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Months after her accident, Malaika Arora overcomes her fear of driving; experts share tips that can help

Being fearful of driving after having been in an accident is an extremely natural consequence, explained Drisha Dey, Consultant Psychologist, Kolkata

malaika aroraMalaika Arora on overcoming her fear of driving (Source: Malaika Arora/YouTube)
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After meeting with an accident in April this year, Malaika Arora has been trying to overcome her fear of driving — something she opened up about on her latest show, Moving In With Malaika. In a clip, Malaika can be seen getting into her car to drive to a nearby store but gets out just a few minutes later. “I hopped into the car for the first time since my accident. I sat in the driver’s seat. It is a fear that I really do want to overcome. It was something I could do but [when I sat in] I was looking at it as if I was sitting in a spaceship. It was weird. Coming face to face with it, I froze. I completely froze. My hands went cold, and my feet felt weird. I couldn’t tell which was the brake, which was the clutch. I can’t do this. Forget it. I hopped out of it pretty fast,” said Malaika, who has not driven in more than six months.

Recalling her accident, which happened while she was on her way to Mumbai from Pune, Malaika shared some graphic details. Revealing that the accident happened when her car was parked, she said: “I don’t think there is anything in my life that shook me the way that moment and that incident did. I was pretty badly banged up actually. Can you imagine that it was a stationary car? A bus full of people lost control and rammed into our car,” she recollected.

“In that moment, I thought I was disfigured. I thought I had lost my sight because I couldn’t see anything for a couple of hours. There were so many glass shards in my eyes and there was blood. So, I couldn’t see. I genuinely thought that I wouldn’t survive. I may not see Arhaan (son) again,” added Malaika, who underwent surgery following the accident.

Cut to the second episode of the show, in which Malaika can be seen shooting for a commercial that required her to sit behind the wheel; she can be heard saying, “I am my own biggest cheerleader. It was a professional commitment and an emotional upheaval that I was dealing with. I was conflicted. I don’t like speed. I am not comfortable with it. And now my fear of speed has heightened even more. I want to overcome my fear but I am still nervous.”.

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Eventually, the 47-year-old drives. “When I was shifting the gears, it felt like I was shifting the gears of my life. It all seemed a little surreal. I can’t hack the fear of being in a car, doing the stunt. I am petrified of it as well,” said Malaika when asked to break a glass during the shooting of the commercial. She is also shown speaking with her sister, Amrita Arora, who encourages her to overcome her fear.

“All I can is that I have got a second chance. It was a switch. The moment I walked out of the van to the place where the action was, I felt like the bravest person. My intention is to get rid of all my fears. ‘Sarvanaash’! I heard the director say action and I just drove,” said Malaika. “I did it,” she jumped in joy. She further said, “I felt like I had wings. I just couldn’t feel my legs. It’s done! The glass felt like I was crushing my fears!”

Further, talking about fear, Malaika said, “Fear is very temporary. Sometimes, some of these fears are also self-manifested. I think you can win over these fears. I can take it on,” she said on the show.

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Accidents can take a toll on one’s physical, mental and psychological health. Here’s what to know about the fear of driving post accidents, and what can help.

Being fearful of driving after having been in an accident is an extremely natural consequence, explained Drisha Dey, Consultant Psychologist, Kolkata.

“The trauma of the accident affects one such that getting back behind the wheel could act as a trigger in reminding them of the terror they had experienced during the accident. This fear could result in them refusing to get back into the driver’s seat, not trusting others behind it either and if this fear continues, it could compound over time and act detrimental to how one goes about their day. After a point, people in close proximity of the survivor could lose their patience and term this fear as an ‘overreaction’ and ‘illogical’,” Dey said.

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Th expert went on to add that traumatic experiences, especially if not addressed healthily by proper professionals, could lead to maladaptive consequences, one of which is PTSD or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. ”

As a disorder that results from the failure to recover after experiencing or witnessing an event that threatens one’s safety and/or identity, “PTSD may last for months or years fraught with triggers that bring back memories of the trauma or the state of being experienced during the trauma along with intense emotional and physical reactions,” Dey told indianexpress.com.

How does such fear manifest?

Ways in which fear may “create massive anxiety during driving”, according to Dr Rahul Taneja, consultant, Mental Health and Psychotherapy Paras Hospital, Udaipur, include:

*Fear of meeting with another accident, even after driving for years safely.
*The thought of driving itself causes one to suffer severe and extreme anxiety.
*The fear that one might suffer a panic attack while driving, which will affect them or cause another accident.
*Fear that they may harm or kill any person, family, their own children, or their entire family.

What can help?

Dey stressed that it is imperative to note that this fear is in no way invalid nor is it the fault of the survivor. “Contrary to being helpful, such invalidating comments tend to make things worse. If one experiences such fear and discomfort, one should speak to a mental health professional and do so before one attempts to resume driving. A frightened driver is more prone to danger,” said Dey.

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In some cases if the symptoms are uncontrollable, doctors do advise medicines because of which the individual can get better sleep and is relieved of the anxiety. Yoga and meditation will always come handy in such case, said
Dr Sanjay Kumavat, consultant psychiatrist and sexologist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund. “The person also needs to do relaxation exercises to calm himself/herself down,” Dr Kumavat added.

The earlier the issue receives addressal, the less perpetuation of the consequences occur, added Dey. Even if one does not immediately experience such fear post the trauma, it is advised to see a mental health professional because sometimes triggers in the environment may present themselves some time after the traumatic experience, noted Dey.

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First published on: 07-12-2022 at 14:10 IST
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