Agoraphobia and Driving: Do You Know About The Hidden Connection?

agoraphobia, driving anxiety

Did you know that driving phobia is actually a type of agoraphobia? Learn more about the hidden connection between agoraphobia and driving.You know you get anxious driving. But did you know that driving anxiety is a form of agoraphobia? Learn more about the hidden connection between agoraphobia and driving.

Agoraphobia, literally “fear of the marketplace,” is more commonly translated as a fear of open spaces. But I like the definition below better because it’s more in line with what agoraphobics are actually afraid of.

Agoraphobia — The fear of being trapped in a situation where escape is impossible or embarrassing, or help is unavailable in case of a panic attack.

Agoraphobics are not necessarily afraid of open spaces. What they’re really afraid of is having panicky feelings, and of situations where panic might be embarrassing, humiliating, or leave them feeling trapped with no way out and no one to help them.

Fredric Neuman, director of the Anxiety & Phobia Treatment Center in White Plains, NY, has this to say about the connection between agoraphobia and driving:

“People are really afraid that they are going to go out of control,” says Neuman. “They fear that they’ll start screaming, vomit, soil themselves or lose control of the wheel. They think if a feeling gets very strong, it will translate into action.”

Along with agoraphobia, Neuman says that driving phobia is one of the top three phobias treated at the center.

The Agoraphobia and Driving “Cluster”

Many think of agoraphobics as people who are housebound or unable to go outdoors. Although some with agoraphobia are indeed housebound, the view that all agoraphobics are shut-ins is mostly a stereotype. It’s just one of the many ways those of us with anxiety problems are lumped into broad categories that really don’t fit us very well.

The truth is that agoraphobia is a complex disorder that tends to manifest in “clusters” — situations that include social interaction like shopping, driving, or using public transportation.

Most phobias (for instance, fear of spiders) are specific to only one situation. Agoraphobia isn’t like that. It manifests in different ways for different people, which can make it hard to identify accurately and difficult to treat. Since agoraphobia is a progressive illness, it may grow to include more clusters when it’s left untreated.

Driving Avoidance — It’s Like “Miracle-Gro” for Agoraphobia

Here’s a GREAT description of the interaction between agoraphobia and driving from Anxiety Care UK:

“Avoidance is like retreating from an enemy. We may feel safer to begin with, but we’re letting the enemy get us on the run. And we have to retreat further and further, until we find that a huge slice of our world has been grabbed away from us.”

Read the whole article here…

As Smokey Robinson would say, “I second that emotion.” Avoiding everyday things like driving that frighten us may let us off the hook temporarily, but it comes at a high cost. We’re conditioning our brains to fear those things even more the next time around.

The Key to Success with Driving Anxiety and Agoraphobia

I said in an earlier post that recovering from driving phobia basically comes down to facing our fears. And that’s not always a smooth process. Sometimes, we need to give ourselves permission to fail. We need to learn how to keep trying when we think we can’t do it. And that the only real failure is when we quit trying altogether.

Undoing the hidden connection between agoraphobia and driving can be painful. That’s why we need tools to help us hang in there when the going gets tough. This is what Driving Peace is all about in a nutshell: helping you reclaim a big slice of your world that’s been taken from you. It’s about disconnecting agoraphobia and driving, so that driving becomes…well…just driving. The everyday, ordinary, even boring activity that it really is.

Remember, you can be afraid — very afraid — and still function. Despite how you may feel, there’s always something you can do to make things better.


Greg Weber

PS – If you found this article helpful, consider signing up for the Driving Peace newsletter. I have lots more free tips on how to defeat driving phobia successfully. I’ll even send you a free report with strategies to you can use to start feeling better about driving right away.

8 comments… add one
  • Dp Sep 5, 2018

    Agoraphobic driving makes me feel like I can’t breath and and am going to pass out. Much like heart attach palpitations and dread.

  • Veronica Lopez Oct 14, 2017

    I’ve recently begun to panicky moments while in the car usually when someone else is driving. It’s embarrasing because I’ve broke down crying and I felt helpless and the others in the car did not know why. It’s made me pass on car rides with other people. I also recently lost my mom almost two years ago, could that have been a stressor that caused this?

  • Hiroshi Oct 10, 2017

    I have a different interpretation of agoraphobia for you.

    For me, it’s nothing to do with social issues or being around people. It’s looking up at the sky and feeling like gravity is gonna let go and I’ll go flying into space. It’s looking into a pool of water or even the ocean there being no visible bottom. It’s the feeling that, if I were looking down at the Earth, I’d suddenly be yanked towards it.

    It can happen when absolutely nobody is around, it can happen inside of a car, it can even happen in my own home… while I’m playing video games that involve those situations I just described. If I’m playing some platformer like Sonic the Hedgehog and it’s a space level where you can see a large planet in the background the anxiety and need to panic will just build and build. If I’m playing something like Minecraft, the thought that something large is looming in those terribly dark waters makes me not wanna go in them but a small lake or pool is no problem.

    I mean, gods, I have dreamt about being on a space station and looking over to see the planet below and that overwhelming/immediate panic shocked me awake. I don’t even really feel scared, but the terror and anxiety still happen.

    I’m fine with people so long as they don’t come off as creepy.

  • Shelene Thomas May 14, 2017

    I’ve been afraid of being in cars and closed in spaces since I was a child it is so embarrassing. It’s terrible!

  • Britina ward May 1, 2017

    I feel like I am being punished

  • Britina ward May 1, 2017

    Thanks good info but I need help bad

  • christopher Ricardo Romero May 10, 2016

    I have very bad agoraphobia when driving on freeways.

  • verna Jun 11, 2012

    Wow! This is something new to me. This is really informative. Thanks for sharing this.

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