NI mum on suffering from rare phobia which means she can’t travel in cars

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Imagine not ever being able to set foot in a car or taxi due to a crippling fear of what might happen when you get in.

It’s a rare phobia known as amaxophobia, which leaves some extremely fearful and subject to panic attacks when they set foot in a vehicle, either as a passenger or a driver.

While it is rare and can vary in severity, the phobia can have a significant impact on the sufferer’s life, making things like going to work, daily tasks and socialising nigh on impossible.

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One NI mum who has suffered from the condition since she was in her teenage years, says she first started experiencing it when she was stuck in traffic at the age of 14.

Patricia, who did not wish to reveal her surname to protect her job, described the feelings she has if she is made to sit in a car.

“It’s like having a panic attack, my muscles would start twitching and it would feel like somebody is sitting on my chest,” Patricia says.

“My palms and feet will get really sweaty and it makes me really uncomfortable.

“I was about 14 when I was with my mum and we got caught in a really bad traffic jam and couldn’t move. That gave me a panic attack for the first time and I didn’t know what was happening.

“So I think I associate every trip since that with that same unpleasantness, it’s hard to describe.”

Describing how amaxophobia impacts on her daily life, Patricia says getting to work is a constant worry to her because of where she lives.

“It affects you get to work and get home from work and with public transport being what it is here in Northern Ireland it makes life difficult,” she says.

“Where I live the last bus from the city centre leaves at 7pm so it makes socialising impossible.

“I feel stranded when wanting to go to the cinema or when I am being invited to an event I know I simply will not be able to go to yet again, due to the fear of what way would I get home safely.

“I had surgery in January there and I basically had to book a hotel in the city centre of Belfast because I couldn’t take a taxi.

“It’s hard to explain to people who haven’t really come across this condition before. People sort of look at you like they’re crazy.”

She describes of feeling like she was ‘going to die’ during a recent therapy session to address the problem.

“I had been in therapy last year but only managed to sit in the car for a while with the therapist.

“As soon as the car started I had a full blown panic attack and thought I was about to die.

“I’m hoping to go back to it soon but the thought of it is just scary.

“I can either walk or use buses since buses seem ‘safe’ to me, I am fortunate in that sense as there are some people who suffer from even more severe amaxophobia and can’t even go on buses.”

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