It’s estimated that 1.35m people are killed in traffic accidents every year. That’s nearly 3,700 every day. It may not be one of the most common phobias, but with stats like that, it’s no wonder that many people have vehophobia, an irrational and intense fear of driving. 

Here, we’ll answer the question: what is vehophobia, and we’ll look at how it compares to similar phobias. Additionally, the causes, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment for vehophobia will all be covered. Read on to learn more about the fear of driving or vehophobia. 

Symptoms of Vehophobia

Just like any severe phobia, vehophobia can cause debilitating physical symptoms that impact how you function in your daily life. Whenever someone with this condition attempts to drive, they experience an immediate stress responses that can include symptoms like:

●     Intense fear of wrecking a vehicle

●     Panic attacks while driving

●     Quick, shallow breathing

●     Increased heart rate

●     Tense muscles

●     Chest pain

●     Trembling

●     Sweating

●     Nausea

Often, symptoms become so intense and unpleasant someone may choose not to drive at all. For those living with a driving phobia, it can be more tempting to stay home or call a rideshare company than it is to get behind the wheel of a car. In many cases, they’ll even fabricate a reason to stay home so they can avoid driving altogether.

Some people develop vehophobia after getting in a traffic accident. For a car accident victim, they might also develop post traumatic stress disorder.

However their driving anxiety started, people with vehophobia need to learn to anticipate and recognize the symptoms associated with their driving phobia. Doing so can help them take proactive steps to overcome their fear of driving. 

Causes of Vehophobia

There are several causes of phobias in general, and when it comes to vehophobia, some are more common than others.

“The most common cause of vehophobia is being involved in a motor vehicle accident and being afraid of getting back out there.”

Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW

Other causes for vehophobia can include:

  • Witnessing a serious car accident or seeing a bad accident on the news or social media
  • Growing up with parents who were always anxious in the car
  • Driving in dangerous conditions, such as intense rain, snow, or wind
  • Seeing a big animal run in front of the car

Someone with vehophobia might be triggered by any of the situations above. They also might experience anxiety symptoms when they are: 

  • Around aggressive drivers
  • In a lot of traffic
  • Driving alone
  • Afraid of being trapped
  • Fearful of going too fast
  • Scared about losing control
  • Afraid of dying or of fatalities

Vehophobia can strike even when everything outside of the vehicle is calm and normal.

Vehophobia vs Amaxophobia vs Hodophobia

It’s good to know the difference between vehophobia and some other very similar, specific phobias: amaxophobia and hodophobia. Both of these phobias are related to and often confused with a fear of driving.

  • Amaxophobia is the fear of riding in any vehicle. It manifests similarly to agoraphobia, the fear of being in enclosed spaces. While it doesn’t necessarily involve driving, the thought of being inside of a vehicle can be enough to elicit irrational fear and other stress responses.
  • Hodophobia is an intense fear of traveling. This isn’t so much about being inside of a vehicle as it is about traveling itself. Hodophobia manifests uniquely in everyone. Some people might fear leaving their house to get to the mailbox, while others might be afraid of taking an ocean cruise to a different country. It’s not uncommon for someone with hodophobia to fear all of the above when it comes to traveling.

How is Vehophobia Diagnosed?

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there are several criteria necessary for diagnosing a specific phobia like vehophobia, including:

  • Experiencing significant and immediate anxiety when a situation is encountered
  • Feeling intense, irrational fear that’s out of proportion with the actual risk involved
  • Having these symptoms for at least six consecutive months

The nuances between vehophobia, amaxophobia, hodophobia, agoraphobia, and other types of specific phobias can be difficult to differentiate. There are many similarities and overlapping symptoms that can be challenging to pinpoint. A doctor or licensed psychologist can help determine the specific phobia you have by evaluating your symptoms and psychiatric, medical, and social history

Treatment for Vehophobia

As with other phobias, there are various treatment options available for vehophobia, including:

Therapy

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and exposure therapy can be very effective forms of treatment for most phobias, including vehophobia. Sessions will largely focus on learning new coping skills for dealing with irrational fears. The goal is to learn how to look for, recognize, understand, and find ways to manage anxiety symptoms as they occur. This can bring your fear into perspective and encourage confidence and rational thought. 

Joining a support group

Aside from seeking medical advice from therapists, online and in-person community support groups can help you overcome a debilitating phobia. Having support from others who really understand what you’re going through can go a long way toward overcoming the fear of driving. Of course, it may be difficult to find a group dedicated specifically to vehophobia, but it’s likely you can at least find a group focused on phobias in general.

Hypnotherapy

Hypnosis can help people with phobias explore and process their thoughts and feelings. It can help them put the painful memory that might be triggering an irrational fear back into perspective. Hypnotherapy can retrain your brain and allow you to confront your fear of driving and get behind the wheel again.

Taking a defensive driving course

A defensive driving course can improve a driver’s skills and confidence behind the wheel. These courses teach you how to be more efficient and responsive when operating vehicles. They can also help you begin to expect unanticipated driving situations, ultimately helping ease your fears about driving.

“People with vehophobia often find work-arounds to avoid driving. They will use public transportation or have friends and family members drive them where they need to go. It may be impossible to do this, so some suggestions would be seeking professional help from a therapist or joining a support group to work through some of the fears and anxieties associated with driving. Lastly, you may want to consider taking defensive driving courses to practice driving, gain a better understanding of the rules of the road, and to become more confident behind the wheel.”

Talkspace therapist Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW

Taking prescription medications

Prescription drugs can be useful for decreasing the effects of anxiety associated with vehophobia, but only in the short term. Medications can mask symptoms, which can be detrimental in the long run. They do nothing to alleviate the core causes of what they’re intended to treat.

That said, sometimes medication can help manage symptoms, especially in the beginning of treatment. Some options a doctor or mental health professional might explore with you could include anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants, or beta-blockers.

Vehophobia, the irrational fear of operating a vehicle, can cause you to avoid driving completely. However, the treatments we’ve discussed here are available to you, and they can put your fear into proper perspective while encouraging you to regain your confidence behind the wheel. Learning to overcome vehophobia will probably take some time, but it is possible with a good plan, diligence, and in-person or online therapy.

If you think that you or a loved one may be living with the fear of driving known as vehophobia, talk with your doctor or therapist. They can refer you to the right mental health professional who can make an official diagnosis and help you come up with an effective treatment plan.

It’s natural to experience some setbacks during the road to recovery from vehophobia. Be patient and stay the course, and things will improve soon. Whether you want to learn more about your symptoms or connect with a licensed therapist, Talkspace has resources for every type of phobia. Reach out today to start overcoming your irrational fears.