Fear of Being a Passenger

Amaxophobia, A Fear of Being a Passenger

Young woman in car, sleeping against window, close-up
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Amaxophobia, or the fear of being a passenger, can be virtually crippling. Imagine how life-limiting it would be if you were too afraid to be a passenger in a car, bus, train, or airplane.

Thankfully, many, though not all, people with amaxophobia can drive their own cars. The prospect of allowing someone else to take control of the trip, however, is terrifying.

Like many specific phobias, the impact of amaxophobia depends largely on context.

If you live in a self-contained walkable neighborhood such as New Orleans' French Quarter, even a severe case of amaxophobia may not greatly affect your life. Everything you need is nearby or you can order it online.

If you live in a rural area or a sprawling city, where even picking up groceries requires a long car ride, a mild case of amaxophobia may be devastating.

Symptoms of Amaxophobia

Amaxophobia, like any phobia, runs the gamut from mild to severe. Some people can travel in a car with a driver they fully trust, such as a spouse or parent. Others can take a bus or taxi on a familiar route. In the most severe cases, amaxophobics are unable to travel at all, except by foot.

There are three types of phobia: specific phobia, social phobia, and agoraphobia. Amaxophobia is a specific phobia, a fear of a specific situation or object. However, your psychological disorder could also be agoraphobia, a fear of being trapped in a place where you can't escape if you're having a phobic reaction.

A trained clinician can help you determine which phobia or combination of phobias you have.

In order for a mental health professional to make a specific phobia or agoraphobia diagnosis, your symptoms must match the American Psychiatric Association's general criteria, including:

  • automatic and uncontrollable phobic reactions, such as trembling, shortness of breath and digestive issues
  • taking extreme measures to avoid your trigger
  • an exaggerated reaction totally disproportionate to the actual risk - the patient can be aware or unaware their reaction is extreme
  • duration of 6 months or more

Symptoms specific to amaxophobia include:

  • an intense fear of getting into an accident
  • being afraid of the injuries or fatalities that would result from the accident
  • aggressive backseat driving
  • a fear of being trapped in the vehicle

Amaxophobia Treatment

The list of possible consequences of amaxophobia is long and includes a wide variety of repercussions for your career and personal life.

For example, you might limit your earning potential because you can only apply for jobs within walking distance of your home. Maybe you're left out of excursions with friends and family, which makes you feel isolated and depressed.

If amaxophobia is seriously affecting your quality of life, seek professional help. Success rates for treating all types of phobia are high and short-term, cognitive behavioral therapy treatments for specific phobia can be effective after one to three sessions.

Example: Jessica never needed to travel outside her small, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. When she moved to New York City, however, she began to panic on the subway and in taxis. Soon her therapist diagnosed amaxophobia.

Sources:

Wolver Hampton Hypnotherapy: Amaxophobia

American Psychiatric Association: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (2013)

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