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Having attacks of driving anxiety for the first time ever and it's kind of scaring me.

jurassicbondjurassicbond Registered User regular
I'm trying to find out if anyone has had a similar situation to mine and how they've dealt with it. For the past month I've had anxiety about driving on the interstate, especially when I think I might get stuck in traffic. It started when I had some stomach bug which caused me to get extremely nauseous when I was driving and I had to pull over ASAP and find a place to vomit or use the bathroom. This happened a couple of times and the second time I even had to call coworkers to come get me and my car and then have my wife come drive me home.

Now ever since then, I've had a fear of being stuck in traffic somewhere and getting sick again without having anyway to get out of the situation. I don't get any bad physical symptoms like I've heard some people describe on other sites, but I still have this big worry in my head that just won't go away. I'm usually fine driving around local roads, but I have to drive through Atlanta for work and traffic is often bad, especially in the afternoons. Driving on back roads isn't much better during rush hour due to a lack of good places to pull over and stop in downtown. I have no experiences with anxiety before that was this intense, so this is kind of a new and scary feeling for me. It's also not like driving has ever bothered me before this. I've put over 100K miles on my car in the past 4 years from driving all over the eastern U.S. for work and never had any lingering issues. I did have one time a couple of years ago where vertigo almost made me pass out while on the interstate and I had to pull over while it passed, but I had no lingering anxiety from that experience after the vertigo symptoms cleared up.

I think it doesn't help that in the mornings, I always feel a little out of it no matter how well rested I am. I've had days in the past where I woke up just feeling a little more tired than usual and that turned into something serious within a few hours. Now it's like my brain is always questioning whether or not I'm really OK during those first few hours of the day. It also doesn't help that whatever made me initially sick left me with bad sinus congestion that still hasn't completely gone away and last week actually took a turn for the worse, though this week it seems a little better.

Luckily my boss has been understanding about the issue and said I can work from home on days I can't make it into the office because of this issue, and a coworker has been able to give me rides most days. I still want to hurry and get over this issue though since I don't like depending on other people and my coworker works a different schedule than what I like to work. He's also the only coworker that lives in the same direction I do, so if he takes a day off I've either got to try and drive in myself or work from home. A doctor and therapist said it sounds like post traumatic stress from the incidents when I got sick while driving and that with time it should go away on its own, but it doesn't seem to be getting better. Am I just not giving it enough time? Today the doctor prescribed me Lexapro, so I'll see if that helps any.

I have tried driving through Atlanta this weekend when there wasn't any traffic, and I had my wife with me as a kind of security blanket, and I was mostly fine, though still a little nervous when I reached areas that typically are backed up in my commute. I also tried driving some when we went on a weekend trip outside the city, and I was completely fine then. It really seems to be just traffic in particular that I have issues with, though I haven't tried driving much on the interstate alone.

Posts

  • DaimarDaimar A Million Feet Tall of Awesome Registered User regular
    It wasn't my experience, but before we met my GF had her engine catch fire in an intersection and it put a stop to her driving for a number of years. Public transit was available so she was able to cope, but eventually she did get used to driving my vehicle and now has her own car again and is feeling very confident.

    If you let that kind of incident defeat you and prey on your mind it could keep you off the roads for years so in my opinion you need to do as you have been and just drive. The more you drive and don't have sicknesses or incidents where you get stuck in traffic the easier it will be the next time and the time after that. If you need a co-worker or your wife to ride along with you to get over the initial hump then do that, if you need to see a therapist to work through the issue give that a try as well. You shouldn't tackle it alone or see it as some kind of weakness, get support and get your confidence back.

    steam_sig.png
  • CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    I have issues sort of similar to yours. I have a generalized anxiety disorder. One of the things that can set me off is driving. I also get sick at the drop of a hat. Literally every time I go on a trip, I am some form of horrifically ill. If the motion sickness doesn't get me, something else happens. (Last time it was food poisoning and I had to go to the ER.)

    Overall, it sounds like you're the right thing. As much as it sucks, easing into doing the thing that triggers your anxiety, and then practicing in low-stakes situations is pretty much the best way to work through it. It's great that you're already doing that.

    One thing you haven't mentioned though, which works for me, is preparing counter-measures for the specific thing that's scaring you. Like, the thing that I worry about the most when I'm driving is the fact that I might get lost. So before I drive, I make sure my phone is 100% charged, and have Google Maps tell me where to go. Then, if I make a wrong turn (which will happen on occasion) I have a safety net. Yes, I'm lost. But my phone will eventually tell me how to get where I need to go, or at the very least how to get home. That makes me feel a lot more secure.

    If I had to guess, I'd say the reason you don't have issues from the time you almost passed out, but do have anxiety from getting sick and puking, is because passing out isn't embarrassing but vomiting and the like are humiliating. Especially in public. Therefore, the prospect of being sick again is way more stress inducing than the thought of passing out.

    Anyway, here are some coping mechanisms I've developed from 23 years of car/plane/sea sickness that may make vomiting while traveling less scary:

    -I take a couple plastic bags, or ask for motion sickness bags when I travel. This means I don't have to worry about finding a place to puke. Also, if I'm in a car, I don't have to get out of the car. I can pull to the shoulder and puke in relative privacy.
    -I carry a tube of Dramamine with me. Dramamine can reduce my motion sickness in under five minutes. It also can make me drugged out as fuck, so I usually only take it on planes. But having that tube with me means I have an escape.
    -I carry water with me so I can take Dramamine or rinse out my mouth if I get sick.
    -If I start to feel car sick, I get out of the car and walk around for a couple of minutes.
    -I don't drink a lot of fluids before doing something that might make me nauseous. This keeps my stomach from feeling "sloshy" and tricking me into feeling carsick when I really just need to burp.

    Doing those things gives me a greater degree of control over my body and whether or not I'll get sick, but also makes being sick not as big a deal. And that really helps.

  • jurassicbondjurassicbond Registered User regular
    Creagan wrote: »
    I have issues sort of similar to yours. I have a generalized anxiety disorder. One of the things that can set me off is driving. I also get sick at the drop of a hat. Literally every time I go on a trip, I am some form of horrifically ill. If the motion sickness doesn't get me, something else happens. (Last time it was food poisoning and I had to go to the ER.)

    Overall, it sounds like you're the right thing. As much as it sucks, easing into doing the thing that triggers your anxiety, and then practicing in low-stakes situations is pretty much the best way to work through it. It's great that you're already doing that.

    One thing you haven't mentioned though, which works for me, is preparing counter-measures for the specific thing that's scaring you. Like, the thing that I worry about the most when I'm driving is the fact that I might get lost. So before I drive, I make sure my phone is 100% charged, and have Google Maps tell me where to go. Then, if I make a wrong turn (which will happen on occasion) I have a safety net. Yes, I'm lost. But my phone will eventually tell me how to get where I need to go, or at the very least how to get home. That makes me feel a lot more secure.

    If I had to guess, I'd say the reason you don't have issues from the time you almost passed out, but do have anxiety from getting sick and puking, is because passing out isn't embarrassing but vomiting and the like are humiliating. Especially in public. Therefore, the prospect of being sick again is way more stress inducing than the thought of passing out.

    Anyway, here are some coping mechanisms I've developed from 23 years of car/plane/sea sickness that may make vomiting while traveling less scary:

    -I take a couple plastic bags, or ask for motion sickness bags when I travel. This means I don't have to worry about finding a place to puke. Also, if I'm in a car, I don't have to get out of the car. I can pull to the shoulder and puke in relative privacy.
    -I carry a tube of Dramamine with me. Dramamine can reduce my motion sickness in under five minutes. It also can make me drugged out as fuck, so I usually only take it on planes. But having that tube with me means I have an escape.
    -I carry water with me so I can take Dramamine or rinse out my mouth if I get sick.
    -If I start to feel car sick, I get out of the car and walk around for a couple of minutes.
    -I don't drink a lot of fluids before doing something that might make me nauseous. This keeps my stomach from feeling "sloshy" and tricking me into feeling carsick when I really just need to burp.

    Doing those things gives me a greater degree of control over my body and whether or not I'll get sick, but also makes being sick not as big a deal. And that really helps.

    Thanks for the advice. Even before my anxiety, I actually was already in the habit of driving with my Google Navigate on after work just in case traffic caused my normal route to be too slow. I'll follow your other suggestions though.

    Creagan
  • IrukaIruka Registered User, Moderator mod
    I don't have the physical sickness, But My anxiety likes to hike up in the car, which is way worse when I don't have to drive regularly. Switching lanes is something that gives me a ton of anxiety, so highway driving can be stressful, especially if I've got to drive something slow. Having to drive to work gives me a stress with the time constraint, If you work a shift where you need to be on time, leave way early. I would give myself an extra 30-40 minutes I didn't need just so that I could drive to work with no stress. I would just sit in the car and listen to NPR when I got there, usually.

    Back in NC I would also just drive around town on a day when I had nothing to do. With google maps you dont feel like you are getting lost, and it really takes the pressure off so you can just map out new areas. Really helps with old cities that dont make sense on maps, also if you are visually/landmark oriented when it comes to directions, its a huge relief if you get lost but then you recognize the stuff around you. I find that though google maps can get me home, just having a mental grid of the area actually calms me down, and getting calm is the goal. Being in the car for a few hours just driving may not sound ideal if you get sick, but I would say that doing a test run when you aren't going anywhere critical, like work, is good.

  • jurassicbondjurassicbond Registered User regular
    Well the Lexapro seems to initially be making my anxiety a little worse. Hopefully that goes away soon.

  • spool32spool32 Contrary Library Registered User regular
    edited February 2015
    I think taking Lexapro for anxiety like this is massive overkill

    what you need to do is get someone in the car with you, or following you, and do a lot of driving until you get over it. Retrain your mind not to panic. Listen to music, get a podcast or something to take your mind off things, and do the task you're afraid of until you've desensitized yourself to it again. Follow Creagan's advice to make it easier on yourself while you're doing so.

    When I was 17 I flipped a car 3 times on a gravelly curve, and I was terrified of going around corners at any sort of speed for a while afterwards. The only thing that solved it was just... going around curves. Eventually, that one curve, over and over, until I started getting comfortable again with not lifting my foot off the gas while cornering.

    Medicating this incident seems like a very very large overreaction and I think you should get a 2nd opinion on the Lexapro immediately. You say you're a person who doesn't experience anxiety in other parts of life, and that this is a new experience for you. Confront it and desensitize yourself to it, and over a short-ish time it'll fade.

    spool32 on
  • CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    If the lexapro is causing you problems, definitely talk to your doctor about it. But honestly, some people need medication to help them with their anxiety. You may be one of those people, you may not be. Either way, there's nothing wrong with that.

    A couple things I forgot to mention-
    1. If you're using puke bags, check them for holes ahead of time. (Especially if you're using grocery bags.)

    2. The point of having a plan for what you will do if the scary thing happens is to remind yourself that you've got a plan and therefore the thing isn't so scary. So whenever you start to get nervous about the big scary thing, you remind yourself realistically what will happen if you do actually get sick:

    You'll get your puke bag before you are ill, and pull to the shoulder.
    You will be sick in your bag.
    You will rinse out your mouth, tie the bag up, and stick it someplace you don't have to look at it.
    Then you will get out of your car and walk around the shoulder until you feel better, which will happen.
    You will drive again, because throwing up once generally does not incapacitate people for a full day.
    You'll eat easy to digest food for the rest of the day (plain chicken, rice, toast, plain pasta, ginger ale...) to make sure it doesn't happen again, or at the very least you're not puking on an empty stomach.

    So instead of letting your brain start coming up with every single disaster scenario it possibly can, you force it to think about the plan instead. And the plan makes the horrible scary thing much easier to deal with, because not only are you prepared for it, but it also won't be as bad.

  • TomantaTomanta Registered User regular
    Well the Lexapro seems to initially be making my anxiety a little worse. Hopefully that goes away soon.

    I am just starting to come off Lexapro, but I remember that the first few weeks when I started taking it were a rotating parade of side effects. Most only lasted 2-3 days, a couple lasted most of the six week startup period but they all went away. One of those side effects, lasting a couple of weeks, was extremely increased anxiety, but it eventually went away.

  • jurassicbondjurassicbond Registered User regular
    edited March 2015
    spool32 wrote: »
    I think taking Lexapro for anxiety like this is massive overkill

    what you need to do is get someone in the car with you, or following you, and do a lot of driving until you get over it. Retrain your mind not to panic. Listen to music, get a podcast or something to take your mind off things, and do the task you're afraid of until you've desensitized yourself to it again. Follow Creagan's advice to make it easier on yourself while you're doing so.

    When I was 17 I flipped a car 3 times on a gravelly curve, and I was terrified of going around corners at any sort of speed for a while afterwards. The only thing that solved it was just... going around curves. Eventually, that one curve, over and over, until I started getting comfortable again with not lifting my foot off the gas while cornering.

    Medicating this incident seems like a very very large overreaction and I think you should get a 2nd opinion on the Lexapro immediately. You say you're a person who doesn't experience anxiety in other parts of life, and that this is a new experience for you. Confront it and desensitize yourself to it, and over a short-ish time it'll fade.

    Yeah. I actually decided not to take it for now. Doctor also gave me something called Buspirone to take as needed which seems to take the edge off just enough where I can deal with it. Plus I haven't noticed any side effects and it's supposedly not supposed to be something people get dependent on or have withdrawal symptoms with. Made it in this morning OK, though I was still pretty nervous for parts of the drive.

    jurassicbond on
    CreaganZilla360
  • jurassicbondjurassicbond Registered User regular
    Well I thought I had beat this thing. I've been driving to and from work for the past week and a half without any medication and no signs of anxiety. I've dealt with bad traffic and weather without feeling any panic, but then today it all came back. I don't even know what triggered it. The weather was beautiful and for once traffic was great all the way home, but about halfway home I started getting nervous and my heart rate went up to a mile a minute. I had to pull over and stop and take back roads home the rest of the way which turned a half hour drive into a 90 minute drive.

  • michaelmathmichaelmath Someday Registered User regular
    If you do decide to use certain anxiety medication, be very careful. You can get a DUI driving with benzos in your system.
    SSRI's shouldn't be a problem. I don't have any real advice, just a warning.

    Geth
  • CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    Well I thought I had beat this thing. I've been driving to and from work for the past week and a half without any medication and no signs of anxiety. I've dealt with bad traffic and weather without feeling any panic, but then today it all came back. I don't even know what triggered it. The weather was beautiful and for once traffic was great all the way home, but about halfway home I started getting nervous and my heart rate went up to a mile a minute. I had to pull over and stop and take back roads home the rest of the way which turned a half hour drive into a 90 minute drive.

    Sometimes anxiety will do that. It sucks. I can be sitting at home, with literally nothing stressing me out. Then I realize I'm having heart palpitations. I wish I knew a trick to make it stop doing that, but really the best I can do is ride the anxiety out and try not to let it scare me off of whatever I was doing when it happened.

    Iruka
  • JebusUDJebusUD Adventure! Caaba Beankomy XobthroRegistered User regular
    You aren't like... slamming energy drinks or coffee or pre-workouts or anything right? Those can really amp up anxiety.

    And I won, so you lose,
    Guess it always comes down to.
  • jurassicbondjurassicbond Registered User regular
    JebusUD wrote: »
    You aren't like... slamming energy drinks or coffee or pre-workouts or anything right? Those can really amp up anxiety.

    No. At most I'll have a couple of cups of tea.

  • MulletudeMulletude Registered User regular
    This last episode almost sounds like anxiety because you hadnt encountered any trouble with the drive. I get that on a seemingly otherwise great day. Brains are jerks

    XBL-Dug Danger WiiU-DugDanger Steam-http://steamcommunity.com/id/DugDanger/
  • CreaganCreagan Registered User regular
    Sometimes brains like to be all, "Hey, this has gone really well so far. That means the rest of the thing will be AWFUL, and I must start freaking out about it!" And really all you can do is remind yourself that it's not a sign everything's about to fall apart and even if it does, you're prepared for it so there's no reason to worry.

    Julius
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