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Counselling 4 Anxiety

Online and in-person Counsellor in Knightsbridge, Marylebone, Marble Arch & Central London

First for Care, Counselling & Community

Fear of Travelling by Public Transport, (Trains, Buses and the Underground or Metro)

A Combination of Shame, Control & The Perception of Not Being Able to Cope

It’s a Combination of Issues That Lie Beneath a Fear of Travelling by Public Transport

I know that a fear of travelling on public transport does feed into a form of a self-deprecating mental cycle. You feel that you cannot travel, feel worse about not being able to travel and then other thoughts about people having experiences that you can’t have just add to a lingering low mood, a lack of self-belief and a sense that you feel locked into a cycle where you have the same limited experiences.

Hypnotherapy has assisted many people who have had a fear of travelling on public transport, and I integrate a variety of tools that include hypnotherapy, counselling, reflective work, practical breathing exercises, pro-active problem solving and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques to assist in the healing process. So, there is a way ahead for you to move through life-limiting thoughts and fears.

I know from work with people who have a fear of using public transport that their fears are based on several things including:

  • A sense of shame; what if something happens when they are on the bus or the underground? If they react and want to get off, will people look at them?

  • This sense of feeling shame is further cycled when individuals think that they can’t even react since they will feel ‘shame about shame’ and then being unable to ‘exit’ adds to their sense of being ‘out of control’. (Allied to this is a sense of things happening to them, instead of them simply travelling peacefully to their destination).

  • Feelings that they cannot cope: One of the core elements that traverses across various forms of anxiety conditions is this; “an over-estimation of the severity of the likelihood of threat to life and well-being, and an under-estimation of the ability to cope by an individual with this condition”.

  • Feelings of being trapped in: This is something that comes up repeatedly when clients who have a fear of travelling on public transport, feedback to me on their fears. This also feeds into the sense of shame which also feels emotionally destabilising for people.

  • An ongoing fear that something catastrophic may happen: Individuals may feel that they cannot ‘see beyond’ the travel event and the focus and fixation on the event takes them away from ‘looking beyond it’. This also adds to the heightened sense of anxiety and super-fuels the anxiety to a much sharper level.

Avoidance Behaviours Because of the Fear of Using Trains, Buses or the Underground

Sheila (above), mentioned some key things here in her statement when I worked in therapy with her.

The fact that she got off the train was the point at which her fear of being on a train had taken root. She had strongly associated being on the train, with risk and extreme danger to her in the form of a panic attack. This association was the start of her fears of travelling on public transport and was at its core, a misinterpretation by Sheila, of what led to the panic attack. She had suffered a panic attack, of that there is no doubt. However, by simply being on the train, she had interpreted that environment as a threat to her, when the reality which we worked through in therapy, was that she had had a previous marriage breakdown, a precarious financial situation and a general feeling of ‘not being in control’ of her life. This latter perception, ‘of not being in control of herself’, was a core driver for the panic attack. The roots of her difficult experiences had now become tentacalised into making public transport the focus of her fear.

Sheila spent 8 months avoiding getting onto trains and this led to her fears growing so that she did not travel on buses, the London Underground and then on planes.

Her avoidance methods included:

  • Taking taxis to places where she wanted to go which led to further economic pressures on her and which heightened her generalised anxiety,

  • Ruminating about her fears of getting onto public transport and steering away from bus depots and train stations if she came across them whilst walking, so that they did not trigger anxious thoughts and further ruminations,

  • Seeking reassurance from relatives that she would be ‘ok’ if she ever travelled on a bus. This sense of ‘future-proofing’ was reassurance-seeking behaviour which was also strengthening her fears of using public transport.

  • Sheila also made excuses with friends when they wanted to meet in Central London. She would come up with a range of excuses which meant that she lost connection and friendships with people she studied and grew up with. She lost opportunities and she lost friendships and connections that were valuable to her in her life.

How Do I Work to Reduce Fears Around Travelling on Public Transport such as Buses, Trains and the Underground?

I specialise and work with clients who cannot travel on public transport because of their phobias. Activities I undertake include:

  • Assessing the roots of the fear around the phobias attached to travelling on public transport.
  • Working with clients to assess what are anxiety-based cognitions and feelings and when ‘doing the opposite’ of them may be necessary as part of an ‘Exposure Response Prevention’ programme,
  • Work through the practices of breathing techniques that are a useful tool in calming a part of the nervous system called the ‘accelerator’ or the sympathetic nervous system.
  • Changing the internal negative narrative that people say to themselves when they are looking to travel on public transport, to one which builds on their courage, skills and abilities.
  • Working with them to weaken the thoughts or cognitions that are associated with the fear of travelling on public transport,
  • Work with clients to support better, healthier and more meaningful relationships which can better support their sense of well-being and their confidence levels; this, in turn, can also support their sense of growing resilience,
  • Helping them to practice visualisation tools that can stimulate their parasympathetic nervous system (the ‘brake’ in the nervous system), which can help them to reduce their stress and anxiety levels,
  • Developing a graded exposure plan that helps them work towards travelling on all three forms and modes of transport within 8-12 months,
  • Maintaining personal motivation and ensuring emotional support going forward to the initial day of travel on a bus, train or the Underground.

Get in Touch

Feel free to contact me via the form below or on 0208 906 6877 if you have any questions about how therapy works, or to arrange an initial assessment appointment.

All enquires are usually answered within 24 hours, and all contact is strictly confidential and uses secure phone and email services.

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