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Do you get panic attacks while riding in a car? Learn about effective treatment options for panic attacks while riding in a car.

Panic Attacks While Riding in a Car

Do you dread riding in a car? I’ve talked a lot on this site about the dread of driving a car. But what about those who get panic attacks while riding in a car?

I believe anxious drivers sometimes get too much of the attention around driving anxiety.

Because there are millions of others who aren’t necessarily anxious when they drive.

Instead, they suffer panic attacks while riding in a car because they have driving anxiety as a passenger. It’s other peoples’ driving that gives them anxiety — that of the people they’re forced to ride with.

What Causes Panic Attacks While Riding in a Car?

Panic attacks while riding in a car can occur for a number of reasons, including the following:

Riding with people who aren’t safe drivers

Before you diagnose yourself as the problem, make sure you are not, in fact, riding with people who can’t drive safely. Having panic attacks with drivers who take stupid, unnecessary risks, or drive while intoxicated, is a legitimate fear which should be taken seriously.

Stop riding with these people immediately. Don’t risk your and/or your children’s safety due to the actions of a distracted or intoxicated driver. Your panic attacks while riding in a car are being caused by external forces beyond your control in this case.


This phobia is the fear of becoming trapped without escape, or where escape is only possible with extreme embarrassment.

You may fear being trapped somehow while riding in a car, and this triggers your agoraphobia. The ways you fear being trapped can be physical and/or emotional. Hence, your panic attacks while riding are a form of agoraphobia.


Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also trigger panic attacks while riding in a car. PTSD often results due to unresolved childhood trauma. Other common causes are trauma from military combat, from natural disasters like earthquakes, and unresolved anxiety after a car accident.

Untreated panic disorder

If you’re overwhelmed with panic attacks while riding in a car, it’s likely you’re dealing with the irrational fears that accompany panic disorder. Your brain and body tend to overreact to certain anxiety triggers.

panic attacks while riding in a car

Common Symptoms of Panic Attacks

Some basic symptoms of panic attacks which you may experience while riding a car include:

Feel like you’re having a heart attack

On the onset of a panic attack, you may feel like you are dying from a heart attack. This is because of heaviness in the chest, along with pain and shortness of breath, which mimics the symptoms of a heart attack.

Sweating profusely or feeling chilled

As you are experiencing a panic attack, you may get bursts of chills and/or heavy sweating. This is one of the primary indicators of a panic attack.

A sense of terror or unreality

You may imagine an impending doom or approaching death. Alternately, you may fear losing your grip on reality or losing your mind. The intense feelings of panic can have a profound effect on mind and body.

Various Treatment Options for Panic Attacks

Below are some of the effective treatment options for panic attacks while riding in a car:

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)

CBT is often the most effective treatment for anxiety disorders. CBT changes the way you view your fearful situation. Over time, this leads to changes in the way you feel about it and how you react to it. Find a qualified CBT therapist in your area.

Enroll in a self-help program

You can enroll in such programs that specifically cater to people who experience panic attacks while riding in a car. For instance, the Driving Peace Program offers a set of simple techniques that will calm your nerves at the time of a panic attack.

You can also avail yourself of the Panic Away program, which is full of helpful tips on defeating agoraphobia and panic disorder.

Use self-hypnosis

Many people find relief from panic attacks by using self-hypnosis. Here’s a list of useful hypnosis downloads for anxiety and phobias.

Driving anxiety is not all about anxious drivers. It’s time anxious passengers also get the attention they deserve. If you’re one of the latter, just know what you’re not alone. Effective treatment for your kind of driving anxiety exists, too.

Greg Weber

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