DRIVING TEST ANXIETY

Many people keep failing their test despite being capable and intelligent, and despite driving very safely during their lessons. This is especially frustrating when you see how many people who are not that bright can pass on their first attempt!

Driving is a part of modern life. Being able to drive opens up a range of possibilities for work, leisure and socialising. For instance, the retail sector of the economy is in serious decline as more people buy online. But this means more job opportunities in delivery work, so long as you have a driving license.

If your driving instructor has told you to book a test, it’s because they think you’re a safe driver. So far as your actual knowledge and abilities are concerned, you are perfectly capable of passing.

So why is it that so many people fail their test, when their instructor (who has spent many hours watching them drive) believes them to be safe? I’ve had clients who had already failed the test eleven times before they came to see me! Yet even at the first test they would have already been safe drivers.

In some ways the driving test is much the same as an ordinary driving lesson, which by now is a routine activity causing no anxiety at all. But in other ways the driving test is very different.

In both cases there is someone sat beside you who is watching your every move. However in the driving lesson, it’s your instructor with whom you have a friendly relationship, who has been helping you for weeks or months, who will correct you immediately if you’re going wrong. If the lesson doesn’t go so well, you just hope to do better next week.

In the driving test, the examiner has to take a formal and rather distant approach so that all will be treated equally. You’ve never met them before, and because they don’t give much away, you tend to fear the worst about what they’re really thinking. They will not correct you or comment as you go along, but instead will wait until the end before telling you if you have passed or failed. And there’s a lot riding on this one event. If you fail it will be some time before you can attempt the test again.

For all these reasons the driving test can be a very anxious experience for many people. It’s an especially anxious time if you don’t like being watched and judged. Some of this goes back to childhood. Perhaps parents or teachers have been very critical, standing over you waiting to pounce on any slight mistake. Maybe you get extremely embarrassed by slight errors which others have observed and noted down.

I’ve explained in more detail HERE how phobias develop when our brain mistakes an everyday experience or situation for a real danger. This triggers the “fight or flight response” in which our body is immediately prepared to fight or run away.

Unfortunately you will not pass the driving test by jumping out of the car and running away, or by attacking your examiner! However, that is what your body’s fight-or-flight reaction has prepared you for. Before even getting into the car you may be in a state of high alertness, vigilant, with muscles tensed. The slightest shock can then tip you over into full-on fight-or-flight response. Your memory may also undermine your confidence, when you find yourself remembering and dwelling on your previous failed tests.

To be effective, hypnosis therapy for driving test anxiety should include a range of techniques to address all these components of the phobia. CLICK HERE for more detailed information on what happens in a therapy session.