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In this post, I would like to give some advice to people who get panic attacks while driving. I am no stranger to panic attacks, and I have learned many techniques for many different situations.
The first thing to understand about panic attacks is that the place or situation isn’t the problem. The actual problem is you (sorry, but it’s true). And I don’t mean at all that you have some kind of mental problem, because you don’t. What I really mean is that the only thing that is causing the fear of you having another panic attack is you being afraid of having another panic attack!
If you could develop a system for yourself that would take away the “fear” of having another panic attack while driving your car, then you wouldn’t have another panic attack while driving your car. It’s that simple.
To stop having panic attacks while driving you need to eliminate the fear of having another panic attack. Once that fear has gone, you will quickly discover that your anxiety attacks fade away. The only real way to lose the fear of the attacks is to simply accept the symptoms that you are experiencing.
This May Sound Very Alien So Far!
I agree that so far that I haven’t made much sense. So here is a real-life example of how I stopped having panic attacks in supermarkets, and then I’ll apply this to driving.
I had been totally fine in supermarkets all my life, and then one day I noticed that I felt a panic attack coming on as I was in the queue to pay. I paid and left and felt very anxious about what had just happened. I feared that on my next visit to the same supermarket that I’d have another panic attack. And sure enough, I did!
My panic attacks at this supermarket continued until I developed my simple ‘system.’
When I used my new system, my panic attacks at the supermarket stopped on DAY 1, and have never returned. I was delighted!
My Simple Panic Attack System
My system relies on just one psychological tool, and that tool is called ESCAPE. Or rather, the tool is based on knowing that there is a way to escape (but not using it).
With my supermarket panic attacks, I figured that if I ever had a panic attack again, then I would leave my shopping cart wherever I happened to be in the store, and I’d leave the store without buying anything.
The very moment that I realized that I had a means of escape (if I needed it), my panic attacks in that supermarket ended. Immediately! Literally!
The Fear of Being Trapped Somewhere Is A Major Cause of Panic Attacks
Being a person who suffers from panic attacks, I am very well aware that all of us Panic Attack folks share the same fear. That fear is that we worry about being enclosed in a place where there is no easy exit. We also fear what other people will think of us if we decide that we have to leave.
Having an exit plan in your mind ahead of the event is a very calming feeling. You go into the situation knowing that if you really have to leave, then you can leave. Then, by merely having that plan in your mind has the power to stop the panic attack from happening in the first place.
So How Does This Work When I Am Driving?
I’m glad you asked…
A car is not actually something that you cannot escape from. At any time during a car journey, you can stop the car and get out. On busy roads or motorways, you may have to wait until the next exit road, but you can still take that exit and get out of your car if you wish!
If someone is often with you in the car, then part 2 of my ‘system’ comes into play.
Part 2, is being strong enough to tell your passenger that if at any time you want to exit this road, then you will exit this road! Explain why you may need to exit. Be honest and just come out and say that you sometimes get panic attacks!
That last step above feels like a hard thing to do sometimes. We feel weak explaining that we are vulnerable. But by explaining it actually gives us tremendous strength!
Suddenly, you no longer have to feel afraid of what the person may say if you have to bail out of the situation. That angle is now covered because they now know.
The other angle that is also covered is the feeling of ‘no escape’ because you have made it clear that you will exit this road if you need to!
You Have Control
Panic attacks often feel like an evil ghost. They appear out of nowhere, and you feel like you have no control over what is happening to you. My simple two-part system gives you back that control and guess what, the evil ghost is powerless!
My Simple System Summary:
- Decide (before the event) that there is an exit and you’ll use it if you have to.
- Eliminate the fear that the person or people present will be surprised if you need to exit by merely being honest about your panic attacks while driving. Just tell them before the journey!
The two steps above cover all the fears that you have when you have panic attacks. Knowing that you can kill the evil ghost actually kills the panic attacks.
If you believe that your panic attacks are a rare event, then be assured that you are not alone. The following two statistics should make this fact very clear:
- Three people out of every 200 people suffer from panic attacks in any given year.
- Five people out of every 100 people will suffer from a panic attack at some point in their lives.
I wish you all the best!