Vehophobia Is The Fear That Drives Me To Stay Parked

by Caila Smith
Originally Published: 
Scary Mommy and

I’ve been in multiple car accidents with a few different drivers over my lifetime, and I recall that “so fast everything is going slow” feeling, followed by the hardest hit, like it was yesterday. And even though I was only ever injured or actually driving in one of the accidents I was in, I’m still petrified of another crash and the sense of certain death that hit just moments before the boom. It’s called vehophobia — a literal fear of driving. And oddly enough, it’s one of the ten most common phobias out there. Some are scared of heights. Some don’t like small spaces (okay, me either), some don’t like cotton (seriously). As for me? I loathe and fear driving.

When I’m in the car while someone else is driving, I go so far as to unintentionally micro-manage. I try to fight it, but the fear of another potential vehicular accident somehow seems to overpower it. At times, my fear while on the road is seriously paralyzing. So much so that I tend to avoid driving long distances all together, but not so debilitating that I refuse to drive when it’s absolutely needed.

To me, there is nothing enjoyable, and everything terrifying, about driving 70 mph within mere feet of one semi, let alone two, three, or four. Knowing how I am on the road, I’m not willing to travel more than what’s necessary when I know I’ll be met with anxiety triggers such as these.

If my kids are in the vehicle with me, my fear increases tenfold in high-stress driving situations such as merging onto the freeway or driving in overcrowded traffic. Sometimes, my hands start sweating so much that they start to slip off the wheel. If I’m in the middle lane during a dead stop with no way to switch lanes or get out of a potentially hazardous situation (which, let’s be honest, probably won’t happen), I can’t stop thinking about all of the what if’s, no matter how farfetched they may sound.

And only the true worriers, like me, get anxiety about their anxiety while driving. Ha, that’s a trip. Thoughts of, “I’m having a panic attack, and I’m driving. What if I faint and die?” have consumed me from point A to point B on countless expeditions.

According to certified hypnotherapist Ted Moreno, this is all somewhat normal for those living with vehophobia. “People with a driving phobia fear being trapped in a traffic jam and unable to escape if they experience a panic attack,” Moreno stated in a 2012 research article. “Likewise, they also fear passing out, losing control of the vehicle, throwing up or getting into an accident. For many people, driving next to big trucks can be very nerve-wracking, as can merging on the freeway or driving in the fast lane.”

For some, like me, vehophobia might mean a certain level of uncertainty and fear when getting behind the wheel, but there is still a willingness to partake. Others avoid high-stress situations at all costs while still driving. But some vehophobic sufferers protest getting behind a wheel at all, keeping them from getting a driver’s license and interfering with day-to-day activities.

The good news? (All the vehophobics hold their breath, while awaiting for the recovery ball to drop.) Vehophobia is treatable through behavior therapy, medicine, hypnosis and pre-road planning. “When someone has a fear of driving that is impacting their life and ability to get behind the wheel, it’s crucial that they work to challenge this fear through exposure therapy and cognitive [behavioral] therapy,” psychotherapist Jennifer Rollen tells HuffPost.

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The longer that fear, worry and angst remain rooted, the more adaptive our brain becomes to such fears, ultimately conditioning us to accept those behaviors as the new norm.

Vehophobia is real and at times, it can be absolute hell. There is no “enjoying” the ride unless I’m driving on country roads or in my small and familiar hometown. I’m not a bad driver, and it’s somewhat irrational for me to allow such an incredible fear to manifest. But it’s not always my driving that presents the heavy-feeling concerns — it’s everyone else I come in contact with while driving on the road.

It’s the pricks who ride the ass of my SUV when I’m already in the right lane minding the speed limit. It’s semis that swerve and do not have side, front or back guard-rails to protect my family. And it’s my sweet kids in the backseat with vehicles mere feet from colliding into one another.

This is a vehophobic’s personal hell while driving, and it’s more than just ” a little anxiety.”

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