Mark Roman | December 20, 2020 | Car Accidents
Vehophobia, a medical term for an earnest and unshakable fear of driving that interferes with one’s quality of life, is a legitimate problem.
Technically, the fear of driving following a car accident is a form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can be triggered by the trauma of a close call with death, the feelings of dread about injured children, or the violent impact of a collision.
Why the Fear of Driving Lingers
The fear of driving lingers for all kinds of reasons, many of which can depend on the driver’s particularities. Some common anxiety-causing have been observed among vehophobes. A few of these thoughts include:
- The thought of driving at all is debilitating. For some vehophobes, the thought of driving at all leads to extreme and paralyzing anxiety.
- Thoughts involving fear of another accident. Even when drivers have years of experience, the thought of being involved in an accident can lead to crippling anxiety.
- The thought of having a panic attack while driving. Vehophobes reasonably fear that they might suffer a panic attack while driving.
- The thought of hurting others. Vehophobes may fear that they will hurt or kill someone else, whether a stranger or their passengers, especially family.
These thoughts can be impossible to banish, no matter how hard a vehophobe tries. If you have ever had a panic attack or know anyone with anxiety, you know how horrible these situations can be.
One of the biggest issues is how vehophobia extremely limits the daily life activities of vehophobe sufferer. As often as most drivers use their cars, it can be unthinkable to consider being unable to drive. Think of what it would be like if you couldn’t pick up take-out food, drive a friend to the airport, or even pick up your children from school or daycare. Thankfully, vehophobia can be treated.
The healthcare, safety, and personal injury attorney communities take cognizance of vehophobia. There has been research into what works to help people move past their fear of driving. These are some valid, actionable techniques that can help get car crash victims driving again.
Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, is used to treat emotional and mental disorders. It helps people deal with symptoms so they can improve functionality and increase quality of life. Several strategies of psychotherapy can be implemented to treat vehophobia.
Studies have shown that therapy can be more effective when combined with medication. In some cases, medication is necessary to help alleviate extreme anxiety. It is used together with the therapies described below.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps people put their finger on thinking and behavior patterns that are leading to dysfunction. People also use CBT to change these patterns and replace them with more functional ways of thinking and behaving.
When therapists use CBT, they often practice or role-play with clients to allow them to practice the new skills. CBT helps change distorted thought patterns around the perceived danger of driving. It also helps replace them with more rational thoughts about the actual dangers.
Prolonged exposure therapy (PE)
Prolonged exposure therapy teaches an incremental approach to trauma-related memories, feelings, and situations. It is a subset of CBT.
PE begins with the therapist understanding the traumatic experience. Then, PE involves having the patient re-experience the traumatic event. Recalling the memory and experiencing the fear that comes with it eventually leads to a re-processing of the experience.
The two types of PE are imaginal exposure and in vivo exposure. In imaginal exposure, the patient describes the event in detail in the present tense with the help of the therapist.
The patient is recorded during the imaginal exposure narrative. They can listen to themselves recalling the event and process the emotions between therapy sessions. In therapy sessions, the patient and therapist talk about the emotions stirred up by the imaginal exposure. The patient processes those emotions with help from the therapist.
In in vivo exposure the patient confronts traumatic triggers out of the therapist’s office. The patient and therapist brainstorm the possible triggers and situations related to the stimulating fear.
Once the patient and therapist agree on which triggers to confront, they come up with a plan for the patient to act on between sessions. In a gradual way, the patient learns to cope with triggers.
Defensive Driving Instruction
Driving-related PTSD can sometimes be overcome by defensive driving instruction. In defensive driving courses, drivers learn skills to fight back against their fears. It can give drivers an increased sense of control and greater confidence in their own abilities.
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