Back in the driver’s seat – fear of driving conquered

Peter’s Story

Being the Financial Director of a company, Peter Fernandez (36), was literally in the driving seat when it came to his career. His ambition had driven him right to the top and as you might expect he came across as a very confident, highly successful individual, whose life was going firmly in the right direction. All except for one thing… he had developed an overwhelming fear of driving and just the thought of having to get behind the wheel made him dissolve into total panic.

As is the case for so many, Peter did a lot of driving because of his job. For years after passing his test, he got in the car without giving it a second thought, but all of this changed after one single nerve-jangling event. Whilst driving on one of India’s busiest roads, he narrowly avoided a collision with a driver who wasn’t giving the road his full attention. Though it wasn’t his fault, naturally Peter was very shaken; his body flooded with adrenaline and his mind filled with thoughts of what could have been. The very next time he got in the car, he was gripped by panic and couldn’t even put the key in the ignition. In the subsequent days and months, just the thought of driving built up such a powerful feeling of anxiety in him that it affected his sleep and more importantly his performance at work. It was at this point he knew he needed to get help and confided in a close friend who recommended he see me after reading about some of the high profile cases in Friday Magazine.

Meeting Peter for the first time, I was struck by how embarrassed he felt about his driving phobia. He was so used to being in control and his inability to perform what he saw as such an everyday simple task as driving was very disconcerting for him. I was convinced there was far more to his overwhelming feelings and as we began to work through what happened it became clear to me that at the time of the near miss, he was also suffering from extreme stress associated with his high powered career and his brain had meshed the two feelings together. Using a combination of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Hypnotherapy we were able to work through the issues together and turn off the connection his brain made between fear and driving.

The Hemmings Way
“Hi Russell, I got behind the wheel and drove myself to an early morning meeting. I arrived safely and all of those old feelings of dread had completely vanished. I almost jumped for joy when I arrived at my destination, but I didn’t want anyone to see me do that so I just punched the air very discretely! I can’t tell you how much of a difference your input has made not just to my driving but also to my whole approach to the work life balance thing. Mine had got a bit out of whack, but after working with you, I now know how to recognize the signs of my stress levels rising and I’m putting into practice everything you taught me about managing my time and I must say those relaxation techniques have benefitted me enormously. Thanks again Russell. To be honest I thought I’d never drive again, so I’m really grateful that’s not the case. Regards Peter”
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