Treating Post-Accident Vehophobia (Fear of Driving)
You’re driving along Sabattus Street in Lewiston, on your way to pick up a pizza for the kids because you’re too tired to cook. The weather is clear and night hasn’t set in yet, making it easy to forget that you’re approaching a dangerous intersection.
Suddenly another car shoots out of Randall Road into the intersection and T-bones your car. You suffer an extreme case of whiplash and begin experiencing a wide range of psychological symptoms that include insomnia, debilitating anxiety, and intense fear of driving.
Your doctor recommends a combination of medication and psychotherapy, but you worry that invisible (psychological and emotional) injuries may be difficult to recover from. If your injury impacts your ability to drive, it may limit your career prospects and may affect your social ties with friends and family who live far away. This is why such injuries are compensable when the collision is the fault of someone else’s negligence.
What is Vehophobia?
Vehophobia is a fear of driving. It can be mild (e.g. you’re only afraid of driving on interstate highways) or so extreme that you can’t even sit in the driver’s seat while the vehicle is parked. These fears typically arise from subconsciously reliving the accident every time you’re in a situation that reminds you of the trauma.
In their 2007 study Assessment and Treatment of PTSD After a Motor Vehicle Collision, Beck and Coffey reported that people who experience a serious motor vehicle crash have a greater risk of developing psychological problems. In up to 30% of collisions, post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms appear within 30 days, and over half of all PTSD sufferers experience mood disorders and depression that manifest in the following ways:
- Sleep disturbance
- Appetite changes
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair
- Crying a lot and feeling anxious for no reason
- Memory problems
- Inability to focus at work or while carrying out daily activities
Without treatment, these symptoms can have long-lasting effects. Fortunately, help is available.
How Is Vehophobia Treated?
When Vehophobia symptoms interfere with your ability to function, the right treatment can help you recover and regain lost confidence. Below are some options, any combination of which can make it easier to move forward.
Join a Support Group
There are support groups available for all forms of PTSD, including Vehophobia. Talking through your fears with a group of people who understand and can relate to your fears can be extremely helpful.
Work with a Therapist
Working with a therapist can help you cultivate positive ways to control anxious and depressive thoughts. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective in managing severe anxiety and fear. Your therapist may also guide you through exposure therapy, which is designed to let you slowly and carefully re-live parts of the car accident so you can face and learn to control your fear.
Prescription medication can help control common Vehophobia symptoms such as high blood pressure, anxiety, insomnia, depression, and regulation of emotions. Your doctor can work with you to determine if medications could be effective for your unique combination of symptoms.
Sign up For A Defensive Driving Course
With your treatment providers approval, signing up for a defensive driving course may help you get used to driving again. Under the guidance of a trained and experienced driving instructor, you may regain your ability to react calmly to stressful road conditions and feel more confident behind the wheel.
What’s the Bottom Line?
In 2017, there were 35,042 car crashes reported in Maine, resulting in 3,326 injuries. At Fales & Fales, P.A., we understand not only the visible but also the invisible injuries that a motor vehicle accident can cause. We will fight to help you get the compensation you need to recover emotionally as well as physically and financially. We’re here to listen, so please contact us.