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Testimonial

Hi, Dr. April. If you don't mind, please pass this information along to your staff psychologist. She has been incredible over the past couple of sessions; insightful, informative, and has assisted me well. When I began, my driving anxiety left me frozen and avoiding the road, but with her help, it is significantly better, even in this short amount of time. I credit that to The April Center for Anxiety’s guidance. I continue to ride out the momentum of my progress and the anxiety is nearly non-existent. Many thanks to you and your staff therapist. Your services are invaluable and I'm better because of them!

Sincerely,
Jason R.

The April Center Blog

Anxiety, OCD, Phobia and Panic Attack Management, Los Angeles

For additional articles, visit The April Center Blog Archive »

Can You Pass Out From A Panic Attack?

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A common question asked by patients that begin treatment at my center is “Can you pass out from a panic attack?” It’s interesting to note that in my over 20 years of doing this work as a panic attack specialist, I’ve worked with only 5 patients who say they have passed out once or twice from a panic attack.

So, anecdotally, it appears that about 99.9% of the people I’ve worked with all these years have never passed out from a panic attack. But more importantly, this demonstrates that the majority of people who question “Can you pass out from a panic attack?” have never passed out! 

 

Can you pass out from a panic attack

  

What Causes One to Pass Out?

Why does this fear exist? First, to address this, it’s important to understand the cause for those who have passed out.

Read more: Can You Pass Out From A Panic Attack?

Fear of Left Turns

Fear of left turns or left turn phobia is one of the most common forms of driving anxiety and one that affects a surprisingly large number of people. No wonder, it’s an anxiety issue that I observe and treat so frequently in my individual session with patients at The April Center for Anxiety. While on the surface, anxiety over left turns may seem like a rather harmless fear, as you gain a deeper understanding of the condition, it becomes clear that it is a fear that can truly interfere with your freedom. 

Research has shown that making a left-hand turn is one of the most dangerous moves you can make while driving and is involved in approximately 61% of all intersection crashes (1). While there is danger associated with the maneuver, it is often unavoidable, so learning how to confidently turn left is crucial to lessening anxiety and embracing safe driving habits. 

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For all fear of driving issues, if you're ready to break free, call Dr. April at 

310 - 429 - 1024

 

afraid of left turns

 

Why are People Afraid of Left Turns?

Good driving involves staying vigilant and assessing multiple scenarios simultaneously. As humans, we are hard-wired to crave control. When driving, we encounter situations that can be chaotic. This can inspire fear sometimes, for many, in general. Specifically, making a left turn can trigger this fear since there are so many variables to consider in a short period of time. Compared to a right turn, where you can largely focus on one lane of traffic, left turns require you to look in all directions with vehicles approaching at high rates of speed. The influx of information can frighten some people who tend to desire a strong experience of control. 

There's no reason to feel shame when you're but one of the millions of people who experience anxiety when turning left. This fear can be triggered by a wide range of sources, including:

·       lack of driving confidence

·       past driving trauma (as in an accident)

·       an uncomfortable experience on the road (like a “panic attack”)

·       scary thoughts when driving

·       lack of driving experience

scared of turning left

 

The first step to begin conquering your fear is to pinpoint exactly what you’re afraid of and work forward. Our anxiety treatment often helps those identify their fear as a beginning step. Even the smallest amount of initial progress can often kickstart your path to more confident and less fearful driving.

What Makes Turning Left More Dangerous Than Turning Right?

As briefly mentioned, turning left is a frequent trigger for those who struggle with driving anxiety. It can even be their primary fear. Why? There are multiple reasons, starting with the placement of the car. Left turns require you to go against the flow of traffic and into the path of oncoming vehicles. This scenario can result in other drivers not seeing you. You may even misjudge their distance or speed and cut them off. 

Additionally, left turns are more likely to be at the discretion of the driver and not at the prompting of a light or signal. 

These are called “unprotected left turns” officially, but those with fear of driving tend to lock onto this label that seems to confirm their anxiety. 

While there are left turn signals, they are often short with the green light remaining after the arrow disappears. This then means that drivers must decide when to turn on their own. 

If there is no signal, drivers turning left tend to hesitate longer than those going right and decide, at the last moment, to "go for it." This hesitation can cause confusion, potentially putting all drivers involved at a higher risk of an accident.

 

 anxiety over left turns

 

If you’re struggling to overcome your driving fears, contact us at The April Center for Anxiety NOW at  

310- 429 -1024

 

What is Tachophobia?

Tachophobia (2) is an irrational fear of speed. Those who experience tachophobia become scared while moving quickly in any type of vehicle. This fear can extend beyond vehicles to bikes, airplanes, roller coasters, public transit and, in some cases, even walking too quickly. One common fear that Tachophobia is triggered by, is the fear of being out of control. The strong desire to remain in control is at the core of so many anxiety struggles. 

 vehophobia

What is Vehophobia?

Vehophobia is the specific fear of driving. People can experience this fear as either the driver or the passenger. Vehophobia can be associated with:

      an injury in a car accident

      Witnessing a car crash or news items about car crashes

      Family members who have unintentionally modeled a fear of driving

      Choice to avoid driving following an uncomfortable driving experience.

The last bullet point is the most significant as far as creating a driving phobia. Why? Avoidance is the creator of ALL phobias

fear of left turns

 

What is the Difference Between Amaxophobia and Vehophobia?

Unlike Amaxophobia, which is simply anxiety over riding in any vehicle for fear of getting into an accident, those with Vehophobia are afraid of driving a car. 

While the two conditions have similarities, they are very different. 

However, both can be debilitating and interfere with a person's quality of life. For example, both phobias make traveling very difficult and performing daily chores challenging. 

Depending on the severity, both require the sufferer to find alternate ways to run errands, get to and from work, and visit family and friends. Finally, both are disempowering and can lead to a dependence on others. 

In this article, we’re addressing one particular area of Vehophobia (driving anxiety) and that is the fear of making left turns. 

 

Anxiety When Making Left Turns

Experiencing anxiety when making left-hand turns is often an issue for those struggling with Vehophobia. As explained earlier, it can have a significant impact on a driver. 

Below are the most common triggers if you struggle with driving anxiety when encountering a left turn:

1.   When you need to make an unprotected left turn

An unprotected left turn is any turn that doesn't have a designated green arrow signal. This includes turning onto a road without a light and waiting to turn left on green in an intersection. 

These scenarios are often the scariest for those with fear of driving, since you can't rely on the protection of a signal that provides the right of way and halts oncoming traffic. 

anxiety when making left turns

2.   Turning left on green

Turning left on the green light is slightly easier than a completely unprotected left-hand turn, with or without a stop sign, since there are generally only two lanes of traffic moving and not four. 

When making a left turn at a green light, it’s necessary to wait until there is no immediate oncoming traffic before moving your vehicle. While it is acceptable to sit farther into the intersection, this isn't required, and you may stay at the specified red light stopping area to await a lull in the oncoming traffic. 

Just like all left turns, once the road is clear, you proceed. 

If you’re left turn phobic, this is often an anxious experience rife with “what if” thoughts about other cars. 

Additionally, many with vehophobia experience fear of feeling trapped or stuck. A desire to leave one’s car to escape is not uncommon for those with this form of driving anxiety.

3.   Anxiety when turning left at an intersection

Many with driving anxiety experience fear when turning left at an intersection. One source of anxiety tends to be pressure from other drivers, whether real or assumed, due to impatience on their part. 

Another layer of perceived pressure, though, is the need to look out for pedestrians. While they should not cross in front of you when you have the right of way, many people choose to walk at the wrong time! The need to keep an eye out for those on foot can add another level of anxiety for many with fear of left turns. 

A third aspect of discomfort for those with this struggle is the notion that other drivers’ eyes are upon them due to the center stage position of waiting in the intersection. Your thoughts might be plead… “Look away, other drivers! Look away!”. But to no avail. 

 

driving anxiety when turning left

4.   When waiting to make a left turn

Often, for those with left turn fear, the most stressful part of making a left turn is the lead-up to it. They frequently begin panicking and anticipating all the negative scenarios that can happen. 

In anxiety treatment, working on managing fear-inducing thoughts can make a tremendous difference when it's time to execute a left turn. And in your life, in general, if you want more freedom. Reality-based self-talk can stop the panic spiral and give you the confidence necessary to conquer your fear. 

Commit to CBT for Fear of Left Turns

The fear of left turns doesn't have to control you. Driving fears can feel debilitating, but we’ve got you covered at The April Center for Anxiety. With practice, you can gain the confidence to turn left in any scenario, opening a world of opportunities. As with any fear or phobia, seeking support from an anxiety treatment expert can change your life and return you to freedom from driving anxiety! Don't be afraid to reach out and ask for help.

Resources:

1.     Delbert, Caroline. (2021) “We Should Abolish The Left Turn, Science Suggests” [Popular Mechanics] June 14th, Available at: https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/a36620755/eliminate-left-turns

2.     (2022) “Tachophobia Fear of Speed” [Cleveland Clinic], Available at: 

my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/22647-tachophobia-fear-of-speed

Fear of Driving Off a Cliff is Natural?

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The fear of driving off a cliff is more common than you think. And it’s easy to assume it’s only about a fear of heights.

  

While that’s one element, the fear of plummeting off a mountain in your non-flying car involves so much more.

 

If you have a fear of driving off a cliff, the information in this article might be eye-opening. At the very least, it should take you to new heights (Warning: more dad jokes up ahead). 

 

Call Dr. April at The April Center for Anxiety Attack Management for treatment for fear of driving off a cliff at 310-429-1024

 

fear of cliffs

 

What is the Fear of Cliffs Called?

 

The fear of cliffs or the fear of precipes is called Cremnophobia (4). Though, the focus of this article is more specifically targeted to anxiety over driving off a cliff, these can be considered one in the same.

 

So, the answer to the question, “What is Cremnophobia the fear of?” should include driving, due to it being the more common trigger. Rather than just fear of cliffs or edges alone, that is.  


For those of you with this very specific height phobia, you can probably recall many movie scenes depicting an out of control car driving off of a cliff. These scenes are always a bit jarring.

 

Just thinking about it now, I can rattle off a number of frightening crash landing movie moments including Raiders of The Lost Ark, every James Bond movie and so many more.


Everyone has had the thought of this potentially happening to them. Whether it’s a thought of “What if I lose control of the car and drive off the cliff?” or, “What if I impulsively, without thinking, just drove off this cliff?” or “What if this truck nudges me off this mountain road?” and on and on. 

 

Cremnophobia can manifest in many different areas, such as when hiking, when sightseeing, when taking those awkwardly posed family photos in parks and even when taking Instagram photos in risky, high places just for more likes. Yikes!

 

Concern when around cliffs is natural and part of our survival instinct (more on this below). Heights can kill us if we make a wrong move! 

 

However, an extreme fear of heights that interferes with our driving freedom becomes a phobia. 

 

fear of edges not heights

 

What is Acrophobia? 

Acrophobia is the fear of heights. And for some, it’s a fear that’s been part of their life since childhood. Others are stricken by a sudden fear of heights based on an uncomfortable experience or observation. 



Acrophobia anxiety triggers can include any uncomfortable experience of being in a higher place. Though, this does not include marijuana (sorry, couldn’t help it).

 

Specifically, for those with Acrophobia, anxiety can be triggered near cliffs and ledges, while on overpasses, on staircases, while looking out tall building windows, crossing bridges, on escalators, on a plane and as a fear of driving in high places.

 

For therapy for Acrophobia, call Dr. April at

310-429-1024

 

Acrophobia and Cremnophobia Are Linked
 

Acrophobia and Cremnophobia are clearly intertwined. One main distinction is that someone with Acrophobia might experience anxiety symptoms in a multitude of environments, like when on elevators, on escalators, in the mountains, on a ladder, and anywhere there’s some distance off the ground.

 

Cremnophobia is an aspect of Acrophobia, but specifically based on anxiety regarding cliffs. 



Some people define their Cremnophobia as completely different from Acrophobia in that they’re afraid of edges, not heights. These people don’t report a struggle in elevators or when on ladders. For that matter, many have even been to the top of the Empire State building and felt fine.

 

And yet, they’re well aware they have a fear of driving off a cliff and anxiety around ledges, in general. This is what they mean when they say they have a fear of edges not heights. 

 

And, sometimes those with Cremnophobia simplify further by stating they have a fear of cliffs and ledges. No more, no less.


I suppose one important question would be whether all those people with a phobia of driving off a cliff fear all driving heights, such as bridges, overpasses and more. This fear of cliff driving seems to be localized in the area of driving anxiety.

 

Often times people with a severe fear of driving off of a cliff often fear other aspects of driving, as well. This then can be considered more of a driving phobia or, to go with the diagnosable professional term, Vehophobia or Amaxophobia. 

 

 

fear of cliffs and ledges

 

  

      The Difference between Acrophobia and Cremnophobia

 

Not to belabor the point, but the difference is specific when it comes to diagnosis. Acrophobia can be thought of as an extensive fear of heights.

 

Meanwhile, Cremnophobia, which again is a fear of cliffs or fear of precipices, can be thought of as a more specific phobia. Acrophobia can be more complex because it can manifest in so many different areas.


This also explains why those with a fear of driving off a cliff might not experience fear on escalators or elevators or while looking out a tall building’s window.

 

Many people with driving anxiety while near a cliff’s edge can become exasperated when trying to explain their struggles.

 

Most people assume they have a fear of heights. They often feel forced, yet again, to explain they have a fear of edges, not heights!



Though it might seem minor to some, the fear of driving off a cliff is a phobia that can be very limiting, while encouraging a high degree of anxiety.

 

One of the main limitations for those with cremnophobia is the reduction or even curtailing of driving to avoid this fear.

 

And they might avoid most areas with hills, cliffs or mountains. They might avoid bridges and overpasses. And, if acrophobia is present, that compounds the problem and leads to more avoidance.


Fear of Heights and The Survival Instinct

 


We all have a survival instinct. A concern about heights is built into this system. It’s how we evolved.

 

Anything for that matter, that could bring about our certain death if it were to occur, is built into our system on an evolutionary scale as something to fear. For example, being buried alive is a built-in human fear. The very mention is enough to trigger some people!

 

Same with falling off a cliff. Fear of heights was protective back in the dark ages. It still is, but not in the same frequent life or death manner it once was (Unless you’re being chased by a lion on a mountain’s edge on a regular basis after hunting for dinner).

 

In the modern world, if you’re terrified of heights when in a safe (enough) elevator, you know that ancient protective-based fear has now gone awry into the realm of anxiety

 

 

Cremnophobia

 

 

Sudden Fear of Heights = Loss of Control?

 

A sudden fear of heights is often triggered by a fear of losing control of one’s body or mind.

 

And loss of control is a common foundation and fear with a phobia of driving off a cliff.

 

For those that struggle with panic disorder or panic attacks, this fear of losing control is very familiar to them. Mainly because their fear of panic is the equivalent of the fear that their body or mind is out of control.

 

And this is often intertwined with cremnophobia. For instance, when fearful of driving on a mountain road, it’s not a stretch to take one’s fear to the next level of “What if I lose control and then drive off a cliff, here, there . . . or anywhere?”  


One variable involved within a driving fear of ledges, edges and cliffs is the immediacy of it.

 

One wrong turn at any given moment would spell the end of your life (I guess the specific spelling would be something like, “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah”). And this thought that with a slight turn of the wheel it could all be over, can be rather jarring! 


So, clearly it makes sense that Acrophobia can coincide, coexist and even be the foundation of a fear of driving off of a cliff.

 

If one has a fear of heights, then a present awareness of being up high in a vehicle under your control, while feeling a sense of great danger, could trigger anxiety.

 

Fear of driving off ledges or cliffs can strike you at any time. And remember that this phobia can also include a fear of mountain driving, fear of ledges, fear of precipices, fear of overpasses and a general fear of driving in high places anywhere at all.

 

The possibilities add to this fear’s complexity. 

Regarding a sense of control, it’s interesting to consider the fact that driving anxiety for some is not necessarily a fear of driving, but a fear of losing control when driving.

 

This fear often accompanies a belief that the adrenaline surge one experiences when anxiously triggered can create a lack of control.

 

However, if that were true, I suppose race car drivers wouldn’t have much control or precision. They’re racing at 200 miles an hour with adrenaline surging through their system. And yet, they’re in total control.

 

So, the adrenaline surge you might call “panic” can’t really make you lose control. The reality is that when someone’s panicking, which means fighting their adrenaline, the sensations increase.

 

If people are intent on escaping those sensations, which can’t be done if you’re fighting them, they might make really poor choices to avoid them. This, counterintuitively, is a choice that increases adrenaline. Which for those who misinterpret and fear these sensations, means panic with a capital “P”!



For help for fear of heights, call Dr. April at

310-429-1024

 

fear of driving in high places

 


Origin of The Fear of Driving off a Cliff

 

Driving anxiety on mountain roads, cliffs, overpasses and bridges is very common.

 

Though, this is often considered a fear of heights while driving, the reality is that many people with this fear aren’t necessarily affected by fear of heights in daily life.

 

In other words, driving anxiety when in high places may have manifested primarily when driving specific height-oriented routes.

 

This is why many people describe this driving anxiety phobia as a

 

-       specific fear of driving in high places, 

 

-       fear of driving off a cliff, 

 

-       fear of ledges, 

 

-       fear of overpasses 

 

-       fear of mountain driving. 

 

-       Or, for some, just a fear of edges, not heights. 

 


Still, fear of heights is one of the most common phobias, whether it manifests in driving or not. In fact, it’s so common that I would say, anecdotally, it ranks right behind fear of public speaking.


For those with a historically mild fear of heights, it might be surprising when a sudden Cremnophobia develops. Some may not even know the origin.

 

Phobias can develop fast! In fact, the simple beginning of this fear could be feelings of overwhelm in other general aspects of life (work stress, relationship conflicts, financial woes, etc.), triggering an unexpected adrenaline surge while driving on a cliff road. 


Sometimes, there’s no consciously available rhyme or reason as to why you’re being triggered by a sudden fear of heights and fear of driving off a cliff. There are a myriad of potential reasons. The truth is, though of interest to most, the origin doesn’t really matter.

 

Overcoming your phobia of driving off a cliff is what now needs to happen if you want less limitation and more freedom. 

 

 

Acrophobia

 

 

Still, to satisfy your natural curiosity, below are some potential explanations as to how acrophobia and fear of driving off a cliff can develop:



1. ) Age-related decline and fear of heights

 

Sometimes, our fears can develop with age-related decline.

 

As we age, a new or intensified fear of heights can be triggered by changes and nerve cell decreases in the vestibular system of the inner ear (often referred to as our organ of balance -1).

 

These neurological changes often impact balance and even encourage feelings of dizziness (2). Most seniors experience this, at some point.

 

The challenge then becomes working with these developmental stages of life while driving safely - without anxiety when driving near ledges or cliffs and in high places.

 

2.) Vestibular system issues and fear of cliffs

 

Vestibular system disorders can encourage the development of Cremnophobia and Acrophobia.

 

The Vestibular System is responsible for managing our sense of balance through our inner ear fluid, canals, and sensors. If something goes awry within, problems can occur.

 

Vestibular disorder symptoms can include

 

- vertigo 

 

- an unstable posture 

 

- feelings of dizziness

 

- disorientation

 

- falling or confusion

(2)

 

 

fear of driving off a cliff 

 

It’s probably no surprise to learn that vestibular disorders can develop in old age. This may be one reason why the elderly often drive slowly (and a reason for all of us to be more understanding with geriatric drivers!).

 

If someone has a vestibular malfunction, you can see why they might develop a fear of heights based on the above symptoms.

 

In fact, one could say that vestibular disorders and fear of driving off a cliff might go hand-in-hand. 


For those with a balance disorder, vestibular rehabilitation therapy can be sought.

 

This form of treatment provides exercises that focus on managing dizziness and imbalance with techniques that help cope with the vestibular malfunction. These may include balance retraining and vision stability techniques. (3)

 

If you’re afraid of driving off a cliff, it’s easy to understand how useful these corrections could be towards trusting your safety and ability to monitor real danger when driving in high places.

 

3.) The Call of the Void and Fear of Heights:

 

Yet another interesting consideration is a concept called “the call of the void“, also known as “the high place phenomenon” (It’s so common the French have a name for it, too: “L’appel du vide”). (4)

 

I would venture to say that every human has experienced this, but few feel comfortable sharing it.

 

Simply put, this is a thought or impulse to purposely drive off a cliff, mountain road, or bridge. Or perhaps, purposely swerve into oncoming traffic. Or jump onto train tracks just before a train arrives.

 

These are natural thoughts everyone has at one time or another. They’re anxiety provoking for many because the thought or impulse is often accompanied by the reality that it could all be over in a single moment.

 

Ultimately, fear of death is at the core of many anxiety issues. 

The “call of the void” can also be frightening because it can feel like an urge, which is very confusing when you don’t have a death wish! That “urge”, however, is most likely just the adrenaline surge that coincides with our body’s survival instinct and the triggering of the fight or flight mechanism.

 

So, take comfort in the fact that it’s not an actual urge corresponding to your desire to say your final bye-bye! 

Adding insult to injury, as we get older, most of us are aware we have fewer years in front of us than behind us.

 

Though daunting, with Acrophobia and fear of driving off a cliff it’s important to keep in mind these thoughts of our mortality are natural (Unless, of course, you’re experiencing a depressive episode with suicidal ideation and impulse. Then it’s time to seek treatment right away).


 

fear of ledges

 

 

 

4.) The Modeling of Cremnophobia:


Another way people can develop cremnophobia is via modeling by family members or others.

 

For example, during childhood if one consistently observes adults afraid of driving near a cliff or on mountain roads, it’s natural to adopt the same phobia. Essentially, children can be taught to fear certain experiences. 

 

5.) An Anxious Experience while Driving:

 

Another way cremnophobia can develop is through an uncomfortable experience driving in high places. Depending on the location, this can also lead to developing a fear of overpasses or fear of precipices. 

But an uncomfortable experience is not required. Sometimes it just takes a frightening movie scene to encourage one’s fear. 

 

How many movie scenes have you seen that have involved people accidentally (or forcibly) driving off a cliff or mountain road? As mentioned earlier, I’ve seen plenty.

 

Depictions of cliff or bridge suicide can also trigger Cremnophobia in some people, simply based on the very thought. It’s important to be aware that anxiety is always thought-based.  Without fearful thoughts, there is no anxiety!

 

How Do I Get Over My Fear of Driving Heights?

 

As with all phobias, the proven treatment for fear of driving off of a cliff is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). And true CBT for a phobia always includes exposure therapy.

 

Exposure entails one being gradually exposed to their fear-based stimuli until their brain adapts. More specifically, this would include strategies to help one gradually expose themselves to their fear of cliffs.

 

The gradual piece is important, so facing this fear is more tolerable, rather than one being absolutely terrified while driving on mountain roads, steep highways and freeways.

 

The key to overcoming ANY irrational fear (anxiety) has been scientifically proven to be CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) primarily using the technique of exposure.

 

Again, simply put, exposure is about gradually facing each level of your fear in a structured manner with the goal of your brain adapting to the fear sensitized stimulus.

 

Once your brain has become desensitized to a lower level of your fear, we then move on to the next level. All the way until your brain no longer reacts to your anxiety trigger as if you’re in a current life-threatening situation. 

 

This, along with examining and modifying false beliefs you’re maintaining around driving in high places is the focal point of treatment. And how you too can overcome fear of driving off a cliff!

 

If you're limited by your fear of driving off a cliff, click this link driving anxiety treatment to take a look at The April Center for Anxiety Fear of Driving Program.

 

Or for help for Cremnophobia now, give Dr. April a call at 310-429-1024

 

You can also click the link to buy his book,

The Anxiety Getaway” on Amazon. 

Time to overcome Anxiety!


References:

1.) National library of medicine, 
“how does our sense of balance work?“ ncbi.nlm.nih.gov 2010
2.) Hopkinsmedicine.org, “Vestibular Balance Disorder”.

3.) my.clevelandclinic.org, “Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy”. 

4.) livescience.com, “What is the ‘call of the void’?, 12/13/21
5.) typesofphobia.com, “how common is cremnophobia or the steep fear of cliffs?“  Pawel L.

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