Why do people experience driving anxiety?
Many different factors can trigger driving anxiety at different moments in your life. Just because you experience driving anxiety at one point in your life doesn’t mean it will last forever. Read on below for some common examples of what causes driving anxiety.
If you experienced a car accident or had a loved one injured or killed in a car accident, you may have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) linked to your driving anxiety. You may struggle to overcome driving anxiety after an accident if you have painful memories surrounding driving.
Bad weather conditions that make driving more challenging and dangerous — like excessive rain, snow, or fog — often cause feelings of driving anxiety to increase.
An agoraphobia diagnosis describes a debilitating fear of leaving one’s home or of being unable to escape a certain situation or place. Anxiety stemming from agoraphobia can kick in when you’re in a moving vehicle. For example, if you’re stuck in bad traffic, you may feel trapped.
Anxiety or panic disorder
Anxiety disorders and panic disorders don’t have to center around the fear of driving for you to be prone to feeling anxious when you’re in a car. For some, driving leads to a feeling of a loss of control that results in anxiety or panic. If someone is tailgating you, for example, you may feel helpless and anxious while the situation lasts.
Fear of driving in certain locations
While you may feel perfectly comfortable driving around your sleepy hometown, you may have feelings of anxiety when driving in certain locations. Common problem areas include highways and bridges, tunnels, and areas prone to heavy traffic. Additionally, many people experience anxieties around becoming lost, including not knowing where they are, where to park, or where to stop for gas and food on a long road trip.
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Fear of certain driving maneuvers
Merging onto the highway, changing lanes, reversing, turning right at a red light, and other driving maneuvers may cause you and others to feel anxious when on the road. You may feel pressure and anticipation with certain maneuvers that make you feel unsafe or out of control, such as feeling the need to accelerate quickly when on the freeway.
Understandably, having impaired vision can make it harder to operate safely on the road. If you struggle with your vision or seeing clearly when driving at night, that can cause you to feel anxiety surrounding driving. If you need glasses to operate your vehicle at night, you may experience fears around losing that aid.
Beginning stages of aging or dementia
Older drivers may struggle with their vision or other issues such as dementia that can make driving a more stressful situation. For example, dementia causes memory loss and makes it harder to make decisions, both of which can make driving a car and navigating busy streets very difficult.