How to Control Panic Attacks While Driving

how to control panic attacks while driving

If you have a lot of anxiety in the car that leads to panic attacks, you might want to find out how to control your panic attacks while driving. Panic attacks can be terrifying and overwhelming in themselves. If they happen while you are driving a car, you may find yourself in situations where you have had to pull over and found it difficult to calm yourself down again. You may even wonder why you seem to panic so much while other people seem so calm and collected when driving. The truth is that many people pretend to be calm while driving but in reality, they are not and they feel the same anxiety as you do.

We have discussed many driving fears and types of anxiety on this website before, but for once, we can boldly say that fear is not always a bad thing. I know this sounds strange and you may jump to the wrong conclusion and leave this page before I explain further, so wait!

Fear, especially when driving can actually be a good thing because it serves as a form of defense and keeps you alert all through the driving period. Being alert of possible dangers can be extremely beneficial in anticipating danger. You would agree that being alert while driving is more beneficial than the opposite. Now, this is not a reason to do nothing about your fears, and obviously to have fear escalate to panic attacks is far from pleasant, or helpful.

anxiety attack while driving

While a little fear can be good because it helps prepare you for any potential danger out there, when this fear or anxiety turns into full-blown panic attacks, then it’s time to step the brakes on it and find out how to control panic attacks while driving. Panicking can hamper your efforts and could turn counterproductive. Instead of focusing so much on fear, try to focus on other things that can get your mind off the fear.

I will offer tips and tricks on how you can control panic attacks while driving. If you are wondering if this anxiety while driving will ever stop, then let me assure you that they absolutely can, and you could be driving without any problems in the future. It might take some practice and time, but you can learn how to deal with panic attacks better.

How to control panic attacks while driving has become a subject that gets searched for more and more in recent years. Before learning how to control it, it is important to understand what exactly a panic attack is. A panic attack is a situation where there is an onset of intense discomfort or fear that increases by each minute of suspense. It is often accompanied by the pounding of the heart, sweating, trembling, accelerated heart rate and maybe shortness of breath. You know the way you feel when exercising at the gym and you push your heart and lungs just that little bit too far? That is very similar to how panic attacks feel.

Fear, on the other hand, is perceived danger; the feeling that something bad is about to happen, which compels you to go into hiding, flee or freeze for some time. You can see that these two things are quite different. While I occasionally encourage a little fear to keep you alert and focused while driving, I certainly do not encourage panic attacks and it’s time we take a look at some ways of controlling them.

Learn to Recognise Your Panic Attacks While Driving

Most people feel panic attacks coming. Your heart rate will increase, your breathing may change to faster, but shorter breaths. You might even start to feel the chaos in your head spinning out of control. As simple as it sounds, a panic attack overwhelms you with different feelings, and it’s important to try and stay in control. You need to let the panic in your head know that your body is in charge of this situations. Your body may be trembling and getting all squirmy with fear, in the midst of the confusion, let your body know that you are the one with the sole right to tell it what to do. The good news here is that panic is ‘blind’. It fuels itself from what you feed it with.

panic attacks while driving

So, if your body gets a hint from you that driving is something to be afraid of, fear will start crippling in and before you know it, it could turn into panic attacks. Take deep breaths, and slowly exhale. Do this severally and watch your body and heart rate return back to normal. It is important to confront your fears and turn your panic into a victory, however small it may be. You will see that nothing bad is going to happen which will help prevent attacks in the future. Recognising your bodies signals will help a great deal in preventing panic attacks from happening in the first place.

Accept the panic

Yes, you read right. By trying to run away when you are having an anxiety attack while driving, you will only end up making the situation worse. It means you are denying that the fear is there. But when you have prepared your mind and sort of acknowledge that it is there, but that you are under control, you will find panic attack easier to manage. There is a chance that with time, over-familiarity will kill the panic attack since it can no longer surprise you with its presence.

Many sufferers from panic attacks adopt the attitude of “it’s fine”. I’ve heard people say “it happens”. I’ve seen people deny that it’s a major impact on their life. It is important to understand what your panic attacks are, and that you acknowledge that you have to try and control them, instead of running away.

Try counting backward

When having panic attacks, experts suggest counting backward as a way of occupying your brain. Since the last thing your brain is ready to do in the moment of panic attack is to think, counting back from 100, 99, 98, 97, etc will help you divert your fear to something else while your body gains control of the situation. I have personally had learner drivers recite their mother’s name backward, or do multiplications of 7.

Tips and tricks on how to control panic attacks while driving

  • Try squeezing the steering wheel tightly before letting go when caught up in a panic attack. Doing this a few times in a row will help you channel the anxiety out of your body. Repeat it as often as you need to before driving off.
  • Massage your forehead, chin, eyes, and temple. While doing so, you will notice tense muscles will start relaxing. It’s alright to repeat words like: ‘I’m going to be alright. There is nothing to be afraid of.’
  • The next thing you should do is to rotate your shoulders by rolling them anticlockwise and clockwise. After that, try twisting your head sideways. Then roll your shoulder blades backward in an effort to press the pair against each other. Repeat this process for at least 4 times and then relax. You can practice this before driving or while stuck in traffic.
  • Check to make sure you are not squeezing your buttocks together. If you are, try relaxing it. It is important to watch your posture and stop yourself from tensing up too much. Free your muscles up with little exercises and make yourself comfortable.

If you put these tricks and tips into practice, you will find that the thought of panic attacks will start diminishing. These processes can also work for other areas you may be experiencing panic attacks other than driving. If after trying these for a while you still suffer from panic attacks while driving, then you may have to revisit a doctor, driving school or therapist to get your driving (back) up to mark.