EMDR and the Treatment of Anxiety While Driving
Individuals who suffer from driving anxiety are presented with unique challenges in today’s modern world, particularly where private transportation is involved. Driving is the preferred mode of transportation for most adults, yet individuals who are diagnosed with driving anxiety find driving to be a difficult – if not impossible – task. The good news is that there is an effective treatment method. First, however, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of driving anxiety.
Symptoms of Driving Anxiety
Individuals with driving anxiety – or “driving panic” as others call it – experience adverse reactions to driving a vehicle or riding as a passenger in a vehicle. Men and women with driving anxiety may experience the following symptoms:
- Anxiety Attack
- Shortness of Breath
- Abdominal Pain
- Lump in Throat
- Flushing of the Skin
- Chest Pains
- Fear of Hitting Something on the Road
- Feelings of Dread
Each person has a different reaction to driving anxiety with varying degrees of symptoms. For those who live with driving panic on a daily basis, getting from one place to another while driving a car may be problematic, even disabling. However, there is help. It is called Eye Movement Desensitization and Processing therapy, also known as EMDR.
What is Eye Movement Desensitization and Processing Therapy?
EMDR uses eye movements and/or bilateral stimulation to clear trauma and is a powerful form of trauma therapy. According to EMDR Institute, Inc., “EMDR psychotherapy is an information processing therapy and uses an eight phase approach to address the experiential contributors of a wide range of pathologies. It attends to the past experiences that have set the groundwork for pathology, the current situations that trigger dysfunctional emotions, beliefs, and sensations, and the positive experience needed to enhance future adaptive behaviors and mental health.”
EMDR is a process that is structured for each individual’s needs. Here’s the theory behind EMDR: Patients focus on past events and present triggers, as well as anticipated future events. By integrating the EMDR process, patients learn to shift their perception associated with traumatic events. EMDR specialists claim that EMDR has helped more than two million individuals deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other anxiety-provoking events. It involves identifying a memory, the individual’s emotions regarding that issue, and identifying the individual’s negative feelings regarding that issue.
According to therapists, using a bilateral movement – such as following finger movement or lights shifting from side to side – will enable the patient to release negative feelings about the event. Originally used with soldiers suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, EMDR is an eight-step process that is effective in helping individuals disassociate from negative feelings related to a particular event.
How Does EMDR Work?
In simple language, individuals may know something in one part of the brain but experience an emotional reaction from the other part of the brain. By using outside stimuli to “distract” the patient from these negative thoughts, he or she can turn down or turn off the negative emotional responses to that particular event.
When individuals experience trauma, that experience remains in the front of the brain and it does not process. By using bilateral stimulation and cognitive techniques, the individual will become desensitized to the events. In a way, EMDR helps the individual’s negative feelings to “dislodge” or become “unstuck.” In other words, it helps individuals to process post traumatic stress experiences or memories by stimulating other parts of the brain to provide a pathway to process those negative feelings associated with a past event so that the individual can learn to let go of it.
Think of having traumatic memories stuck to a spider web. With EMDR, the process is to lessen the emotional intensity or to completely dissipate the negative emotions by providing a link from the negative experience to the part of the brain that processes emotions. By integrating finger movements, tapping, or other external stimuli, individuals undergoing treatment for driving anxiety can process those negative feelings by developing skills that “flip the switch” from negative to positive associations from the past.
Eye Movement Desensitization and Eye Movement Therapy is an effective treatment modality for treating individuals who have been diagnosed with driving anxiety. By focusing on those negative associations “stuck” at the front of the brain, individuals with driving anxiety can process those negative feelings and transform the way they view the process of driving. In other words, individuals who experience EMDR shift psychological memories to objective memories associated with the driving experience. By building a bridge from catastrophic or traumatic thinking to objectivity, EMDR can assist individuals in lessening their fears associated with driving.