The modern world can have its dangers. Global terrorism, climate change, economic collapse, the latest INSERT ANIMAL NAME flu strain. Its enough to make you scared every time you turn on the TV and see the latest breaking news flash. But for some people, these dangers are the least of their concerns. For some, modern life itself can be full of seemingly innocuous things and events that can be nightmare-inducing. Here’s our look at some of the driving phobias that make life a living hell for sufferers.
Picture the scene. You are hanging out with some friends when one of them suggests you take a drive to the beach. Before you can say anything, they all agree and are up and heading to the car. But you have a secret, something that you have kept to yourself out of embarrassment or even shame. Still you keep quiet and head to the car, where the front passenger seat is waiting. Everything inside of you is telling you to stop, to turn around and go back. But you get in, take your seat.
“Seatbelt,” says the driver, politely.
You drag the belt across your body, feeling like you’re strapping yourself into the electric chair. The driver starts the car, the vehicle shuddering into life. Suddenly you are hit with an intense sensation of terror. The car’s unsafe. it’s going to crash, explode into a ball of burning flames and twisted metal. You are going to die, you are going to die, you are going to…
And breathe. Does this sound familiar? If it does, then you may be suffering from…
Also known as Hamaxophobia or Ochophobia, Amaxophobia comes from the Greek word “amaxa”, which translates to “carriage”. A person suffering from this condition experiences an extreme sense of anxiety when riding as a passenger in a vehicle. The feeling often comes with a sense that a crash will happen and that they will soon die. Further anxiety stems from the lack of control, the inability to relax as someone else controls the vehicle.
“Every time I find myself in a vehicle where I’m not in control, I feel trapped and experience all kinds of symptoms: feeling unable to breath, dizzy or faint, absolute terror and anticipation of accidents, etc. I can’t even accompany my six-year old daughter in amusement park rides for kids!”
Amaxophobia sufferer on their condition, posted at oFear.com.
So what’s behind the fear? Well, as with most phobias, the cause is linked to a trauma an individual has suffered in the past. Some childhood event that has left a person traumatised for life. Perhaps someone suffering from amaxophobia was involved in a car crash as a child, where they were too young to take control and so could only sit and watch as the accident happened.
The phobia can be treated, especially as the modern world means not travelling by car or some other form of public transport is nigh on impossible. Anti-depressants can reduce the effects of the phobia, whilst cognitive behavioural therapy can help to remove the negative stimulus that caused the fear to begin. Psychotherapy is also another option. It’s hard to imagine living with an affliction like this. But this is just one of the phobias that can affect driving in the modern age.
Perhaps even more difficult to avoid than cars in the modern world, a fear of machines would make life pretty much unbearable for anyone outside of an Amish community. Not just limited to cars, mechanophobia can also be caused by computers, microwaves, even television sets.
Once again, the modern world relies on machines to operate. From washing machines, to jumbo jets, it would be impossible to live a life without at least some contact with the mechanical. Whilst most sufferers don’t have a general fear of all machines, in extreme cases it can be an all encompassing fear that would make living in the world today a constant nightmare.
Not limited to drivers, a fear of bridges is the most common phobia on the list. The fear can revolve around a feeling that the bridge could collapse at any point, or that its length seems to go on forever, leaving a sufferer trapped. Others are filled with an immense fear that they are going to drive off the bridge and be unable to stop themselves. This fear affects drivers more than individuals, as they are far more likely to drive across a road bridge or be unable to avoid using such a crossing.
A British driver with a fear of bridges brought traffic to a standstill back in 2013, forced to wait until the police came to help him across the bridge. In the US, the New York Thruway Authority will send out a member of their team to drive gephyrophobics and their cars across the bridge, allowing the sufferer to concentrate on dealing with their fear rather than controlling their vehicle. This service is also provided across the United States at other large bridging points.
Why didn’t the chicken cross the road? Well chicken is not the right word, as this genuine phobia is probably one of the most logical on our list. Agyrophobia is the fear of crossing a road or motorway, and the increasing number of cars on the road has only heightened the fear in sufferers. Again caused in most cases by a past trauma, those suffering from this phobia can suffer from nausea, shortness of breath, and in some cases extreme reactions to being exposed to their fear. Having a panic attack when crossing a road can be extremely dangerous, especially if it causes a sufferer to freeze in place. This phobia can be anything but an odd reaction to those suffering from its affects.
One sufferer wrote on the Health Unlocked website: “I have suffered with anxiety that became panic attacks and agoraphobia severely since childhood (around 25+ years lets say) and for about the past 10 years I’ve been increasingly fearful of the main road on which I live. I cannot go out unaccompanied anyway, but find the fact that I am actually afraid to cross the road even more debilitating.”
The exact causes behind phobias remain undetermined. The NHS website states childhood trauma, social exposure (where someone a child knows transfers their phobia to them), or even genetics can cause a phobia to develop. The idea that they come from some primal instinct to help early humans survive has some reasoning behind it, but does not explain how these modern fears have come to take place. Fear is also a cage, it restricts people. Instead of learning and coping, they shy away from the problem, avoiding any exposure to the perceived threat. The combination of the phobia and the fear of ridicule can lead to many sufferers being afraid to speak out about their problems. When these are driving phobias, the dangers to themselves and others are greatly increased.
So can someone be cured of a phobia? Well the NHS sees three potential avenues when it comes to treatment. There are the various “talking cures”, which normally revolves around some sort of pyschiatry. Medicines such as anti-depressants can help lessen or negate the effects of the phobia. Self help techniques, such as exposure therapy and lifestyle changes, can also help an individual overcome their fear. The key issue is the idea of shame, that someone should be embarrassed to have such a bizarre or irrational fear. But to sufferers, these fears are not irrational, they are very real and life altering conditions. As long as there is stigma, there will be those who hide the problem. And when it comes to driving phobias, these could potentially have serious repercussions.