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Anxiety This forum is for seeking advice on anxiety and stress related issues.

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  (#1 (permalink)) Old
Listelacruz Offline
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Severe anxiety while driving - August 9th 2016, 01:25 AM

I'm 19 and still yet to get my license even though I have had time and opportunity simply because I end up in basically a panic attack whenever I drive. It makes me stop too quickly, accelerate excessively, turn too sharply etc.

I can do literally nothing else while driving - not even navigate. I will drive past every turn I need to make because I have to hyperfocus on the driving itself, and I have to be reminded by whoever is with me that I need to make a turn.

It's crippling. I need to drive to work but I can't get over myself, I also need to get a car but can't really afford one (I have been searching for used ones but within my very limited budget I haven't been able to find a car that seems dependable in any way. If I managed to get my license and a car, and the car broke down on me, I would guaranteed lose my job, my savings, and have nothing to fall back on).

Stress build up has been making it worse. Sometimes when I am driving I tend to start thinking about gunning it into oncoming traffic because I can't bear my own life. Then I trance in that thought for a moment, then snap back to reality when whoever I am with tells me either to slow down, speed up, stay in my lane or that I missed my turn.

I have never taken depressive or anxiety medication in my life because I have always been against the idea of medication making me "not me" but I've come to realise that "me" can't handle himself and that maybe I do seeiously need medication.

So I guess more or less I want to know if medication might help me or if I have other options.
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JazzyJazz Offline
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Re: Severe anxiety while driving - August 9th 2016, 06:42 AM

Hi Thomas.

Firstly, I would like to say that it feels like you are being very hard on yourself. I know it's difficult, but please try not to beat yourself up about this. We all have things that we find difficult and the fact other people might not have such difficulty with them does not make our struggles stupid or anything like that. Yes, there are other people who can drive at 19, but comparing yourself to them is just pointless because we are all different. Furthermore, for what it's worth, there are plenty of people much older than you who aren't confident on the road.

The issue of financial problems getting in the way of you buying a car are not something I can really help you with. Although I would encourage you to think about whether it's worth learning to drive at a time when it's so hard for you, if you're not going to be able to get a car afterwards anyway. Would it not be better to wait until you are more financially stable? By then you might be in a better place mentally and both of these problems would therefore be diminished.

I'll be honest, this next bit is quite worrying:
Originally Posted by Listelacruz View Post
Sometimes when I am driving I tend to start thinking about gunning it into oncoming traffic because I can't bear my own life. Then I trance in that thought for a moment, then snap back to reality when whoever I am with tells me either to slow down, speed up, stay in my lane or that I missed my turn.
I'll be blunt - if you are having these thoughts and subsequent moments of concentration loss, you should not be driving. You are a danger to both yourself and other people. It takes only a split second lapse in concentration to cause an accident and I don't think you want to risk adding injury, a potential criminal record and a lifetime of guilt to your problems.

Whether you take medication or not is a personal choice. Do you see a psychiatrist at all? I would advise you to discuss both your issues and medication queries with a mental health professional. I know full well that a general physician can prescribe psychiatric medication, but from my experience they do not understand it properly. You are much safer speaking to someone who specialises in this field because medication is not without its drawbacks and you need to be aware of how it might affect you so that you can make an informed choice about whether it's right for you.

If you go and see your regular doctor, the conversation will probably go a little something like this: "So, what seems to be the problem?" "I feel anxious and depressed. I'm having trouble coping." "Oh okay, let me just look in this textbook... Here, take a prescription for these pills, they should help. If you feel sick at first, apparently that's normal." Really not particularly helpful.

Medication affects the way your entire brain works. It can even affect other things like your gut. From my experience, doctors do not understand this. If you found that medication wasn't working or was giving you horrific side effects, and you went back to see your general physician, s/he would just put you on something else and hope that that worked instead. It would be more of a guessing game than a calculated decision because of a lack of psychiatric knowledge and experience.

Which leads me on to the point that it may take a while to find something that works for you. Whilst this can still happen under the care of a psychiatrist, they would have a better idea of what's likely to work and what isn't, meaning less negative experiences plus a feeling of the situation being under control. I don't know about you, but from my own experience with anxiety I know that I always feel worse if I think that someone doesn't know what they're doing. I'm not saying that psychiatrists are all amazing, but it's their job to know about medication so there's a higher chance that you will come away from an initial session feeling much more informed about whether meds are right for you. And if they are, and you are started on them, the monitoring and adjustment process should be smoother and hopefully you will have a better outcome too.

Something else that will affect the outcome is whether or not you engage in any other type of therapy. It's worth noting that all healthcare professionals, whether psychiatrically trained or not, are encouraged to put patients on medication. The truth is that you may be able to overcome your issues with other treatment, such as Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. In fact, if you have thoughts of "gunning it into oncoming traffic because [you] can't bear [your] own life", it would seem that you have problems that you are not expressing in this thread and they should be addressed with therapy regardless of whether you start taking meds. Medication alone will not solve those issues (which is why, in mental health settings, it's used in combination with talking therapies). At the same time, medication can help you to feel generally more at ease with life and help calm you down. It can also help to lift your mood (and make it easier to engage with a therapist if you go down that route, which I would advise that you do).

My final point relates to what you said about medication making you "not me". Whilst medication does affect your thought processes, the type of medication you would probably be put on would not change your personality. You would still be you, but hopefully a better version of you who is able to "handle himself".

In summary, medication might be something that could help you, but there are other options too and I would encourage you to try those first, or at least consider a combination of both medication and face-to-face talking sessions with a therapist.

I hope you found this response in some way useful. If you have any more questions or want more support with this or anything else, please get in touch.

Best wishes,


Be kind to yourself.

Last edited by JazzyJazz; August 9th 2016 at 06:19 PM.
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Em. Offline
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Re: Severe anxiety while driving - August 9th 2016, 10:19 PM


As a learner myself I can completely relate I go into trances and get so nervous that my instructor has to shout at me because I've nearly crashed a few times!

I wouldn't say I get anxiety about it, my first driving instructor said to me he had a guy that was shaking so wildly while driving that he literally couldn't do it because he was so anxious, he went to the doctors about it and first went on pills but he wasn't keen on them so he got hypnotised and that worked amazingly apparently. It depends whether you believe in hypnotism. You'd be surprised how many options there are for anxiety and finding breathing methods to help you! I'm thinking about going to the doctors and I think you should too!

Sorry I couldn't give you any better advice but I really hope you manage to pass!

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