Driving Anxiety Symptoms? 7 Ways to Recover from PTSD After an Accident

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Getting behind the wheel after an accident can trigger serious driving anxiety symptoms. Try these 7 tips to improve your well-being and get back on the road.


Every year, between 20 and 50 million people sustain injuries related to road accidents.

Have you recently been involved in such an accident? Have you been struggling with driving anxiety as a result?

Whether you were behind the wheel, on a motorcycle, or a passenger, being in a road accident can cause serious trauma. You might even be struggling with an anxiety disorder like PTSD.

Read on to learn more about seven of the most common driving anxiety symptoms. You’ll also learn how to manage them in an effective way after getting into a road accident.


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1. Heart Palpitations

This is one of the most common anxiety symptoms. Whether you’re dealing with driving anxiety or another type of anxiety disorder, it’s common to feel your heart begin to race.

You might notice your heart rate increases when you get into the car, but it might also happen when you think about driving or even when you see other people driving in-person or on TV.

2. Increased Perspiration

Increased rates of perspiration are common, too.

When your body is in a “fight-or-flight” state and your heart is beating at a faster rate than normal, your body temperature may increase. This, in turn, can cause you to perspire. 

It’s especially common for the palms to become sweaty and/or clammy when you’re dealing with driving anxiety.

3. Confusion 

Sometimes, people who are struggling with driving anxiety find themselves feeling confused or disoriented.

They might forget where they are or where they’re going. They might also “check out” while they’re driving as a kind of coping mechanism.

This can be very dangerous, as it affects their ability to stay alert and avoid other accidents in the future.

4. Shortness of Breath

As your heart rate increases, you might notice that your breath rate increases, too. You may begin to breathe at a more rapid rate, or your breath might become shallow.

Sometimes, this symptom can become so severe that you begin to hyperventilate. 

5. Dizziness

Often, a feeling of dizziness can accompany shortness of breath. If your brain is not getting adequate oxygen because you’re not breathing deeply enough, you could feel lightheaded or as though the room (or car) you’re in is spinning. 

6. Feelings of Dread

Sometimes, the symptoms of anxiety are not physical at all.

You might experience a strong sense of dread, though, whenever you think about driving or have to get behind the wheel or back on your motorcycle. You might also find yourself thinking negatively all day about the next time you have to get in the car.

7. Avoidant Behavior

For some people, the symptoms experience whenever they think about driving or have to drive are so severe that they will avoid driving altogether. They might refuse to drive places, preferring to walk or be driven by someone else.

In some cases, they might continue to drive, but they may develop odd behaviors to help them stay calm. For example, they may refuse to drive on the freeway, or they may drive very slowly to try and protect themselves from getting in an accident.


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How to Manage Driving Anxiety Symptoms

Whether your driving anxiety symptoms are mild or more severe, they can make driving a car or motorcycle very difficult. Luckily, there are lots of things you can do to minimize your symptoms and increase your confidence.


The following are some of the most effective treatments for driving anxiety:

Recognize Your Triggers

Before you can start to tackle your anxiety symptoms, you need to figure out what they are and what triggers them. Spend some time evaluation when you feel anxious about driving and what happens when the symptoms of anxiety start to set in.

Write in a Journal

Evaluation of your triggers and anxiety symptoms can be tricky. This is why it’s helpful to write in a journal as you’re going through this process.

Writing things down can help you look at them in a more objective way. It also makes it easier for you to organize and make sense of your thoughts and feelings.

Meditate Before Driving

Try meditation or deep breathing before you get into the car or on your motorcycle. If you work on getting your body into a parasympathetic (“rest-and-digest”) state, you may feel calmer and more focused when you get on the road.

Practice Visualization

It also helps to spend time visualizing yourself driving safely. This could be part of your meditation practice, or it could be a separate activity altogether.

If you can imagine yourself driving and arriving at your destination with no accidents, you may start to create more positive associations with being on the road.

Reduce Caffeine and Alcohol Consumption

When you’re dealing with severe anxiety symptoms (especially symptoms like a rapid heart rate or increased perspiration), it can help to reduce or cut out caffeine and alcohol for a little while.

Caffeine is a stimulant that can cause your symptoms of anxiety to worsen. Alcohol can also trigger anxiety in some people.

Handle the Logistics

If you’re still dealing with the logistics of your accident, such as the process of hiring a California motorcycle accident lawyer or working with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you might have a hard time overcoming your anxiety and moving forward.

Do your best to get these issues wrapped up as soon as possible so you can focus on your recovery.

Work with a Mental Health Professional

Finally, don’t underestimate the benefits of working with a mental health professional.

Look for a psychologist or psychiatrist who specializes in treating PTSD and anxiety disorders and spend some time talking to them about your symptoms. They’ll help you create a plan tailored to your specific needs.

Conquer Your Driving Anxiety Today

Are you struggling with driving anxiety symptoms after being involved in a car or motorcycle crash?

Right now, you may feel as though you’ll never be confident on the road again. If you put in the work to manage your symptoms, though, you’ll find that you’re soon able to feel calm, cool, and collected every time you hit the open road.

Keep these tips in mind to start dealing with your anxiety today. Don’t forget to read some of our other driving-related articles, too, for tips on how to stay safe while you’re out in your car or on your bike.


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