774736 tn?1311331385

I feel Faint while driving, why is this?

Today I was with my mom helping her run some errands because her foot is broken and on my way home I was kind of upset (I wont go into the details of why) and I started feeling dizzy and right before I got home a block away I felt this strong fainting sensation come over me so, I sped home and quickly parked the car.  When I got out it lasted another few seconds; then once I laid on my bed I was back to normal.  This is not the first time I have felt faint while driving either.  What could be causing this? I've had several cardiac tests, CAT SCAn of my head, numerous blood chemistry panels, and everything looked fine; I've been told by several doctors that I'm a healthy 24 yr old male (besides my smoking habit, Acid reflux and the fact that I'm overweight).  I'm not sure If I was hyperventilating or if I had some adrenalin surge but I know these things are correlated with pre-syncope; idk I'm just scared and want to know whats causing it because it's interfering with my life and I already have enough medical bills.
13 Responses
Avatar universal
It sounds like a possible panic attack. Have you been diagnosed with anxiety?
Avatar universal
This is common with anxiety, and it happens when we get out of our "safe area" like home. Some people experience this in open spaces such as the grocery store....any open area. The fact that you have never fainted shows you that you're not going to, and this is just anxiety messing with you. The best thing to do during these times are deep breathing exercises....slowly breathe in through your nose and out of your mouth. Turn on the radio in the car to distract yourself from thinking about it. I know how scary this is but please don't drive faster to get somewhere.  It would be safer if you could pull over and walk around to use up this extra adrenaline, calm down and then continue home.  You've been through this before and even though we fear we may faint....the past shows us that we won't and you have to remind yourself of this. This can become full blown Agoraphobia where one is unable unable to even leave their house, therapy and/or medication can help a lot with this.  Take care.
480448 tn?1426948538
Driving is one of the most commonly reported anxiety-producing activities for people with anxiety disorders (especially panic disorder).  That's because, like mammo explained, we are not in our "safe area", and the farther you travel away from your safety zone (which is usually your house), the worse you may feel.  Also, driving causes such anxiety because we KNOW we MUST remain in control at all times while doing so.  Therefore, we become more anxious at the thought of something happening while wer'e driving.  We basically condition ourselves to feel anxious.

Like mammo also  said, anxiety will not cause you to faint, and you've been through this enough to know that it has never happened, even when you feel like you are going to.  You need to reassure yourself of those facts when you become nervous.  And yes, most definitely don't try to rush home, that's our knee-jerk reaction, but obviously, it is not safe.  Mammo gave you some great suggestions of ways to work thru it.

Remind me, are receiving any kind of professional treatment for your anxiety?  If not, you need to seek out a mental health professional who can start working with you, you need to address the anxiety.
774736 tn?1311331385
I am currently not getting any professional CBT.  I just have a hard time accepting that anxiety can cause all these symptoms it's ridiculous how many things stress can supposedly cause.  No one has ever really explained why these physical symptoms come over me especially when I'm not always in a state of panic.  Please help explain why.  I know there are certain chemical reactions in the brain and body that cause these symptoms but what exactly?  
480448 tn?1426948538
Well, that's the great mystery behind panic attacks.  No one, not even researchers and doctors know what really causes them.  There are a lot of theories, similar to what causes other anxiety disorders.  There is believed to be a genetic component, possible chemical imbalances in the brain, and environmental factors.

One of the most common shared characteristics of panic attacks from person to person is that they happen "out of the blue" .  That's actually one of the criteria used by psychiatrists to diagnose panic disorder.  We can be sitting on the couch, in our car, watching TV, etc, when symptoms hit.  Those symptoms can vary greatly from person to person.  Some people report chest pain, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate, dizziness, nausea, sweating, etc.  

These symptoms occur because a panic attack is basically the "fight or flight" response, which is the activation of the sympathetic nervous system in the event of life threatening danger.  It is a physiological occurence, that in the event of REAL danger, would act to save your life.  There is a surge of adrenaline which allows the body to adapt, to prepare to fight, or to flee, from danger.  That surge of adrenaline is what causes the symptoms of a panic attack.

The thing that differs from a panic attack versus the FOF response in real danger, is that the threat is perceived, or in our minds.  Many times, we can never identify a specific fear, or trigger, which adds to the frustration.  It also makes it that much more scary.  That we could be fine one moment, and not fine the next.  The good news is, while scary and upsetting, a panic attack is harmless.  The body will always return itself to a state of calm, once it realizes there is no real danger.  That's the parasympathetic nervous system.  It's responsible for deactivating FOF and restoring normalcy.  The human body is pretty amazing like that.

You would THINK, since there is no real danger, that we could talk ourselves out of a panic attack, reason with our brains.  It's not that easy.  That's where professional help comes into play.  The most common approach to addressing panic is medications and therapy.  The medications act by helping to control the symptoms of anxiety while we work with a therapist to learn all about anxiety and panic, how to cope with it, how to react in these situations.  It takes time and practice to learn how to NOT flee, to NOT react to those feelings of terror.  The more we do that, the more we feed into the panic, we give it power.  If we can sit it out, as long as we can, we are retraining our brains to associate that the feelings of panic don't really mean that there is danger.  After doing that for a period of time (and again, it is not easy), we begin to decrease the severity and frequency of panic attacks.

One of the hardest things to do is to accept that anxiety is the cause of our symptoms.  It's just so hard to imagine that anxiety could cause such real physical symptoms!  But, after you've had thorough medical work ups, and are given a clean bill of health, it's only reasonable to start addressing the issues as being anxiety related.

You really need to try...find a good psychiatrist and therapist, and start working on it.  You've been posting here for quite some time, and obviously, these issues aren't getting better on their own.  Anxiety usually doesn't, it usually requires help from professionals.  Once you start the process, you will learn a lot more about it, which will help you in the acceptance department.

You really have nothing to lose, right?  You've been assessed medically, and nothing has been found (which is a GOOD thing!), so the next logical step is to give anxiety treatment a try.  You have multiple people telling you they think that's the issue, so why not just take that first step?

It saddens me to see people suffer for so long because they can't accept that anxiety is their problem.  We see it a lot.  The more you delay treatment, the worse the anxiety will become.  Then when you DO seek treatment, it will be even harder to get it to a manageable level.
2118271 tn?1337463104
Hi newporttttt- I have experienced the exact same thing- it is so scary, and I have reacted the same way as you- drive faster to get home to my safe place.

It sounds weird, but one thing I do to "keep myself from passing out" is I start yelling in the car, which always leads to crying.  I don't recommend this- it's just how I cope with what is going on.  It's terrible when I have to turn around and come home.  I was on my way to visit my grandmother on mother's day and I had a HUGE panic attack exactly like what you described, and I ended up turning around and coming home.  The ideal thing to do, as someone earlier suggested is to pull over and breath and relax.  Easier said then done, but that is probably the right thing.

I totally understand what you are saying that you can't imagine your symptoms have to do with anxiety, and nursegirl has been trying to drill this into me when I post similar questions about what is going.  But she is correct, anxiety can pose some very odd symptoms.

My therapist told me she has a patient that when he gets nervous his skin starts shedding, kind of like dandruff, but his face, neck, and chest.  That is just one good example of how anxiety affects us all differently.  The truth is anxiety can manifest itself in nearly any symptom.  That is just the nature of stress and anxiety.

I finally got put on medication because I was missing work and just basically missing out on life.  After 2 years of thinking something else was wrong with me and spending far too much on doctors, I know that anxiety is my main issue, and a little prozac has been a huge life changer.  Things are not perfect, but they are getting better.  I dearly hope this happens with you to.  I am always around to chat if you need.
480448 tn?1426948538
Nice post.  It's so great to share your own experiences.  It helps people understand just how common anxiety is, and how a lot of people struggle to believe that the culprit is anxiety.

You are very correct in saying that the BEST thing to do in the event of a panic attack is to fight the urge to flee.  That's what we want to do...get out of the situation and home, where we feel safe.  The problem with doing that, however, is it conditions us to start avoiding uncomfortable situations, and can lead to agoraphobia, where we basically become housebound (been there, done that, not pleasant!!).

The more we can FIGHT the urge to flee, the more power we take away from the panic.  Now, this is NOT an easy thing to do and it takes practice.  Start slow....stay as LONG as you can possibly stand it before going back home.  With time and practice, you will increase the time you wait it out, until eventually you can not flee, and continue on with the task at hand.  With each time you avoid the knee jerk reaction of wanting to escape, you are empowring yourself.

The grocery store was always a rough one for me. I cannot tell you how many carts I've abandoned due to panic attacks. I started slowly challenging myself to wait it out when panic would hit.  The first few times, I was lucky I lasted a minute or two before I had to take off.  Then I built up my time to 5 minutes, then ten...until I was able to sit it out and continue shopping.  What an accomplishment!  It was empowering, and really helped to retrain my way of reacting/thinking.  Again, it's not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but with hard work and perserverance, it can be done.

Btw, this advice is for everyone and anyone reading.  Learning to break that cycle of anxious thinking is a real b**ch!  But, many of us have success stories to prove it CAN be done.  Sure, our lives are not anxiety free.  I've actually never met or heard of someone with an anxiety disorder that managed to totally erradicate it, but we can empower ourselves, learn how to cope, and arm ourselves with the tools to fight it head on when we're experiencing periods of exacerbation.

Stay strong!
Avatar universal
I just wanted to say; thank you for posting these comments - knowing your not alone makes a huge difference as you start to think your loosing the plot. I've been suffering with driving panic attacks for about 4 years. I do not drive on motorways at all now because of this and there are certain roads that trigger this intense feeling of fear and panic. These panic attacks have recently started affecting every day life; making me miserable and feeling isolated. They got so bad I thought I was going to collapse at work last week. I did seek hynotherapy for this about 3 years ago but they hypotherapist just wanted to get me out on motorways before I was treated and that was not helpful - therefore put me off totally. This could be another form of treatment - just giving more options. Now having read this I am going to get the help I need in the way of some therapy because life is too short and hell I am not going to let this anxiety sh!t beat me!!!!!!!!!
Avatar universal
I have the same problem, it started all of a sudden, the lightheadedness feels horrible that yesterday I pulled over on the side of the highway and waited until I could get the strength to get back out onto the highway.  I am scared to faint passing a car or an 18 wheeler killing myself by losing control.  I cried yesterday because I just want so bad to be normal.  I have never passed out, but I am terrified that I am going to.  I badly need help...
Avatar universal
I am in tears at how many people feel the same exact way as me...
I feel crazy sometimes and hate talking to friends/family about it because they probably get sick of hearing about all my strange ailments but it is soo stressful feeling like you have something seriously wrong with you to just have everyone tell you it's anxiety.. I can't drive at night, I feel like my breathing is  soo irregular, I have worried myself to death with the thought of cancer/tumors/some weird undiagnosed disease.. At this point I'm open to try anything..
Avatar universal
Wow...what a great thread! I have experienced the same for a few years. Recently it has gotten worse. I have to cross a bridge every day for work and I feel the intense feeling that I'm about to pass out. The problem is I have actually passed out due to anxiety in the past (however, not while driving). But I feel those same exact symptoms creeping in as before, so I actually believe there is a high possibility I could faint. This terrifies me as I could crash and injury/kill myself or someone else. I often pull over to get my head together and let others go on first. Has anyone actually passed out WHILE driving? Or does anyone experience this over bridges?
I have these exact same symptoms. Sometimes I have to stop the rig take a nap to get feeling better. It only one bridge that does it to me and I drive over atleast 30-40 bridges daily. Have you found out any answers to what the cause? Ergent please respond to ron&***@****
Avatar universal
I never felt that way over a bridge. I also never passed out driving but I feared it for years. Matter of fact ever since I got my license and I'm now 37. So I should be used to it but it's still so hard.
Avatar universal
Please read my comment. You have a hope. I almost gave up. But I think I found the cure! It is a true story.

I am 40 years old now.I used to love driving. My weird dizziness started on November 2013 when I was in a passenger seat while my friend was driving. It was very sudden but very obviously the dizziness were there.
I used to drive fearlessly for 23 years but all of a sudden I became disabled. Even when I drive 30-40 miles per hour, it was struggling for me and made me so dizzy and I had abnormal visual feeling like a tunnel vision. Driving became a nightmare since then. I stopped driving highway for over one year and six month.

I went to ENT(Ear, Nose and Throat), eye doctor, brain MRI, blood work, acupuncture, Korean traditional medicine, chiropractor and neurologist.
Everything was normal. No doctors couldn't figure out.
On Thursday(June 4th, 2015), I went to a different ENT doctor in a big hospital in the downtown hoping for an answer my ear is the problem but got out with disappointment. Nothing was wrong the doctor said. I am a single mother. It was so devastating to experience this crazy symptom not knowing the cause or clue. On the same day, I researched internet out of desperation and found interesting comment above. That was new. I went to a book store and bought the book "Trigger point therapy workbook" by Clair Davies. I watched several youtube video of STERNOCLEIDOMASTOID (SCM) trigger point massage.

I had nothing to lose and was going to try anything to be better. I tried the SCM massage(Please search google where to find SCM in you neck) right away several times a day very diligently for four days. Since the next day, I felt more than 50% better and today I accidentally went into high way and drove for 4 miles without stopping. I couldn't even imagine to drive on highway before because even for local road with 40 miles per hour was struggling for me for long time. Today I can excitedly say my dizziness for one year and six months were gone more than 90%. I felt normal for the first time.

I was so excited and so was my son. I really hope many of you can be cured like me. It was so simple and so easy to fix it. Current medical system was far beyond to find a cure or cause easily which is sad. However, thanks to some brilliant doctors like Travell & Simons and therapist like Davies, the author and her father, and someone like a normal person who took time to write a comment for other people, I think a lot of people will be relieved from this confusing dizziness.
I am so happy. I feel like I am reborn again. Try this massage today and if you got cured, please write a comment and spread the words for others!!!
Massaging your sternocleidmastoid fixed your issue? How are you today?
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