Amaxophobia: Are you afraid to drive? Find out how to overcome it
Do you get invaded by thoughts about traffic accidents when you’re going to drive your car? Don’t you trust your abilities as a driver? Do you feel particularly clumsy at the wheel? Do you get anxious every time you imagine driving? Amaxophobia is a disproportionate fear of driving. Find out in this article its symptoms, causes, consequences and how it is treated. In addition, we will give you some tips to overcome this phobia or to help someone who has it.
What is Amaxophobia?
Amaxophobia is an irrational fear of driving. Like hematophobia, acrophobia, or nyctophobia, it is a specific phobia that is listed among anxiety disorders. It is more frequent than it may appear at first sight. In fact, several driving schools offer courses in collaboration with psychologists to help treat them.
This disorder is notably more common in women than men. The causes of this data are currently under discussion. However, several experts believe that because of the old-fashioned stereotypes about gender and driving, men are ashamed of this problem and find it harder to ask for help.
Negative emotions such as anxiety and fear in driving situations are quite common. We have to control a myriad of stimuli and act accordingly at the wheel. We also receive information from sources such as the media, which can stir up our worries and make us feel less inclined to travel by car.
Although fear is adaptive to our survival, amaxophobia fear is exorbitant and illogical even though they are aware of the incoherence of their fears. They don’t simply suffer the typical annoyances inherent in going on a trip, driving at night or finding themselves in a stressful situation such as traffic jams.
Amaxophobia can significantly hinder the lives of those affected and leads to persistent discomfort. Do you think you have amaxophobia? Do you know anyone who has it? In this article, we will try to solve all your doubts about this driving phobia.
This fear can be widespread or appear in very specific situations such as long journeys or tunnels. However, we can list some common symptoms of amaxophobia:
- Catastrophic thoughts
- Feelings of panic and terror
- Increased heart rate
- Chest pain
- Increased sweating
Avoidance behavior when driving is also common. They often look for excuses not to do this in order to avoid a disaster such as the car catching fire or getting off the road.
Amaxophobia can manifest itself in people who have barely tried to drive for fear of possible misfortunes and also in people who have been driving without any difficulty for decades. These are the main causes of this fear (which can also interact with each other).
1. Genetic factors
Some people are considered to be more genetically predisposed to anxiety disorders than others. This does not imply that the descendants of a socially anxious person will also develop it. However, they are more likely to be affected by similar problems.
2. Personal traits
Amaxophobia sufferers are usually anxious, perfectionist, self-critical, controlling and have a low tolerance to unforeseen events. Situations such as getting lost, dealing with other problematic drivers, or driving under unpleasant weather conditions can be incredibly scary for them.
3. Lack of confidence
4. Traumatic experiences
Hitting someone or being injured at the wheel can lead to an intense fear of being in a similar situation again. The events that cause this phobia are not always accidents, suffering a panic attack at the wheel can also lead to an irrational fear of driving. On the other hand, a person who has never driven before may also develop this phobia through associations of ideas after watching the news or witnessing an accident.
5. Logical reasoning process deviations
This fear does not arise from driving in itself. What scares the amaxophobia sufferers are the possible consequences of this action. For example, they think they may faint while driving, hit a truck, get off the road, or any other calamity that may occur while driving.
Cognitive biases such as overestimating the chances of a collision between cars or cognitive distortions such as thinking “I have the worst luck on the planet, I always encounter the crazy drunk drivers” can lead to amaxophobia.
Some amaxophobia sufferers restrict their conduct to particular contexts while others stop driving directly. Fortunately, cars aren’t the only way to get around. For example, public transportation can be a fabulous option and they also have the option of having other people drive.
However, these alternatives are not always available and avoiding driving is not the solution to this problem. To suffer from amaxophobia can be really disabling. It also generates deep feelings of misunderstanding. Amaxophobia sufferers have to hear comments like “get over it” or “that’s silly”. This makes it difficult for them to ask for help and overcome fear.
Phobias are one of the most prevalent disorders in the population. I mean, it’s relatively common to find someone who suffers from one. Consequently, this issue is thoroughly investigated. We can now call on numerous experts who use a variety of effective techniques to help us overcome our fears.
In the case of the amaxophobia, the duration of their treatment depends on several factors such as how long this problem has been rooted in a person, their level of self-esteem, the experiences related to driving that they have lived, etc. On the other hand, their efforts to overcome amaxophobia are crucial to success.
The case of a rookie who had a panic attack his first month as a driver is quite different from that of a person who lost several loved ones in a car accident and has been avoiding cars for a decade. Nonetheless, amaxophobia can be overcome thanks to the dedication of the professionals and the person’s willpower. The following is a major treatment for this anxiety disorder.
The high effectiveness of this technique has been repeatedly shown in people with specific phobias. Exposure therapy consists of progressively bringing the patient closer to his or her fear. In this way, new learning takes place that diminishes the previous non-adaptive responses of the phobics.
People affected by these disorders need to adapt their own pace to the conditions proposed by the expert. A person with amaxophobia could start with a vehicle adapted to their needs on a special circuit, then move around in his own car with a professional by his side and end up driving it alone on the road.
Many driving schools offer training courses with assisted driving sessions with specialists. In addition, virtual reality currently plays a fundamental role in these treatments. It allows patients to approach the object they fear in a precise and controlled manner.
5 Tips to Overcome Amaxophobia
1. Recognize this phobia
The first step is to acknowledge the existence of this problem. In spite of the reactions of some people who have not stopped to understand the situation of the amaxophobia, this disorder is relatively frequent and the one who suffers from it is not to blame.
2. Trust that its possible to overcome amaxophobia
We build our own reality. That is to say, fear is in our mind and we are responsible for generating positive thoughts that allow us to feel competent to drive without difficulties and safely. There are numerous relaxation techniques that will help you stay calm and reach your goal.
3. Rationalise your fear
It is possible to reduce our cognitive distortions and biases by striving to identify and contrast the information we have. Asking questions that make it possible to investigate the incoherence of driving fear can be a great help.
People with amaxophobia are aware that they’re being irrational. However, they may be able to change their thoughts about the object of their fears if they work on it.
4. Don’t avoid driving
This fear is lost the moment you start driving. Inventing a thousand ways to avoid situations where it is necessary to get in the car and steer will only intensify and maintain this disorder. Facing this action will make it possible for you to feel more competent behind the wheel and secure.
It’s hard at first, but your effort will be rewarded little by little. Consistency is essential to meet this challenge. Even so, it is essential that the approach to driving is made progressively and through small challenges. An overly abrupt approach to the road would be totally counterproductive because it would strengthen the negative feelings and thoughts related to this driving phobia.
5. Seek professional help
As we have previously mentioned, there are several ways to defeat phobias. Professionals in various fields are sufficiently trained to deal successfully with these disorders.
If you see that amaxophobia is damaging your quality of life, do not hesitate to contact a specialist. It is possible to achieve your goals with the right support, time and tenacity. Go ahead and don’t forget to congratulate yourself on every step you make to overcome this specific phobia.
As for the friends, partners, and relatives of people with amaxophobia, it is necessary that they have patience. Constantly making judgments, complaining or avoiding driving maintains this disorder. It is important to be sympathetic and empathetic to people with amaxophobia.
And you, are you afraid to drive? If you would like to share your driving experience or have any questions, we invite you to comment. Thank you so much for reading this article.
This post is originally in Spanish written by Ainhoa Arranz, translated by Alejandra Salazar.
Alejandra is a clinical and health psychologist. She is a child specialist with a diploma in evaluation and intervention in autism. She has worked in different schools with young children and private practice for over 6 years. She is interested in early childhood intervention, emotional intelligence, and attachment styles. As a brain and human behavior enthusiast, she is more than happy to answer your questions and share her experience.