How To Avoid Panic Attacks While Driving – If you’ve ever experienced a panic attack while driving, you know that it can be very scary and even dangerous. You may not realize that this is a very common occurrence, and you are not alone. Many people experience anxiety while driving, and there’s nothing wrong with experiencing this. There are ways to approach anxiety and panic attacks and find some relief.
First, it may be helpful to understand what panic attacks are and what causes them. A panic attack is a period of intense fear and debilitating anxiety. The symptoms can be so severe that many people think they are having a heart attack when they experience it.
How To Avoid Panic Attacks While Driving
About one-third of American adults will experience a panic attack in their lifetime. Only a small number of these people experience chronic panic attacks, known as panic disorder. Panic disorder is characterized by recurrent panic attacks and feelings of fear and anxiety.
Anxiety Vs Panic Attack
There are many different causes of panic attacks. There is a large genetic factor, with panic disorder and panic attacks running in families. Other life experiences, such as major transitions (graduation, divorce, childbirth, etc.), stopping medication, or trauma can also increase the risk of anxiety and panic attacks. Using stimulants such as cocaine, amphetamines, caffeine, and nicotine can significantly increase your risk of panic attacks and panic disorder.
Finally, panic attacks can occur when it is perfectly safe. Overwhelming anxiety and fear may not be accurate to the situation you are facing. However, even a small moment of anxiety or fear can trigger a panic attack. This happens often while driving because driving can cause anxiety in many people.
Road anxiety and panic attacks are just one way that panic and anxiety can occur. Students may feel anxious during exams, and stressed parents may feel anxious at night. Panic attacks while driving are another common way people experience panic disorder and anxious feelings.
If you have experienced a panic attack while driving on the highway or sitting in your car before getting on the road, it is important to know that this is not abnormal. Thousands of Americans experience this every year. As you become accustomed to experiencing panic attacks, you can approach challenges in new ways and learn how to cope with less frequent episodes.
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Symptoms of anxiety while driving can vary from person to person. It also depends on the severity of the attack. A mild anxiety attack can be dramatically different from a full-blown panic attack. Typically, symptoms of a panic attack while driving include:
If you experience a panic attack while driving, these symptoms can be very scary. If you are having a panic attack, you may need to safely pull over to the side of the road to ensure the safety of yourself and those around you. However, you should not act too hastily. If you decide to do so, be safe on the road.
While many people feel anxious while driving, some people have an underlying fear of driving. This can manifest itself as a panic attack when driving over a bridge, stuck in traffic, or during long drives. Some people feel anxious because of the speed and intensity of driving on the highway.
Depending on your relationship with your driving experience, it can be a stressful activity at first. The driving experience is stressful for many people due to the risks associated with cars, lack of control over other cars and drivers, and lack of confidence in their own driving abilities.
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A single event, such as slamming on the brakes while driving or being stuck in traffic, can trigger a panic attack. However, many people experience unprovoked panic attacks while driving. They seem to appear out of nowhere. While no single event may cause a panic attack, it is often the inherently stressful or anxiety-provoking nature of driving that triggers a panic attack.
There are several ways to reduce anxiety while driving. There are a few things you can do in the moment of a panic attack, but you need to be very careful when you’re not driving. Here are some things you can do:
First, our top priority is your safety and the safety of those around you. If you’re having a panic attack while driving, it can be difficult to remember. If you decide to slow down your car or pull off the road, do so safely. Sudden movements and sharp turns can make panic even worse, so please be careful and drive safely. There’s nothing wrong with parking your car until the panic attack passes!
One of the best ways to help relieve anxiety and panic attacks is to change your lifestyle. You can eliminate things that make anxiety worse, such as stimulants, stressful situations, and difficult people. You can also add things that support your comfort, such as exercise, healthy eating habits, and rest periods. Seeking help from a therapist or support group has also proven beneficial for many people. Individual therapy sessions have been shown to be helpful, as have therapy groups and social support.
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If you are experiencing panic attacks or are driving peacefully, you may want to consider incorporating some relaxation techniques into your driving habits. There are ways to meditate while driving, and you can find ways to invite relaxation into your driving experience. While you don’t want to overprepare and convince yourself that you’re bound to experience anxiety, you can consider gentle options like relaxing music, breathing techniques, and scheduling breaks while driving to give your nervous system some time and space. Rest assured.
One thing that can be useful in dealing with panic attacks while driving is to simply change your focus. Play some music, listen to a podcast, or chat with your passengers. Gently focusing your mind on something else can take your focus away from your anxiety and help you calm down. If you start to feel anxious, it may be a good idea to turn down the music to help you relax.
There are many therapists and mental health professionals who have experience working with people who experience panic attacks. If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety or panic attacks, get help. In-person and long-distance consultations are available. Click the image below to get started. Anxiety can arise in the most unusual places at the most inopportune moments. Things that were previously common tasks or places you frequently visit suddenly become the source of feelings of panic and anxiety. Driving can be one of those activities. Confusion and loss of reason and self-control can lead to panic attacks while driving, which is very dangerous.
So, if you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder or the driving variant of agoraphobia, here are five psychiatrist-approved ways to overcome panic attacks while driving.
Panic Attack Info Sheet (worksheet)
Panic attacks typically peak a few minutes after they begin and then gradually taper off, allowing the body to return to its normal rhythm. Closing your eyes and taking deep breaths will only prolong the attack by stimulating your body’s fight-or-flight response.
Awareness and acceptance are the first steps to overcoming anxiety. So the next time you feel a panic attack approaching while driving, stop the car, let it run its course, and then resume driving when you feel you have regained control.
If just seeing a car triggers anxiety and panic, practice shallow breathing (breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth) before and while approaching the car.
Another way to distract yourself is to focus on your breathing to calm yourself and relax your body, helping hyperventilation subside.
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Try small stretches to relieve muscle tension throughout your body, relax your facial muscles, and slightly roll your head from side to side. You can also try tightening your grip on the wheel and relaxing your hands, repeating this several times until the panic subsides.
Redirect your body’s attention elsewhere. You can visualize yourself in a tranquil scene, make a mental to-do list of the remaining tasks for the day, or even look out at the scenery or observe other cars passing by.
If you are traveling with someone else, ask them to talk to you and have a positive conversation. But if you’re driving alone, try repeating positive affirmations like ‘I’m safe,’ ‘This will pass,’ and ‘Nothing bad will happen.’ You can also sing along to your favorite song to help keep your child’s attention.
If you have severe anxiety or panic attacks related to or while driving, try acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). This is a continuation of learning to embrace anxiety, combining mindfulness and exposure therapy.
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So, instead of trying to control each anxious thought, respond with a generally positive thought, accept it, stay grounded in the moment, and let these thoughts flow.
The loss of control that typically accompanies panic attacks while driving can be dangerous for people who:
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