Case Study: The Psychiatrist

A psychiatrist who had driven very happily for many years developed a driving phobia when her grandmother became very ill.

Her grandmother was in a care home an hour’s drive away and the only times the psychiatrist could visit her was before she went to work each day. So she would get up early, drive out to see her grandmother and then drive on to work.

This became very stressful because not only was she stressed by her grandmother being unwell, she was getting up very early each day and this was exhausting her. Added to that her visits were always very upsetting with her grandmother always begging her not to leave her there.

One day, after a visit to her grandmother she experienced a moment of mild panic when driving to the office. This was the beginning of her driving phobia. It was brought on by physical and emotional stress.

Not wanting to self-medicate with drugs (few doctors we see take their own medicine), she came to the MindSpa Phobia Clinic for help and was so surprised by the result that she is now studying the techniques we use in the clinic because all her training had led her to believe that change could not happen so quickly.

What driving fear sticks to

Driving phobias start for very similar reasons (usually raised background stress levels leading to panic) but because the initial set-up event will happen in different situations for different people, driving phobia becomes linked to different things for different people.

So driving phobias can attach to:

  • Driving on wide open roads like multi-lane highways (most common)
  • Major or trunk roads
  • Small roads
  • Hills (or even slight inclines up or down)
  • High, mountainous roads
  • Bridges
  • Flyovers
  • Bends
  • Cambers
  • Junctions
  • Roadworks
  • Traffic lights
  • Particular routes
  • Overtaking (especially large or long vehicles)
  • Being boxed in by heavy traffic
  • Being tail-gated
  • Being close to particular vehicles (usually large or high-sided ones)

Driving phobias often start on multi-lane highways and spread to dual carriageways, then to smaller roads restricting the routes, speed and distances that can be traveled.