Many people travel during the holiday season to visit friends and family. For those struggling with anxiety, traveling by personal car, airplane, bus or train, can be triggering and stressful. The expectation to visit loved ones living afar can cause pressure and conflict within relationships and families when someone feels they cannot travel.
Types of Travel Phobias
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (2001), 91% of holiday travel is via personal car. Car-related fears can stem from either being the passenger or from being the driver (Neuman, 2012). Anxious passengers may feel like they are not in control, while anxious drivers may feel like they may lose control of their vehicles due to panic attack or an accident (Neuman, 2012). Fear of having a panic attack while driving is a common concern. People cope with these fears by limiting how far they drive, how often they are in the car, and by only being in the driver’s (or passenger’s) seat. This can have a debilitating effect on one’s ability to work, socialize, and get outside the house.
The fear of flying can come in various forms, including fear of having a panic attack while on a plane, fear of crashing, and claustrophobia (Seif, n.d.). There are multiple aspects of flying that might trigger anxiety, including long lines at the airport, being far away from home, extended waits on the runway, or turbulence (Seif, n.d.).
People who have difficulty riding on trains or on buses often have fears that they will be involved in an accident, that they will have a panic attacks while on the bus or train, or that they will feel trapped and unable to escape or get help.
Treatment of Travel Phobias
Travel-related phobias can be successfully treated using exposure therapy. Exposure therapy is an evidence-based treatment, meaning it has strong support within the scientific research literature showing the effectiveness of the treatment to manage these types of anxiety. Exposure therapy is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that includes the repetitive practice of engaging with the feared or triggering situation, within the safety of the therapeutic environment and with the guidance of a trained mental health professional.
For people with social anxiety, traveling during the holidays can be doubly hard. Traveling often means having to interact with others, especially if going by plane, train, or bus. In addition, the pressure of socializing with others after arriving at your destination can be daunting.
The treatment for social anxiety often includes exposure therapy. Individuals receiving exposure therapy practice being in their feared social situations. The goals in exposure therapy for social anxiety are to develop skills to manage uncomfortable and stressful feelings and to act in accordance with their desired social goals.
CSAM is here to help
CSAM can help you or someone you love by providing exposure therapy for travel-related and/or social anxiety, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), or biofeedback. CSAM also helps treat other conditions related to anxiety, depression, stress, or a chronic medical illness. If you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Neuman, F.N. (2012). Driving Phobia: An Ideal Treatment. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fighting-fear/201207/driving-phobia-ideal-treatment
Seif, M.N. (n.d.). How can I overcome my fear of flying? http://www.adaa.org/living-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/ask-expert/how-can-i-overcome-my-fear-of-flying
U.S. Department of Transportation (2001). U.S. Holiday Travel. http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/america_on_the_go/us_holiday_travel/html/table_01.html