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Blog - Phobias


By Inna Maltzeva, Chief Scientific Officer at PsyTech VR
February 04, 2023

What is amaxophobia (fear of driving)?

What is amaxophobia (fear of driving)?

Amaxophobia is the fear of driving or being in a vehicle. It can be a debilitating condition that causes significant anxiety and stress for those affected. The fear can be triggered by various factors, such as accidents, traffic, or perceived loss of control while driving. In severe cases, it may lead to avoiding driving or riding in vehicles altogether.
The symptomsof amaxophobia, or the fear of driving, can vary from person to person but may include the following:
  • Physical symptoms: sweating, shaking, rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, nausea, and dizziness.
  • Psychological symptoms include intense anxiety, fear, or panic when driving or riding in a vehicle.
  • Avoidance behaviors: avoiding driving or riding in a vehicle, taking longer routes or avoiding highways to avoid driving, and choosing public transportation instead of driving.
  • Interference with daily life: difficulty getting to work or school, missing social events and appointments, and limiting travel.
  • Cognitive symptoms: intrusive thoughts about accidents or losing control while driving, negative self-talk, and beliefs about one's ability to drive
These symptoms can be severe and affect the individual's quality of life, making it essential to seek help from a mental health professional if you suspect you may have amaxophobia.

How do CBT psychologists help overcome phobias?

How do CBT psychologists help overcome phobias?

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a commonly used approach to help individuals overcome amaxophobia or the fear of driving. Here's how CBT psychologists can help:

  • Identifying and challenging negative thoughts: CBT psychologists help individuals identify and challenge the negative thoughts and beliefs contributing to their fear of driving. This includes evaluating evidence for and against these thoughts and learning to reframe them positively.
  • Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) and Imaginal Exposure Therapy (IET) are both exposure therapy used to treat anxiety disorders, including amaxophobia.
  • Gradual exposure therapy: CBT psychologists may use exposure therapy, in which individuals are gradually and systematically exposed to the source of their fear. For individuals with amaxophobia, this may involve starting with small driving tasks, such as sitting in the driver's seat and eventually building up to driving on a quiet road, then a busy road, etc.
  • Relaxation techniques: CBT psychologists can teach individuals relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation, to help them manage anxiety and stress while driving.
  • Building self-efficacy: CBT psychologists work with individuals to build their confidence in driving and handling driving-related situations. This may include practicing driving skills, setting small, achievable goals, and using positive self-talk.
Did you know?
If you open the Google Scholar platform and search for "VR Therapy," you would be surprised that this topic has 2,320,000 citations and 440,000 articles.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) specialists can use VRET as a tool to help individuals overcome anxieties, including fear of driving. Here's how they use this method:
  • Assessment: CBT specialists assess the individual's fear of driving and design a treatment plan that includes VRET as part of the exposure therapy.
  • Virtual environment: CBT specialists use virtual reality technology to create a simulated driving environment tailored to individual fears and phobias. This can include a range of realistic driving scenarios, such as driving in traffic, on highways, and in challenging weather conditions.
  • Gradual exposure: CBT specialists gradually expose individuals to the virtual driving environment, starting with less intense scenarios and gradually increasing the difficulty. The goal is to help individuals confront their fear in a controlled and safe environment, building their confidence and reducing anxiety.
  • Coping skills training: CBT specialists can also use VRET to teach individuals coping skills, such as deep breathing and muscle relaxation, which they can use to manage their anxiety while driving.
  • Monitoring progress: CBT specialists monitor the individual's progress and adjust the therapy as needed, ensuring that the virtual driving environment remains challenging but not overwhelming.

Overall, VRET can be a powerful tool for CBT specialists to help individuals overcome their fear of driving and improve their quality of life. It provides a highly immersive and effective exposure therapy experience, allowing individuals to confront their fear in a safe and controlled environment.

Why is VR Exposure Therapy more efficient than Imaginal Exposure?

Why is VR Exposure Therapy more efficient than Imaginal Exposure?

Virtual Reality Exposure Therapy (VRET) and Imaginal Exposure Therapy (IET) are both forms of exposure therapy used to treat anxiety disorders, including amaxophobia, or the fear of driving. While both methods can be effective, some research suggests that VRET may be more efficient than IET in certain cases. Here's why:
  1. Greater sense of presence: VRET provides individuals with a highly immersive experience, creating a greater sense of presence in the virtual environment. This can result in a more robust emotional response, making the therapy more effective in reducing fear and anxiety.
  2. Real-life simulations: VRET allows the creation of realistic virtual simulations of real-life driving scenarios customized to the individual's specific fears and phobias. This can lead to a more targeted and effective exposure therapy experience.
  3. Overcoming avoidance behaviors: VRET allows individuals to confront their fear in a controlled and safe environment, which can help to overcome avoidance behaviors and build confidence.
  4. Reduced stigma: Some individuals may feel embarrassed or ashamed of their fear of driving, leading them to avoid seeking help. VRET offers a private and anonymous therapy experience, reducing the stigma associated with seeking treatment.
However, it is important to note that the efficacy of VRET versus IET may vary depending on the individual and the specific phobia being treated. Both methods have been shown to be effective in reducing fear and anxiety, and the choice of therapy should be based on the individual's needs, preferences, and the availability of resources.

PsyTech VR exposure therapy

PsyTech VR exposure therapy

At PsyTech VR, we provide virtual reality solutions for individuals. mental health professionals, educational institutions, and HRs. Our focus is developing and delivering virtual reality exposure therapy (VRET) software for treating anxiety disorders and phobias, including amaxophobia or the fear of driving.
Our system is not just a scary game with playable environments to overcome phobias but a complete system with an academic approach to overcoming anxieties and other mental disorders.
The system consists of two main technologies: A learning management platform and a VR application for the Meta Quest, Pico 3 and 4, and HTC focus 3 headsets.

  • The learning management platform provides courses and learning paths prepared by cognitive-behavioral therapy specialists and daily feedback through check-up surveys.
  • The VR application serves as a micro-training system for emotions, cognitions, soft skills, and wellness/relaxation practices, with over 80 DLC levels for the treatment of anxieties, phobias, mindfulness meditations, art therapy, and more.

We provide our users with regular updates and support through their subscriptions, ensuring that all courses and VR content are kept up-to-date. Users receive updates twice per month and can benefit from the latest developments in the field of mental health treatment.

You can train in VR using self-guiding courses from the comfort of your home


with a specialist - the doctor will have access to your training in real time and guide you through all the VR training!
PsyTech VR exposure therapy can help individuals overcome amaxophobia, or fear of driving, by gradually exposing them to virtual driving scenarios in a controlled and safe environment. During therapy sessions, patients wear a VR headset and are immersed in realistic virtual environments, such as a
  • highway, where users can practice driving and gradually confront their fears
  • busy city streets to immerse the user in demanding driving situations
  • traffic jams to feel claustrophobic in enclosed space of the car

The therapy is designed to gradually increase exposure to increasingly challenging scenarios, allowing patients to build confidence and resilience. The virtual environment allows patients to practice their driving skills without the risks associated with real-world driving.
Additionally, the therapy can be tailored to each individual's specific phobia, allowing for a personalized treatment approach.

Is VR affordable for the end users?

Is VR affordable for the end users?

WE ARE IN THE RIGHT PLACE. There are several reasons why virtual reality (VR) headsets have become more affordable and accessible in recent years:
  • Advancements in technology: Advances in display and processing technology have enabled manufacturers to produce VR headsets at a lower cost while still delivering a high-quality experience.
  • Increased competition: With the growing demand for VR technology, new players have entered the market and established brands have intensified competition, leading to lower prices and more options for consumers.
  • Wider adoption: As more people and industries adopt VR technology, the economies of scale have allowed for further cost reductions in the production of VR headsets.
  • Mobile VR: The introduction of mobile VR headsets, such as those powered by smartphones, has made VR more accessible and affordable for a wider audience.

Overall, combining these factors has led to a decrease in the cost of VR technology and an increase in its accessibility, making it easier for more people to experience the benefits of VR.

What virtual headsets are needed for PsyTech VR exposure therapy?

What virtual headsets are needed for PsyTech VR exposure therapy?

Pico 3, Pico 4, HTC Focus 3, and Meta Quest are considered to be some of the most immersive and accessible VR headsets for several reasons:
  1. Price: In the past, to experience high-quality VR, you would have to spend $3,000 to $5,000 on both an HMD headset and a powerful computer. However, these listed VR headsets can now be purchased for as low as $350 and are available at retailers like Walmart. The Focus 3 may be a bit pricier due to its business orientation, but it remains one of the best standalone VR devices."
  2. Portability: These VR headsets are designed to be compact and lightweight, making them easy to carry and use anywhere.
  3. Comfort: They feature ergonomic designs and comfortable materials, allowing for extended use without discomfort.
  4. High-Quality Visuals: These VR headsets are equipped with high-resolution displays and advanced optics, providing users with clear and immersive visuals.
  5. Easy Set-Up: These VR headsets are designed for ease of use, with simple setup processes that don't require much technical knowledge.
  6. Versatile Software: These VR headsets support a wide range of software and applications, providing users with access to various immersive experiences.
  7. Accessibility: These VR headsets are designed to be affordable, making VR technology accessible to a wider audience.
  8. Interactivity: They come equipped with various forms of input, such as hand-tracking, touch controllers, and head-mounted displays, enabling users to interact with virtual environments in natural and intuitive ways.
These features make Pico 3, Pico 4, HTC Focus 3, and Meta Quest popular choices for individuals and organizations looking for immersive and accessible VR technology.

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Thanks for reading!
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Inna Maltzeva
CSO at PsyTech VR

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