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Old 02-09-2005, 09:28 AM   #1
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GirlHarley HB User
DRIVING and panic attacks....

Anyone have trouble driving alone and having panic attacks or anxiety while feeling trapped at intersections or traffic lights?

I used to be able to drive with no problem, two years ago out of the blue I experienced a panic attack - then it started to get worst because I would think too much about the "fear" of panic attacks. I 'almost' stopped driving all together, or at least if someone was with me I could drive fine.
OR I would just stick with my 'safe zone' driving - meaning, mostly in my neighborhood or no farther then three miles from my house.

I would really like to hear stories who are dealing with this or who have over come their panic disorder with driving -

P.S. - I have been pushing myself everyday for the last three days to DRIVE
farther and farther from my house and it's working....

 
Old 02-09-2005, 10:19 AM   #2
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hanelo4 HB User
Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

Quote:
Originally Posted by GirlHarley
Anyone have trouble driving alone and having panic attacks or anxiety while feeling trapped at intersections or traffic lights?

I used to be able to drive with no problem, two years ago out of the blue I experienced a panic attack - then it started to get worst because I would think too much about the "fear" of panic attacks. I 'almost' stopped driving all together, or at least if someone was with me I could drive fine.
OR I would just stick with my 'safe zone' driving - meaning, mostly in my neighborhood or no farther then three miles from my house.

I would really like to hear stories who are dealing with this or who have over come their panic disorder with driving -

P.S. - I have been pushing myself everyday for the last three days to DRIVE
farther and farther from my house and it's working....


Hi there

I've had panic attacks for over a year now. It didn't start with driving, but I've had two panic attacks while driving so far. The other day was the weirdest. I was parked at my daughters school waiting for the buses to move so that I could pick up my daughter. Well, this bus pulls right on the side of me blocking me in and I started thinking of weird stuff.....like will I be able to get out if something happened. This feeling overwhelmed me and I felt my face getting flushed. I basically started talking outloud to myself, telling myself I was going to be okay. I put the music up a little because something about hearing music helps me a little. I started breathing in and out real slow while my eyes were closed and tried to get the closed feeling out of my mind. I was literally about to jump out of my car. I felt trapped. I think this all boils down to something that happened to me when I was little and is resurfacing in my panic attacks. I had a babysitter put a pillow over my face one time(just joking around), but I couldn't breathe and that freaked me out really bad. I felt like I couldn't move. Did anything happen to you to cause this feeling?

Chantel

Last edited by hanelo4; 02-14-2005 at 11:28 PM.

 
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Old 02-09-2005, 10:39 AM   #3
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Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

car driving probeems are common, so is the fear of being trapped at the lights
CBT helps, so does meds but obviously you need to be very careful with the meds
many need valium in order to drive,,,,,some need large doses and apparently it can be picked up by some tests

 
Old 02-09-2005, 10:48 AM   #4
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Graciecat HB UserGraciecat HB User
Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

That used to happen to me all of the time too.
I was fine driving as long as I could keep moving, but if I got stopped in traffic look out.
This is going to sound strange, but I was always sure that my car was moving even though I had both feet firmly and I do mean firmly planted on that brake pedal.
If I was the first one at the light I was fine for some reason, it only happened if I was farther back in line.
Even if someone else was driving it happened, at least then I could close my eyes until I knew we were moving again.

What worked for me was something that Chantel mentioned...I turned up the radio...for some reason hearing that voice helped me...I guess it gave me something else to think about.
Another thing that worked was jacking up the AC as high as it would go.

Thankfully I don't have panic/anxiety anymore so it doesn't happened to me now, but I just wanted to let you know that you're not the only one who feels like this and I wanted to give you some ideas on how to deal with it.
Hopefully one of them will work for you too.

Last edited by Graciecat; 02-09-2005 at 10:49 AM.

 
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Old 02-10-2005, 07:03 AM   #5
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popeye77 HB User
Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

Yep....all of the above plus driving on bridges over water. Last week I missed a turnoff and had to cross the Mississipi river, then turn around and recross it get to my destination. I thought I WAS GONNA DIE. I attribute my attacks to years of heavy drinking. Tried Zoloft for a week. I'd rather die. When I feel an attack comming on (ALWAYS WHEN DRIVING DO THEY OCCUR) I slow my breathing and tough it out. It's gradually getting better, but no more booze for me.

 
Old 02-10-2005, 09:27 AM   #6
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GirlHarley HB User
Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

thanks for the replies.

Chantel, yes - my panic attacks are do to stress I was going through in my life - didn't know it at the time how a very stressful life can trigger a panic attack - either way - It came out of the blue, while I was at a traffic light and it just got worst and worst from then on -
I'm working on the stress of my personal life that effected / created my
anxiety and panic attacks and also work through my ablitity to drive again.

HRT - I have read your posts - you are very knowledgeable and I enjoy reading your replys. I am on meds - Zoloft and Xanax. I do not take Xanax
to drive though, because it makes me drowsy. I do carry some with me as a safty measure. I take 1mg a night to sleep, SINCE - my anxiey and panic attacks, along with the zoloft screwed up my sleeping (as if I didn't have enough problems)

I would still like to hear others who have this problem or who have succeeded in getting past driving and panic attacks - hope they are out there

Also, I do recommend a great book that is helping me along -
Panic to Power by Lucinda Bassett - it's great! I just ordered her program which costs alot of $$ but have heard great things about it....

 
Old 02-10-2005, 12:58 PM   #7
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Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

Hi,

I've been an interesting case because although I'm a relative newcomer to driving my reaction to it was the opposite of what everyone expected - it CALMED me. My parents, relatives etc said I would NEVER be able to drive because I would be too anxious and maybe that's what fuelled me to do it - I passed in two months and I LOVE to drive. When I told my ex-therapist that driving could take away anxiety or a bad stomach, she was SHOCKED like hell lol.

It is strange though, recently I've started to get anxiety driving but only when driving to school, which I think says more about school than driving. It's this one give way just before school where I invariably panic in the car. Strange!
__________________
I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell.

 
Old 02-10-2005, 01:19 PM   #8
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hry33 HB Userhry33 HB User
Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

in general, anxiety sufferers should be encouraged to learn to drive, they usually make good safe drivers and driving improves their self confidence

 
Old 02-10-2005, 02:18 PM   #9
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rxqueen HB User
Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

I have panic attacks while waiting and driving! It's reassuring to see that it is common. It really is a nuisance.

 
Old 02-10-2005, 02:38 PM   #10
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popeye77 HB User
Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

This thread is a shock to me. I thought I was a freak. Along with panic problems I described earlier I have problems at times when I'M stopped at a light and first in traffic line at light. It's compounded doubley (sp?) if I'm stopped first in line in left turn lane. There's gotta be a common denominator here.

 
Old 02-14-2005, 11:32 PM   #11
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hanelo4 HB User
Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

Quote:
Originally Posted by jrmcxx
Yep....all of the above plus driving on bridges over water. Last week I missed a turnoff and had to cross the Mississipi river, then turn around and recross it get to my destination. I thought I WAS GONNA DIE. I attribute my attacks to years of heavy drinking. Tried Zoloft for a week. I'd rather die. When I feel an attack comming on (ALWAYS WHEN DRIVING DO THEY OCCUR) I slow my breathing and tough it out. It's gradually getting better, but no more booze for me.

Hi

My mom has a great fear of driving over high bridges. You aren't the only one. She would stop on the side of the road and make me drive over it. Funny thing is, I'm scared of heights and driving over a bridge doesn't bother me. It's weird what things do bother me though.

Chantel

Last edited by hanelo4; 02-14-2005 at 11:35 PM.

 
Old 02-15-2005, 05:01 AM   #12
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GirlHarley HB User
Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

jrmcxx - LOL, your post made me laugh...

NO! we are not freaks - although, I though there was something wrong with me because - one day I'm driving fine, the next day BANG > panic attack while driving - after a year and half of feeling that panic while driving - I was just about to give it up (driving) all together and live at home as a hermit.

That's why I wanted to post this thread because I know there are many people out there with that same issues...I'm not 100% better with driving in traffic or long distance, but......I'm pushing myself each day - is it easy - NO
but I'm learning to STOP the MADNESS of my Panic Disorder & Anxiety.

That's why I want to hear from others with this upsetting problem, who have faced their fears and over come it - and if I can too help someone with what I have learned and still learning - that would be great.


 
Old 02-16-2005, 11:41 AM   #13
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Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

GirlHarley, I have had an issue with driving/panic for many years. It was the original source of my attacks...later spread to other things. However, driving is my worst fear. I don't have much to offer as far as overcoming it, because I haven't yet, but I'm interested in your thread in search of other people's successes. I'm working real hard to get there, but it is going to take time. I've done one round of CBT, and now seeing the psychologist who taught the class...and taking xanax (only 1/2 pill/day every morning). I'm slowly improving...but wonder if I'll ever be able to overcome the fear.

It all started about 15 years ago after I had an optical migraine at work, and was taken by ambulance. I believe that was my first panic attack because I didn't know what was happening to me. After the migraine which severly affected my vision I was afraid to drive for fear of losing my vision while alone in the car. I only had fear of driving for maybe a year but it went away and I continued to drive alone. Then a few years later I had a panic attack while driving (at that time I didn't know what it was and hadn't been diagnosed yet). A few years later, I had a severe problem while driving one morning to work and had to call for help because I felt like I was going to faint. A few hours later I was taken to ER in an ambulance, found out I had hypoglycemia. My blood sugar was so severely low, almost down to coma state. That explained the fear (near panic) that had been coming over me many times while driving, it was low blood sugar. So I learned how to treat hypoglycemia for the most part...always carry snacks and sugar tablets, but sometimes it goes very low very fast and even if I eat...the fear sets in and causes panic that I'll be stranded and unable to get help. I've had to pull over many times before (feeling trapped) while driving and feeling very faint with low blood sugar. This probably set the stage for the fear of driving for me. I can't and haven't driven alone for probably near 5 years, except for short trips within my comfort zone, probably 3 miles from home.

Due to therapy I am now driving everywhere (with my husband in the car). I'm still not happy driving on the freeway in anything but the right lane...but I have made progress there too. I never like being stuck in traffic (feel trapped) and hate riding next to large semi-trucks, crossing bridges, etc. However, by driving everywhere with company gives me more practice and is giving me my confidence back...so I can graduate to the next step. My counselor said the next step is to have my husband ride in the back seat so I can get used to the feeling of "being alone" in the car. The next step would be for him to follow me on trips so I am alone, but have a comfort zone, and so on.

I hate being afraid of driving and having to rely on family members to go with me everywhere. I've lost my independence and burdened my husband and other family members...and that's not a good feeling. Additionally, I hate making excuses for not going places or doing things due to this disorder...and having to hide it from everyone except close family members. It really bites!

Sounds like you have got a handle on it before it had a total handle on you. It's smart that you didn't wait as long as I did to try to resolve the issue. The longer it goes, the harder it is to correct.

Thank you for starting this thread. I'll keep a watch on it for any other suggestions that may help.

 
Old 02-16-2005, 01:02 PM   #14
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Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

Well.....I thought I was doing better with driving and panic problems till yesterday. I think my problem is related to high BP (which I take meds for). I caught a bad cold which seems to raise my BP. Got up with a bad head cold, and had a cup of coffee. Jumped on the local tollway for a 60 mile trip. It was raining pretty hard but traffic was moving around 55-60 mph. About 2 miles down the road I REALLY tense up and am in total nutziness. So I gotta tough it out about another 10 miles to the next exit. Off I get and drive across town on city streets. Trip took 3 hrs. insted of 1.2 hrs on tollway. So I've still not cured, but I'm determined to succeed without meds. besides BP.

 
Old 02-16-2005, 05:16 PM   #15
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yelps HB User
Re: DRIVING and panic attacks....

There is a bridge at Petaluma , CA over water. This bridge is very steep incline and is like riding on the outer curve of an arc near the top. So much that you cant see the road in front of you. I started feeling disoriented because there is nothing to see except sky as you go along the arc and you have to go fast to keep- up with traffic. So I realize now I was starting to have a panic attack. Later I crossed it in thick fog and got disoriented again. I know some people have tunnel anxiety, but that bridge was the worst.

 
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