How can I Avoid Panic Attacks While Driving?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 09 October 2019
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There are a few steps and measures that people can take to try and keep themselves from having panic attacks while driving. While many of these methods can help some people, others may need to seek professional assistance in order to manage their panic attacks, whether the attacks occur while they are driving or at another time. An important thing to remember when dealing with panic attacks is that trying to stop them or trying to keep them from happening often just leads to more frequent and more severe panic attacks. Instead of trying to avoid these attacks while driving, it is often better to learn how to manage them so that they can be easily dealt with if they happen. Some people find that simply knowing that they have tools to deal with panic attacks while driving lessens or stops the occurrence of the attacks.

One way to help manage panic attacks is to use affirmations. Before getting in the car, choose one or two affirmations to use while driving. These affirmations should be based on both fact and personal belief. For example, a person who experiences panic attacks while driving over bridges might develop specific affirmations about bridges. One affirmation might be, "Bridges are built to get us safely from one shore to the other. They are designed and built by people of great skill. They are traveled over safely by millions of people every day."


Another way to manage these panic attacks is to be conscious of one's breath and the muscle tension in one's body. When people are nervous, their breathing often becomes shallow. Making sure to take plenty of deep breaths and to keep the breathing regular way, not a shallow way, are important steps in staying calm. Also, check for muscle tension, especially in the upper body and in the face. Allowing these muscles to relax, while also working on the breath, is a good way of dealing with panic attacks while driving.

Another way to manage panic attacks while driving is to get plenty of practice. Avoiding driving will only make a person more likely to experience a panic attack when he does eventually have to drive somewhere. Getting used to routes is also a way to assuage anxiety that surrounds driving. Developing confidence on regularly followed routes can also help people to prepare for driving unfamiliar routes or driving for longer than usual amounts of time.


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Post 2

I'm one of those people who panics at the thought of driving over a long bridge. I can handle short spans over a creek or an elevated off-ramp, but a mile-long bridge over water makes me very anxious. I understand intellectually that the bridge is structurally sound and has guard rails, but my mind makes me think I'm going to drive over the edge and hit the water.

I worked with a therapist for a few months and he used hypnosis to help me visualize going over a bridge without fear. That worked fairly well, but I was still having panic attacks if I was on an unfamiliar bridge or the weather was bad. I think the thing that has helped me the most is aversion therapy. If I'm afraid of driving over a bridge or in heavy traffic or whatever, I make a point of doing it repeatedly. Eventually I feel more confident and don't have panic attacks.

Post 1

One thing my drivers' education teacher told us over and over again was to be assertive, proactive drivers. In other words, we were supposed to drive with a purpose. Every other driver on the road was drunk, tired or irresponsible, so we had to stay defensive and vigilant. When you get into that frame of mind, it's harder to have panic attacks.

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