Driving anxiety drove me up the wall!
A massive fear of mine was losing control of my car, especially on the motorway.
Whenever I hit the motorway I’d get an intense feeling of being trapped, and thoughts like ‘what am I going to do if something happens to me and I’m stuck’ would race around in my head. It would cause a panic attack, and I’d have to pull over on the hard shoulder while trying to control my breathing and disorientation – not nice.
The fear got so bad I avoided the motorway at all costs.
The trouble was, by avoiding it, my anxiety about driving on the motorway kept getting worse over time, and I continued to avoid it as long as I could (which ended up being months).
My comfort zone kept shrinking until I became fearful of driving altogether, and I panicked at just the thought of having to drive.
I have no doubt lots of you reading this will be able to relate to driving anxiety – it’s a common high anxiety symptom.
Here’s a question I received from Olivia about driving anxiety. She’s going through a very similar experience to mine, proving how common it is.
As soon as I get on the motorway I start feeling anxious and panic. I get dizzy and feel like I'm going to lose control of my car. If I drive too close to a lorry or big vehicle I feel like I'm going to crash into it, so I slow down and try to avoid it.
I panic when I just think about driving on the motorway, and it’s getting to a point where I feel as though I’m not going to be able to do it anymore. A few days ago I had to get a friend to go on the motorway with me because I was too afraid to go on my own.
Luckily I don't have to go on a motorway to get to work, but it is preventing me from travelling to see friends and family. I'm restricted where I can go unless I get somebody else to drive or be with me, but I don't want to keep depending on others.
I’ve noticed I’m getting more and more nervous about driving on normal roads, and I’m scared it will get to a point where I’m not able to drive at all. I can’t imagine living without my car, so it scares the life out of me to think I might not be able to drive.
Driving anxiety convinced me that the motorway was a danger to my survival, so I was always on high alert. That’s why I panicked at just the thought of having to drive on the motorway, and why I avoided it at all costs.
It was only when I had a make-or-break meeting for work I had to brave it. I didn’t have anybody to drive me at the time, but if I didn’t attend, I’d lose one of my biggest clients.
I feared public transport just as much as driving at the time, so I decided to opt for the car.
The journey to my client was about an hour, but it felt like ten hours! It was a very shaky affair, but I managed it without the need of the hard shoulder.
It was far from easy, but after the deed was done, I felt more confident.
With this newfound confidence, I decided to hit the motorway again the next day. It still wasn’t easy, but again, my confidence was growing.
I could have got somebody to accompany me, but I decided this was something I had to do on my own; otherwise I’d always be dependent on someone else.
I didn’t want the momentum to end, so I decided to go on the motorway every day for the next week, even if I didn’t need to.
Every day got better.
When I felt trapped and like it was getting too much, I reminded myself what the motorway was – a bit of concrete like all the other roads I drive on. This perception of the motorway helped me rationalise my fear and put it into perspective.
I focused on the end goal rather than the extremely slim possibility that something bad would happen.
With time and practice, I overcome my fear of driving on the motorway by facing it head-on. It’s the only way to do it. If you keep avoiding driving on the motorway, how are you ever going to know if you can do it?
It was tough, to begin with. I was convinced something bad would happen, but I had to break through this fear if things were going to change long-term.
I knew if I kept avoiding the motorway the fear will continue to get worse, making it harder to overcome the fear. In the end, that wasn’t an option. Like you, Olivia, I couldn’t imagine my life without my car.
As I said, overcoming driving anxiety was difficult, to begin with, because I was working against my survival instinct (fight or flight).
But with practice and time, it will become second nature again, like it did with me. The feelings of disorientation and dizziness will disappear, and the fear will dwindle away.
In the end, I believe my fear of being dependent on others was the driving force behind me overcoming my driving anxiety. My desire to see my friends and family when I wanted, and be free to live my life on my terms, outweighed my fear of driving.
It’s our biggest fears that put us into action. If you fear losing your independence over driving on the motorway, I have no doubt you’ll overcome the fear too.
Watch my video on driving anxiety on Facebook and Instagram.
A headache is a brain tumor, and indigestion is a life-threatening heart attack.
Health anxiety has a fantastic ability to make you believe all sorts of sinister things.
And it’s not just about you.
Your entire family is at risk. Your kids, grandkids, spouse – they’re all at threat.
Dr. Google has a lot to answer for, too.
As soon as a symptom arises you hit the internet wondering how long you have to live. The answer generally comes back that you don’t have long, and so the panic starts.
You need reassurance, so the doctor’s surgery becomes a second home. You also need constant reassurance from the people around you (if you’ve told them you’re suffering from health anxiety – if you haven’t, it’s worse because you bottle it inside).
You need to know you’re not dying, and you’re sent off for numerous tests – all coming back clear.
How can that be? How can it be these constant headaches aren’t something more sinister? How can I feel this sick and dizzy if there isn’t anything wrong with me?
I don’t believe you doctor. Check me again.
Tests are clear again.
Health anxiety has won again.
Anxiety about your health is a very powerful and persuasive emotion, because it’s focused on our survival (possible death). Seeing as survival and staying alive is our #1 instinct, it becomes our #1 priority, and anything flagged as a potential threat consumes us with fear and worry.
When you overthink, it creates problems that don’t exist, and if you focus on something enough, it will become an issue.
That freckle on your skin will continue to get bigger and look more sinister if you keep looking at it.
That headache will become more frequent and intense if you concentrate on it.
The floor will feel as though it’s jumping up at you if you focus on it enough.
I found that my anxiety related symptoms were all in my head, and the more I focused on them, the more I experienced them.
It’s common sense really – the more you focus on something, the more of it you’re going to get – the more you’re going to attract it to your life.
Focus on your anxiety related symptoms and you get more of them.
Focus on what it is you want, because that’s what you’ll start to attract in your life instead.
When I focused less on my symptoms and more on my day-to-day activities, I found the symptoms subsided. They simply ceased to exist.
Rather than focus on the bad things you’re convinced will happen to your family, focus on what you and your family want and need. A holiday, a day out, or a family sit down and meal perhaps?
Take one day at a time and keep focusing on the things you want. With time and practice, every day will get better.
If there is something that requires genuine medical attention, don’t be afraid to visit your doctor. That’s what they are there for. Nobody is judging you, and your health is the #1 priority.
It’s another issue if you find yourself constantly visiting the doctor or the internet for reassurance. If that’s the case, health anxiety is becoming an issue, and you should look to do something about it.
If realigning your focus is still a struggle and you need extra support, start with a talking therapy (counselling). Speak to your doctor or contact Anxiety UK.
There is always help available, and you don’t have to suffer any longer.
Watch my video on Overcoming Health Anxiety on Facebook and Instagram.
The best way to connect with Carl and join the discussion is on his Facebook page