Sunday, May 18, 2008

Determining the Focus of Driving Fears

AUTHORS: J E Taylor, F P Deane & J V Podd
JOURNAL: Journal of Anxiety Disorders 2000, Volume 14, pages 453-470.

ABSTRACT: "Fear of driving has been recognized as a complex diagnostic entity. Studies on flying phobia have drawn similar conclusions, although increasing clarity has been gained through research that indicates that there may be subtypes of flying phobia based on the focus of fear. However, it is unclear if similar subtypes exist for fear of driving. The aim of the present study was to conduct a preliminary investigation of driving fear subtypes and to clarify further whether there were differences between driving-fearful respondents who had been in a motor vehicle accident (MVA) and those who had not. Eighty-five driving-fearful, media-recruited respondents completed a questionnaire that assessed anxiety, avoidance, and concerns related to their driving fears. The sample had high expectations of negative events while driving. There were no significant differences between those who had experienced an MVA and those who had not on various measures of fear severity. Cluster analysis revealed two main foci of fear, one characterized by danger expectancies and the other based on anxiety expectancies and unpleasant driving situations. This emphasizes the importance of assessing both internal and external foci of fear. Although this finding is consistent with the results obtained for flying phobia, more research is required to replicate and extend these results and to develop and evaluate differential treatment programs."

SUMMARY: The authors describe how flying anxiety has been found to include several distinct sub-types, and suggest that the same may be true for driving anxiety. They mention that it is already known that sufferers of driving anxiety differ in various ways, for example some have previously experienced a motor vehicle accident and others have not. This article is based on a written survey completed by 85 people who suffer from driving anxiety. In general the respondents had high expectations that bad things would happen when they drove. Those who had experienced an accident did not differ significantly in the severity and focus of their fears from those who have not. There were two clusters of different types of people in the study. One group was focused on dangers on the road such as accidents, injury, losing control of the vehicle, and dangerous road conditions. Another group was more focused on the unpleasant emotions they felt when driving, such as anxiety and fear. The authors suggest that different treatment approaches might be needed for these groups, rather than taking a 'one size fits all' approach.

MY THOUGHTS: I appreciate the attempt the authors make to look beyond a simple diagnosis and investigate how people suffering from driving anxiety may have developed it differently, experience it differently and need tailored treatment approaches. I particularly appreciate the acknowledgement that they see that people who have not experienced a motor vehicle accident "deserve as much research attention and assistance as their MVA counterparts..." This research sets the scene for developing an appreciation of driving anxiety sub-types and tailored treatment approaches, although no specific suggestions can be made based on this data.

TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Not all people who have driving anxiety experience it the same way.

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