routes or even avoid using the car at all. But there is certainly something you can do about it.

What is a driving anxiety disorder?

Fear of driving can come in different degrees. You can be anxious as a driver, but also as a co-driver. Now, a little healthy excitement while driving can't hurt. It will only make you more alert in traffic. It is different when you become excessively anxious. You can speak of an anxiety disorder or a phobia for driving. However, the fear does not always have to be present while driving. Many people experience fear highways, for example. This is the case in the Netherlands, for instance, where you have a fear of driving on the highway. An official name for a driving anxiety disorder is amaxophobia.

fear of driving

What are the symptoms of amaxophobia?

If you do get behind the wheel, even though you suffer from a phobia of driving or being a co-driver, you may experience several symptoms that are typical of an anxiety disorder. You will feel enormous tension and your heartbeat will become irregular or increased. You will literally break out sweating and feel like you have to gasp for breath. Headaches, vomiting or a panic attack with crying fits are also possible while driving. As you can imagine, if you really panic, you will have to pull over to avoid traffic hazards.

How does a fear of driving arise?

Often, past negative experiences while driving cause you to create a fear of driving. Maybe you have been in a car accident yourself or seen it happen? Then the fear is caused by a traumatic moment. It could be that you are anxious, because you have not been able to cope with the trauma. You keep thinking about it while driving and the images keep coming back. It is also possible that you have been extremely protected from traffic during your upbringing. Maybe your parents were already afraid that something would happen to you in traffic? You may have inherited this fear and therefore no longer dare to drive on the road.

overcoming driving anxiety

How can you overcome driving anxiety?

A fear of driving is very annoying, because it prevents you from leaving the house and going somewhere by car without any concerns. With a good fear of driving therapy, overcoming driving anxiety is certainly possible. But what kind of fear of driving therapy can you follow?


Precisely because fear of driving can have a traumatic background, EMDR is very suitable for processing the trauma. Once the trauma has been processed, you experience see that your fear of driving symptoms have disappeared too. With EMDR, the focus is on distracting the working memory, at the moment the therapist asks you to think back to the trauma, including the thoughts and feelings at that moment. By means of a hand gesture or a sound signal, you are distracted and for a short while you no longer think about the trauma. By doing this repeatedly, the trauma will be given a place and you will be able to recall the moment without strong emotions arising.

Cognitive behavioural therapy

In behavioural therapy, your thoughts are influenced. As soon as you see a car or get into a car, you only think about the fear and what might happen. This is very negative thinking. During the therapy, your negative thoughts are transformed into positive thoughts. You learn, for example, that a car is very convenient to use and that if you remain calm, you will always be in control of the situation. This way you see that driving a car is quite possible without fear and tension.

Exposure therapy

It is sometimes said that after a car accident you should not wait too long to get back on the road. This is also the philosophy behind exposure therapy. By being confronted with your own fears, you face them. Of course, confrontation is under the guidance of the therapist. Also certain forms of fear on the road can be tackled, such as fear of highways, by driving on the highway.

Overcoming driving anxiety with the help of Psylaris

Overcoming the fear of driving a car is possible with the help of smart products from Psylaris. If, as a therapist, you treat a client with anxiety disorder driving with EMDR, you can now do so online with EMDR-Remote. The client doesn't have to come to you, but logs in on the Psylaris platform, just like you. Here you have more than enough digital possibilities to distract the client during the session and data is stored securely.

Through virtual reality, Psylaris uses the VR goggles to overcome fear of driving by means of exposure therapy. The modules developed by Psylaris for the VR goggles contain various types of fears and phobias and thus also the fear of driving. As a result, the client gets behind the wheel in the treatment room as soon as the VR goggles are put on. This is a cheaper and time-saving method and the VR goggles can also be used at home.


Exposure in virtual reality

The aim of Psylaris, is to support therapists even better with better techniques and tools. Virtual reality plays a leading role in this. With EMDR-VR and EMDR-Plus, EMDR treatment is possible using virtual reality. The practitioner can use distraction tasks even better and the patient can also be treated remotely. Virtual reality is ideally suited for exposure therapy. Here, the patient is confronted with his/her fears. It is no longer necessary to visit a physical location, such as a lift in the case of lift anxiety or a shopping centre in the case of agoraphobia. With the VR glasses on, the patient faces the fear in the safe environment of the treatment room or own home. Psylaris has developed a module for various types of anxiety requiring exposure therapy. This saves costs and time and also allows the patient to be treated more frequently, resulting in faster recovery.

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