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tenbenny 03-20-2012 05:40 PM

OCD and driving
So, I've been dealing with this form of OCD since September or October. There was a homeless man sleeping in my alley a little too close to the road one night, and when I came home to park in my driveway, I had somehow gotten in my head that I'd grazed the man. Of course, I heard no sound and felt no bump, but I walked down and when I was sufficiently convinced he was just sleeping and all was normal, I was home home. An hour later, he and his sleeping bag and gear were gone, so I had to realize somehow that a man that was flat as a pancake wouldn't have been able to take off like that.

That seems to have opened a door. It's led to months and months of me doubling back around in my car after passing people or streets or cars, sometimes returning to neighborhoods or walking around the sidewalk or street to check for any signs of something I've bumped into or hit. On Sunday, I was going to see a friend in the hills of Los Angeles' valley era, and I passed by a kid on a scooter. He wasn't in the road, but just off to the side, but I was surprised as there were cars going up and down this back road and it could be dangerous. Not a minute or two later, I was convinced I needed to just check up and make sure he was safe and that I hadn't somehow grazed him. I did go back, and saw him upright and scootering, swaying from side to side, and upright. I drove on towards my destination for a bit and then felt the need to go back yet again. Once again, I saw the kid upright and on the sidewalk, just hanging out. By then, I'd felt alright that all was fine. I went back one more time but he'd left the street by then and disappeared. It was only later that the panic and anxiety set in again. What if I did something? There's no way to know. There's no one to ask without seeming like a lunatic. I always try to remember what I've seen, to trust my eyes, to remember that when cars keep going by without stopping, that's also a signal. I write down details for myself to remember in a little journal. I'm sure the young man and all the others I've checked on and seen are all okay. I hope, because my mind will tell me differently. People have said to me to remember that if you ever clip something, you'll know. Really know. It's jarring, it's loud and you really feel and hear it.

This aspect of OCD is the worst I've ever dealt with, because it makes me feel like I'm amassing some kind of body count, harming people or damaging cars and not knowing it, being wanted by the law. I care about people and don't want that stuff to happen. I think causing harm and leaving a scene are not the things for anyone to do.

It hasn't stopped me from driving, but I don't think I can beat this on my own. The anxiety is just too powerful. Anyone else deal with this variety of OCD before?

Danman987 04-12-2012 12:01 AM

Re: OCD and driving
This post really hits home for me. Reading it sounds as though it was written about me. I had the exact same issue down to every detail you described. This is a less common form of OCD called hit-and-run ocd. Its tough to find anything about it online because its so rare. I know exactly how you feel. The racing thoughts as youre driving "did I just hit that person? No of course not that's crazy. But what if I just bumped them and didnt hear it because the music was too loud? what if somehow I didn't notice?" and the irresistable urge to turn around and go check to make sure you didn't hit them, which inevitably leads to you seeing someone else on the road as you're driving looking for the previous person to make sure they're ok and then now you start worrying you hit this new person and the cycle begins again. That feeling of "what if I'm just leaving a trail of dead bodies as I'm driving?" It's terrifying trust me I know. I would spend hours at a time just circling around making sure I hadn't hit people. I once circled my block 15 times in a row because I kept seeing people and thinking I might have hit them and having to go back and check. You just get stuck in the cycle of checking and rechecking. The only thing that would stop it for me is when I was just eventually emotionally and mentally exhausted and had no choice but to give up checking and go home. It even got to the point where if I was in the passenger seat I would worry that the driver had hit someone and actually ask them to go back and check which was of course quite embarassing. I eventually just gave up driving all together. It took about a year of Exposure Response Prevention therapy to get over the fear. And even now I still think about it when I pass a person on the side of the street. But now I realize that its not true, it's all in my mind. I know it seems so real but trust me it's not. One thing that helps me is asking myself this: "of all the times I've gone back and checked before, have I ever actually found a dead body or injured person? no. because its not real. Its just a faulty thought process caused by chemical imbalances in the brain." The only way to fight it is to resist the urge to go back and check to make sure you didn't hit someone. It's extremely difficult to resist that urge as I'm sure you know but trust me as you do it more and more it does get easier. Now its nothing but a quick though in my head every once in a while as I'm driving but I don't feel the urge to go check anymore. And trust me if I could get over that OCD, anyone can because mine was VERY severe. I thought for sure I was just going to give up driving for life because there was simply no way I could ever drive again without thinking I was killing people. If you've never tried Exposure Response Prevention therapy for this issue I would highly recommend it. Its very difficult, stressful work facing the fears, but trust me its worth it.

best of luck -Dan

waterfalls76 05-02-2012 12:51 PM

Re: OCD and driving
Yes! I can totally relate. I'm usually reassured by the sight of the person still walking down the street etc. Although once when I was checking to see that the pedestrian was ok, I noticed they were using their cell phone. I then worried they were using it to call the authorities to report me for reckless driving.

mom2gavin 05-27-2012 06:11 AM

Re: OCD and driving
My husband has this (and many) forms of OCD. It's very difficult to drive anywhere because he always thinks he hits someone. He has stopped (for the most part) going back to check on people, we have practiced with exposure therapy, and he doesn't use his rear view mirror anymore. I can see the complete anxiety in his eyes when this happens, and for me, I pray we don't pass anyone on the side of the road. My husband's OCD is severe although he can function at work.

Good luck to you, and I agree the best thing you can do is practice!

tattoogirly 06-26-2012 11:57 PM

Re: OCD and driving
Wow. I thought I was the only one who suffered with this. Everything you wrote in your post could have been written or thought by me at one time. I thought and did the exact same things you think and do. Did you notice I said "did". The obsessive fears I hit someone and killed them passed a long time ago. I did the whole, swing back around until I was satisfied I didn't hit anyone for a good amount of a year. I would drive with my eyes straight on the road and no where else. I couldn't drive with others, because then it would distract me from making sure my eyes were on the road and all the people around me. I would also check road conditions and watch the news all the time, making sure there were no reported hit and runs. It makes you feel crazy and exhausted, but my fears passed. I don't know if this is the same with you, but my obsessive thoughts and fears will change all the time. I have worried about AIDS, killing people, germs, throwing up, hitting people with my car, getting an STD, etc. etc. etc. Once I get over one obsession, another will begin. It's like my brain is not happy unless I am nit-picking and obsessing about something. My advice to you would be to focus on the logical thoughts you have, like if you hit someone, the car following you would stop, you would DEFINITELY feel it and know (hitting a person does NOT feel like going over a little bump in the road), etc. Let your rational thoughts come and focus on those. Mindfulness really helped me too.

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