Amaxophobia (Fear of Driving)
What is amaxophobia?
People who have amaxophobia have a fear of driving or being a passenger in a car or other vehicle. Someone with amaxophobia may have such extreme anxiety or fear at the thought of being in a vehicle that they’re unable to get to work, stores and other places.
“Amaxa” (or “hamaxa”) is the Greek word for carriage. Phobia means fear. Someone with a fear of driving or riding in a vehicle is amaxophobic. Amaxophobia is also called:
What is a phobia?
Phobias are a type of anxiety disorder. They cause an extreme fearful reaction to something that isn’t actually harmful.
Amaxophobia is a specific phobic disorder. A specific object (a vehicle) or situation (driving or riding in a vehicle) brings on a fearful response.
How common is amaxophobia?
It’s hard to know exactly how many people have a specific phobia, like amaxophobia. Many people may keep this fear to themselves or may not recognize they have it. About 1 in 10 American adults and 1 in 5 teenagers will deal with a specific phobia disorder at some point in their lives.
What are the types of amaxophobia?
Someone with amaxophobia may be:
- OK driving but can’t handle having someone else behind the wheel.
- Able to ride in a vehicle, but only with someone they trust, like a spouse.
- Unable to be a passenger in a vehicle regardless of who’s driving.
- Fine taking public transportation as long as the route stays the same.
- Unable to look at a vehicle or think about getting into a vehicle without feeling panic.
What does a person suffering from amaxophobia fear?
A person with amaxophobia is afraid of getting injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident. They don’t necessarily have a fear of driving or being a passenger. They may fixate on statistics about car accidents or plane crashes.
Symptoms and Causes
Who is at risk for amaxophobia?
You’re more likely to develop amaxophobia or a different type of specific phobic disorder if you already have:
What other phobias are associated with amaxophobia?
Two phobias closely linked to amaxophobia include:
- Agoraphobia, a fear of leaving one’s home or being unable to escape from a place or situation.
- Claustrophobia, a fear of enclosed spaces.
What are the causes of amaxophobia?
Potential amaxophobia causes include:
- Past traumatic experience: People who have been injured in car accidents or stuck on an unmoving subway train or another vehicle may develop amaxophobia. You’re also at risk if a loved one is seriously injured or dies in a vehicle accident or you witness an accident. In these instances, there may be a link between amaxophobia and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- Family history: Having a parent or close relative with a phobic disorder or anxiety disorder increases your risk. A gene mutation (change) may make you more anxious than others.
- Modeling: Observing someone with amaxophobia or hearing a person talk about their fear of driving can cause you to have the same phobia.
What are amaxophobia triggers?
Any type of vehicle — cars, trains, subways, buses, boats or planes — may bring on amaxophobia.
Amaxophobia triggers include:
- Driving a vehicle.
- Riding in a vehicle.
- Imagining yourself inside a vehicle.
- Seeing a vehicle in person or on TV.
What are amaxophobia symptoms?
Amaxophobia symptoms can range from mild to extreme. They include:
Diagnosis and Tests
How is amaxophobia diagnosed?
If amaxophobia disrupts your life, your healthcare provider may recommend seeing a mental health professional like a psychologist. The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) doesn’t recognize amaxophobia as a phobic disorder. But a psychologist may make a diagnosis after evaluating your symptoms.
You may have a specific phobic disorder if the fear:
- Occurs when you are in or near a vehicle.
- Causes you to miss out on work, social events and life.
- Affects your ability to enjoy life.
- Brings on symptoms of fear or anxiety that don’t match the actual danger.
- Lasts at least six months.
Management and Treatment
What are amaxophobia treatments?
Exposure therapy with a mental health professional helps many people overcome amaxophobia. As many as 9 in 10 people with specific phobias see symptom improvements after getting this type of psychotherapy (talk therapy). Exposure therapy involves steady exposures to images or situations that trigger symptoms.
During exposure therapy, you:
- Learn breathing and relaxation techniques to use before and during exposure.
- View images or videos of situations involving vehicles.
- Gradually progress to sitting behind the wheel or in the passenger seat of an unmoving vehicle.
- Drive or sit in the passenger seat of a vehicle that travels a short distance, like through an empty parking lot.
What are other amaxophobia solutions?
Other techniques to overcome amaxophobia include:
- Virtual reality exposure therapy: One small study found that virtual reality exposure therapy can help people overcome a fear of driving or being a passenger. Virtual reality technology makes it feel as if you’re physically inside a vehicle.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): Many providers use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) along with exposure therapy. CBT teaches you how to change the way you perceive and respond to situations that trigger symptoms.
- Medications: Anti-anxiety drugs may be helpful if you’re worried about having symptoms during an upcoming trip in a car, plane or another vehicle.
What are the complications of amaxophobia?
Severe amaxophobia can affect your quality of life. You may struggle to get to work, shop or attend social events. It can be difficult, sometimes impossible, to travel to see family, friends or go on vacation.
Some people experience panic attacks, which cause non-cardiac chest pain, racing heart rate and symptoms like a heart attack. Persistent worries about having panic attacks can lead to a panic disorder that requires the long-term use of anti-anxiety medications.
When should I call the doctor?
You should call your healthcare provider if you experience:
- Panic attacks.
- Persistent anxiety that interferes with daily life or sleeping.
What questions should I ask my doctor?
You may want to ask your healthcare provider:
- What is causing this phobia?
- What is the best treatment for me?
- Should I try exposure therapy?
- How long will I need therapy?
- Should I watch for signs of complications?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Phobias like amaxophobia can get worse when untreated. You may find yourself unable to work, spending less time with loved ones and missing out on life. An inability to drive or ride in a vehicle can greatly diminish your independence and quality of life. Speak to your healthcare provider about your concerns. Your provider can connect you with a mental health professional who has experience with exposure therapy. Many people can overcome amaxophobia with help.
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