Oxford Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

What is Driving Phobia?

Fear of driving is distinguished by the intense, often debilitating, fear it generates. At its worst it will end in a panic attack. So it’s way beyond driving nerves. This is hardcore white-knuckle fear.

What are the physical symptoms?

Physical symptoms will come on when starting a journey or en route when exposed to a particular driving situation (typically a certain kind of road). The symptoms usually stop once the driver is out of the situation or out of the car.

For some drivers these symptoms may start at a lower level sometime before actually driving, and persist for sometime afterwards.

For a small percentage of sufferers, some of the symptoms may also be experienced as a passenger.



Psychological Symptom Checklist

Before driving there maybe a build-up of dread and anxiety for hours or even days before a “big journey”, leading to sleeping problems and loss of appetite. When actually driving, psychological symptoms may include feeling that you:

  • Might lose control
  • Might do something stupid
  • Might swerve
  • Are being pulled or drawn to the left or right
  • The car might tip over
  • Have to focus and concentrate intensely
  • Can’t tolerate distractions (engage in conversation, listen to the radio)


Physical Symptom Checklist

Rapid heartbeat or pulse

Typical symptoms of driving phobia will include some of the following:

  • Tightness in the chest
  • Sweating (especially the palms) and shaking
  • Physical tension (especially in the arms and hands)
  • Light headiness or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath or over-breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat or palpitations

How Some People Respond

When these physical and psychological symptoms come on, most drivers will do some of the following when actually driving:



Many people, of course, will respond by not even going there. They will simply avoid driving on particular roads or avoid driving completely.


Who does driving phobia affect? Driving phobia can affect anyone.


Most people with a driving phobia are normal, intelligent, well-balanced people who once drove happily but are now anxious and panicky when driving or else don’t drive at all. Over the years we have treated all kinds of drivers, some with exceptional skills and experience, including police drivers and a rally driver. We have treated doctors, psychologists and psychiatrists.

So it can happen to anyone and it’s never a skills thing. In fact most people with driving phobias are good, competent drivers. Contact us today to book your session of CBT treatment for Driving Phobia.