The April Center for Anxiety Attack Management - Los Angeles staff, led by Dr. Craig April (often known as the panic attack doctor), offers special help for those suffering with a fear of driving or driving anxiety. Because it is one of the most commonly treated phobias here at The April Center, we offer a variety of treatment options (including phone sessions) to teach you how to overcome fear of driving, as quickly as possible.
You CAN Go From This . . .
TO THIS . . .
Treating Fear of Driving and Driving Anxiety
Individual therapy and driving anxiety support groups are offered in our Los Angeles office location. We also offer driving anxiety treatment by phone throughout California (including San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Orange county, Riverside County, Fresno, Marin, San Bernardino, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, Santa Clara, Ventura).
Because we're very aware of the lack of driving anxiety treatment specialists throughout the U.S., we offer phone sessions when appropriate to people all over the country (including Atlanta, Dallas, Denver, Austin, Phoenix, Houston, Chicago, New York, Seattle, New Jersey, Boston, Philidelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington DC, Providence RI, and more). This has proven to be a very successful method in treating fear of driving (also known as vehophobia).
And because there is a lack of driving phobia experts outside the U.S., we even offer phone sessions to people struggling in London, Australia, Canada (Toronto, Alberta, Calgary, Vancouver) and more.
List Of Commonly Treated Driving Anxiety Symptoms at The April Center:
Are you suffering with any of these symptoms?
1.) You often avoid driving outside of your comfort zone, which could be limited to an area around your neighborhood, a certain amount of mileage, specific roads, or simply driving on side streets while avoiding the freeway altogether.
2.) Your fear of driving seems to involve more than just the act of driving and can include a fear of losing control, a fear of passing out, fear of being trapped on a road or freeway with no quick escape, fear of hitting other cars or pedestrians, and more.
3.) When you are driving or anticipating driving, you often experience a great degree of anxiety, which includes physical symptoms such as, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, breathing struggles, shaking and trembling, sweating, nausea, tingling of the hands, and many more.
4.) You often create excuses in order to avoid specific situations where you would be forced to drive.
5.) You have (or fear having) panic attacks and anxiety attacks while driving, which may involve many of the above physical symptoms and the feeling that you may lose control of yourself, the car and sometimes reality.
6.) You fear that when driving you may cause an accident that brings harm to you and others.
7.) You experience anticipatory anxiety and are scared days or weeks before a scheduled time where you know you'll be expected to drive.
8.) You often depend on others to drive you where you need to go with a reduced ability to take care of your life on your terms.
9.) Your ability to truly live free and roam has decreased due to the lack of freedom that your driving fear and anxiety have created.
(*If any of the above symptoms sound familiar to you, then you most likely have a fear that requires The April Center's specialized driving anxiety treatment program.)
We Design Our Fear Of Driving Program To Fit Your Needs, Specific Driving Anxiety Symptoms and Budget. Our Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy Treatment Plans may Include:
1.) Individual therapy sessions
2.) Support Groups
3.) Scheduled Phone Sessions - For those who live a far distance from The April Center or currently feel unable to drive to the office.
4.) Fear of driving exposure sessions with Dr. April in the car helping you cope while coaching you as you gradually face your fear.
*We have an extremely high success rate at The April Center in Los Angeles with our Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy approach - the only proven form of treatment for fear of driving and all other forms of anxiety. (Click here for some of our success stories. )
Follow this link to take a look at our post on the most common ways in which a fear of driving can develop.
*Driving anxiety does not go away on its own and the more you avoid driving, the more long-lasting and severe your fear can become. Fear of driving is treatable with cbt therapy at The April Center!
If you fear driving, trust that it can be overcome with the proper help and treatment.
Call 310-429-1024 (Los Angeles office) NOW to schedule your appointment today!
The April Center now offers -
Two office locations:
- Los Angeles
- The South Bay (serving Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Palos Verdes, Torrance and El Segundo)
The April Center For Anxiety Attack Management is committed to helping you remove the destructive barriers of fear of driving and driving anxiety, so that you may lead a calmer, healthier, happier life.
Driving Anxiety Advice: Seek an expert!
I recently reviewed multiple sites and read many articles online written by former driving anxiety sufferers. Many even have their own programs and websites offering their help to those with driving anxiety.
After reading these articles and exploring many of these programs, I have come to the conclusion that it is often like “the blind leading the blind”! These articles are filled with the wrong information and incorrect advice on how to beat driving anxiety.
WHY WOULD ANYONE GO TO A NON-EXPERT?
Why seek help from someone who has no experience in treating anxiety and no training? Is it simply because those with a driving phobia are looking for anyone who might understand what it’s like to fear driving? Perhaps. However, that is the wrong path.
I can tell you that we’ve treated hundreds and hundreds of driving anxiety cases at The April Center. We’ve successfully treated them with scientifically proven strategies and, therefore, we absolutely understand what it’s like for those with this fear. And, more importantly, our trained specialists know exactly how to treat it.
DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME
Don’t waste your time on programs that are offered by non-specialists and non-experts! Over the many years we’ve been treating this fear, people have come to The April Center after working with nonexperts, nonspecialists and even therapists who don’t truly specialize in anxiety disorders and shared their lack of progress after much time and money spent with non-experts.
To overcome your driving phobia, you simply must seek an anxiety doctor. A trained professional and specialist in the area of anxiety disorders. When you have a specific medical problem, you go to a specialist for that issue, not your family doctor.
THE WRONG ADVICE
Here are just a few examples of the wrong advice I read online about overcoming driving anxiety written by non-experts and non-specialists (and even therapists) who aren’t experts in the field of anxiety disorders.
1. Take along a friend
This is not recommended. Because eventually you’re going to have to drive alone anyway. So, you’re just prolonging your fear and creating a dependence on another person when you’re driving. This is not driving freedom. This is like only riding a bike with training wheels or only wearing water wings in the pool without ever taking them off and swimming freely.
This will not help your fear of driving. At The April Center we have tools and strategies designed to help you learn to drive on your own. We do this gradually and do not throw you in the proverbial deep end (that's called flooding therapy). Our work is done at the pace you desire.
2. Drive under the speed limit
Driving under the speed limit is not a helpful ongoing strategy. If it’s homework designed to start slow and build, so that you’re eventually facing the speed limit you fear, it could have benefit. However, to overcome fear of driving one must at least drive the speed limit on the highway and freeway. There are tools and strategies that can help the driving anxiety sufferer achieve this. Again, the proper help is what is required.
3. Only stay in the right lane on the highway or freeway:
Again, this is not a helpful strategy in and of itself. Why? Because it is avoidant. Any behavior that is designed to help you avoid facing your driving anxiety is going to backfire and, at the very least, maintain and reinforce your fear of driving. It could, however, be a beginning strategy as you work your way over to the left lane on a gradual basis with the tools and strategies that you’re being taught by a specialist, such as here at The April Center.
4. Drive during light traffic hours or heavy traffic hours to manage your fear:
Please refer to the response in number 3 above. Same issue. This is avoidant. Could be a beginning strategy, but is not going to help you overcome your driving phobia.
5. Take medication
Medication for a driving phobia or fear of driving is not going to work. At least not for helping you overcome your specific driving anxiety. Some medications may reduce one's anxiety intensity. However, there is no specific driving anxiety medication. Unfortunately, many psychiatrists and family doctors prescribe medication that is addictive and only worsens the problem, while creating a dependence. No medication can help one overcome fear. The best way to overcome fear is to face it with the proper tools and strategies taught by an anxiety treatment specialist.
6. Take driving classes with driving instructors
Once again, you need someone trained in treating anxiety disorders. An anxiety treatment specialist. Someone who understands all the nuances of an anxiety issue and has vast experience and education treating this issue. A driving instructor does not have this specialized knowledge. Therefore, you’re most likely wasting your time and prolonging your driving phobia by taking driving classes - again.
Yes, you are scared to drive. You may even fear you've forgotten how to drive on the freeway. But just because you've lost confidence driving does not mean you don't know how to drive. It's just like riding a bike. One never forgets because it's committed to muscle memory. So rather than focusing on how to drive (which you already know) your focus needs to be on how to get over fear of driving!
7. Start taking the subway or a bus
Again, this is truly avoidant. Please refer to responses in number three and number four above.
8. Do hypnosis
Hypnosis is useful for a number of issues. Unfortunately, despite some hypnotherapist’s advertising, it’s not helpful for treating anxiety disorders. I am not saying this because I’m competing with hypnotherapists. Quite frankly, if I observed that hypnotherapy works for treating anxiety disorders, I would have sought training in it. Unfortunately, although hypnosis has been shown to help with self-esteem, smoking cessation, weight loss and some other issues, it simply doesn’t help people overcome fear of driving or anxiety disorders like phobias, OCD and panic attacks.
9. Talk it through
You can talk about your driving anxiety until you're blue in the face. It's not going to make a difference! At least, not in reducing and removing your driving anxiety. CBT is the only proven treatment for anxiety. Yet there are many therapists out there that still believe talking about your anxiety and exploring old, unresolved feelings and family conflicts can somehow resolve it. It can't and won't.
10. Do affirmations
Just like talking it through, this won't work either. You can repeat all the positive affirmations about fear of driving you want, such as "I'm a good driver", "Driving is easy and fun", "Everybody drives and so can I", "I'm at peace with the road and calm on the highway" and so on. Still, your anxiety when you get in the car or drive the highway is going to override this positive self talk everytime! In fact, you've probably already had the experience that no matter what you tell yourself your anxiety overwhlems you and wins. By the way, this has to do with a brain issue regarding neural pathways that need shifting and changing. See below for more on this.
*We encourage you to seek our help by contacting us at 310-429-1024 now. Ultimately, you’ll save time and money. And, most importantly, make progress to overcome your driving anxiety!
A quick note on freeway driving anxiety:
Fear of driving on freeways is a common phobia, especially if you live in Los Angeles where freeway driving is needed to live a full life! But be hopeful. Freeway driving anxiety is highly treatable. You can regain confidence driving and get back on road behind the wheel!
Fear of driving on the freeway can be created by a variety of experiences. Some suffer freeway driving phobia after being in a car accident. Others develop it after observing an accident. And others develop this fear without experiencing or witnessing any accident at all. Anxiety and the development of a phobia can occur when we feel a loss of control. And we then seek to avoid that which creates discomfort.
Typically, those who struggle with this fear can drive semi-comfortably on side streets, but can't bring themselves to get on the freeway. This is especially true if a perceived difficulty getting off the freeway is experienced while driving and anxious. A common anxiety focus tends to be fear of fast speeds and fear of freeway panic. Many sufferers have had panic attacks on the freeway. And most now frequently say to themselves, "I hate driving". Meanwhile, fearing something and hating something are two different things.
How does one get rid of a freeway driving phobia? Seeking treatment from a qualified anxiety specialist is the key. The only proven method for treating freeway driving anxiety is cognitive-behavioral therapy. A licensed anxiety doctor can teach you tools and provide strategies, so that you may begin to reduce your fear of driving on the freeway. In addition, the anxiety treatment specialist will gradually expose you to what you fear, in addition to helping you manage panic and anxiety.
Afraid of Freeway Merging?
Anxiety over freeway merging is a common symptom when it comes to fear of driving. For those with driving anxiety, merging onto the freeway or from one freeway to another can be difficult and trigger several fears, such as:
1. The speed of other drivers. Fear can be triggered when the end of the on ramp arrives and you’re now merging and expected to drive at the same speed others are driving.
2. The size of the gap between cars that you must find a place to enter. Fear can be triggered when searching for a safe and comfortable spot to enter between cars. You might question whether the space between cars is large enough for you to enter without cutting them off and without hitting them or them hitting you.
3. Switching and adapting to another freeway. Fear can be triggered when you must change freeways after finding comfort on the freeway you’ve been driving. Also, anxiety can rise because you must pay attention to the correct freeway lane in which to make the transfer at the same time you’re focusing on driving at an appropriate speed.
4. Aggressive drivers. Sometimes drivers speed up to avoid getting stuck behind a slower merging driver. This can be challenging for those who fear driving to properly gage when to merge, due to fear of not finding enough space or any at all.
5. Waiting too long. Anxiety can be triggered when merging is a struggle, due to traffic or the speed of other drivers. Especially when you’re approaching the end of the lane where one can get on the freeway.
6. The mood of other drivers. Some people with driving fear become anxious when other drivers wave them into a lane or, conversely, when other drivers are clearly unhappy with their performance and show it in ways that we’re all unfortunately familiar!
What Causes Fear of Driving to Develop?
It's important to think of fear of driving as similar to any other phobia - especially when it comes to its creation. Phobias develop for many reasons. Often times, one develops a phobia following an uncomfortable situation or even just an uncomfortable thought. Then, all that is required, is for one to avoid the situation based on that discomfort. The more you avoid, the more the anxiety about the feared experience increases. So, obviously the avoidance is counterproductive.
But, avoidance is also seductive. Avoiding that which makes us uncomfortable feels better in the moment. We are then inclined to keep turning to avoidance to feel safe. Therein lies the problem.
When it comes to phobia creation, unfortunately, this negative avoidance cycle is what trains our brain to fear. To put this simply, this cycle creates a neural pathway that encourages the brain to surge your system with adrenaline whenever you approach this feared experience. So, through avoidance, you unintentionally teach your brain that this experience is dangerous. Your brain is now trying to protect you from the fear by making you uncomfortable whenever you approach the feared situation or stimulus - and sometimes even when you just think about it! You can now see how detrimental it is to avoid that which you fear.
Let's put it in the context of your fear of driving. For example, because you have avoided driving on the freeway time and time again, your brain now floods your system with adrenaline (you label these sensations anxiety, which is another conditioned response). And the more you label these adrenaline sensations as "uncomfortable", "wrong" and "anxiety", the more you tend to fight them. This often then leads to a panic attack and further anxiety attacks down the road, so to speak. So, to avoid these scary sensations and panic, you continue to avoid the freeway. It's a vicious cycle.
It's also another reason why anxiety treatment and fear of driving require a specialized anxiety treatment doctor. Treatment that requires the changing of neural pathways to resolve anxiety cannot succcessfully be conducted by an unlicensed novice or even a traditional talk therapist. This treatment should only be conducted by a licensed psychologist or therapist trained specifically in treating anxiety disorders with CBT and exposure methods.
To clarify, a main goal of cbt treatment for driving anxiety (and all other forms of anxiety for that matter) is to create a new neural pathway based on reducing and extinguishing or removing your brain's learned driving fear response. In other words, cbt helps you unlearn the negative pattern and teaches your brain to stop mistakenly protecting you with surges of adrenaline (anxiety as you most likely call it). Your anxious response leads you to the classic fight or flight survival mode, unnecessary in regular driving conditions.
CBT is focused on the here and now, while addressing Behavioral and Cognitive changes to resolve fear. When it comes to driving fear and anxiety, changing your behaviors retrains your brain. Meanwhile, shifting your perspective to a healthier, more reality-based one, rather than one that falsely encourages anxiety, is the cognitive side of therapy designed to solidify long lasting change.
So, start believing that you can overcome driving anxiety. And remind yourself that there is nothing to be ashamed of, to feel inferior over or less than. This is simply a brain issue. Further proof of this should be your experience of telling yourself over and over that there is nothing to be afraid of. That this is irrational. That people of all ages drive easily and confidently and so should you. And yet . . . no matter what you tell yourself . . . you still get anxious driving! This proves that it's a brain glitch or trick and not you! Thankfully, there is treatment that works!
Call 310-429-1024 (Los Angeles office) NOW to schedule your appointment today!
I Hate Driving (And Other Excuses Those With Driving Anxiety Tell Themselves)
When people struggle with anxiety, they come up with all sorts of excuses to avoid what they fear. One of the most frequent excuses is to tell oneself that you don't like certain aspects of the experience and that is why you're choosing to avoid it. Of course, many anxiety sufferers know deep down they're not being honest with themselves or others. Here are the most common excuses and false beliefs those with fear of driving try to convince themselves of, in order to continue their driving avoidance.
1. I hate driving.
This is the most popular excuse because it is broad and encompasses lots of irritations and grievances with driving. But, when asked if this was always the case, most will acknowlege that it was not. In fact, before they developed their driving phobia, many even remember a time when they actually enjoyed driving and being in their car!
2. I hate other drivers or the way people drive in this city.
Sure, other drivers can be aggressive and even downright reckless. And as the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre once said, "Hell is other people." But living and doing invovles being around people as they're doing the same. And if you focus on your own driving, this is the best defense. In fact, dealing with other drivers is part of the experience of driving. Don't avoid the experience. Everybody who drives has to deal with other drivers, too. They even have to deal with you! So, don't use this excuse.
3. I hate traffic.
Traffic is another part of the driving experience and one most of us in cities have to contend with as a necessary evil. However, your reason for hating it might have more to do with Agoraphobia. Some who fear driving are Agoraphobic and some even struggle with Panic Disorder. When in traffic, the main fear tends to be of feeling trapped with no easy escape.
4. Driving is a waste of time. I'd rather take the bus or the train or subway. Or let my spouse, boyfriend or girlfriend drive me. I get so much done.
Many with a driving phobia convince themselves of this when, in reality, it's avoidant to the core. By the way, there is nothing wrong with taking the bus, train, subway or getting a ride from your wife, husband, boyfriend or girlfriend for those that aren't afraid to drive. It's just that for those scared to drive, the danger in getting comfortable with this avoidance is that it takes you further away from getting in the car, driving highways and facing all other fears associated with getting back on the road. And remember, every time you avoid, you encourage and reinforce more fear!
5. Driving is far too dangerous.
Sure, driving has its dangers. We all face them when we get on the road. Some who fear driving are afraid they'll get into an accident. Some develop a fear of driving after being in an accident. However, the degree and focus of anxiety for those who fear driving has reached irrational proportions. They tend to focus on aspects of the road or driving environment that are not completely fraught with danger and are, simply, just part of driving. This includes speed limits on the highway, traffic, left turn signals, passengers, etc.
6. I love working from home.
7. I hate traveling.
8. I love my home and neighborhood. It's got all I need.
Follow this link to check out our new infographic called "The Anxiety Cycle On A Bicycle" for an illustration on the development of a phobia, anxiety disorder or fear.
Follow this link for more on Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy.
Follow the link for more information on therapy for anxiety