Panic Attacks while Driving? Why It is Actually the Brain’s Strategy to Help You

Panic Attacks While Driving [Illustration]

Are you suffering from panic attacks while driving?

Do you believe that it is a kind of mental illness?

The truth is, having a driving phobia doesn’t mean that you have some kind of mental illness. Even though the feeling of fear is too much, this response is actually normal, and you can stop it as soon as possible.


Having the fear of driving is actually a response from the brain to protect you from pain. This is usually the result of certain unpleasant past experience, so this condition makes a lot of sense.

Fears and phobias can even be resulted from just watching TV, like what was experienced by a Montreal Gazette journalist after watching the traumatic 9/11 live report.

According to Robert Mantell, Ph.D from BrightLife Inc, the existence of anxiety could be considered as a beneficial and even a healthy response from the brain. He believes that the brain always has a helpful intent, including causing you to have panic attacks. This positive intent from the subconscious mind is meant to protect you from things or situations that will lead to pain.

Your brain tries to protect you in various ways, including by linking fear with anything that is going on when you are in a distressed or uncomfortable state, which in this case is driving or riding in a car.

So whenever you think about driving, you are mentally recreating the painful situation you experienced earlier in life. Therefore, you will experience intense fear and you may try your best to avoid the actual experience of driving a car. Your brain actually links pain with driving, and this is what people refer to as driving phobia.

This can happen because fear is the most effective tool for the brain to make you stay away from anything that could lead to the same kind of great pain you experienced earlier in your life.

Believe it or not, you can even take advantage of this to help you stop worrying, just like when the brain makes you avoid driving a car.


Those with OCD or Obsessive Compulsive Disorder tend to worry too much. According to Robert, one of the most effective ways to stop worrying is by worrying more!

This will be even more effective if you spend some time to nothing but worry, when you would rather do something fun, such as watching your favorite TV show. This way, the brain will link worrying to pain. Spending your time worrying when you should be watching your favorite TV show is certainly unpleasant.

That does make sense, doesn’t it?

So if you want to overcome panic attacks while driving, Robert recommends you regard this as a “challenge”, instead of a disorder. Overcoming fear of driving will be more effective if you view this as your brain’s strategy to protect you.

Furthermore, he also recommends you see this problem as an outdated strategy from your subconscious mind to protect you from pain. What you need is to tell the brain and make it understand that this strategy is no longer necessary.

To do this, there are various things you can do, including going to a hypnotherapist, using direct behavioral intervention, or even using Robert Mantell’s program. Whatever you do, the point here is to make you perceive differently anything you used to fear by doing some “mental exercises”, so therefore you will be able to respond differently.

Remember, constantly taking drugs is definitely not the most appropriate thing to do to overcome panic attacks while driving.

Photo by Herbert Kajiura on Flickr.


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