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394991 tn?1214259507

Weird Driving Anxiety?

Please help I am so desperate! I am a 28 year old female, in good health other than this problem I am having.

I have not driven since January. In Jan. I was driving home and a warm sensation came over me and I felt like I was going to faint. I pulled over on the side of the highway, and my husband drove the rest of the way.

Ever since then, I have had the weirdest sensations which make me unable to drive. To sum it up when driving, or in a car, I feel
-like my brain is shutting down; like my light is dimming
-can't comprehend what's going on
-my eyes see everything funny; like I can sense an exaggeration of motion
-dizzy in the lightheaded sense, like I am going to faint
-my brain can't take in everything that my eyes are seeing
-like the feeling right before you nod off
-like I am frozen; body and mind.

As you can see, it is impossible to drive when you have those feelings-- like you're about to faint or nod off.

This happens every single time I am in the car, without fail. It also happens as a passenger, but I can pretty much ignore it because I'm not trying to drive a vehicle.

I have
-had my eyes checked
-ears checked (Vertigo)
-chest x-ray, blood sugar, blood pressure
-CT scan
All normal.

For anxiety I have tried
-desentization (baby steps)
-low dose of zoloft
-beta blockers.
None worked.

I don't know what else to try or where to turn. None of my doctors have ever heard of anxiety manifesting itself in this way, without any of the other symptoms. For example, I don't have anxious thoughts, I don't fear having a panic attack, I don't dread going in the car, no racing heartbeat, no sweating, completely normal breathing.....

Has anyone ever heard of anxiety doing this to someone? I don't know what to do about it, but I am getting depressed being completely dependent on my husband to drive me everywhere. If anyone can help I would be SO grateful. It is such a mystery that no one, not even doctors seem to understand.
41 Responses
396099 tn?1216258586
Driving in a car is my #1 place to have an anxiety attack.  I've had them just sitting on the couch watching TV and other places but it's unusual.  It's like when I'm driving I suddenly get some sort of sensory overload (that I don't realize is happening) and panic out.  I've heard other people mention that driving is a common place for them also.

i can't speak to how unusual you manifestations are though.  This is still all pretty new to me.
Avatar universal
Anxiety can just come on out of the blue. I am sure many members on here remember when panic first hit them. Could have been whilst out walking. For what reasons? They would have no idea at all. It can be that cruel. Derealisation is something you should look up. Maybe spelt with a Z not an S. You will probably find a lot of what you are describing surrounding that one big word. It will be a start for you. But what we then tend to do is recall that first panic attack / anxiety moment and we may experience it again if in the same situation. Thus we hook one to the other. You might feel that driving might make you more anxious because that was when you first experienced anxiety. Now it all about learning how to deal with it. And it can be dealt with. Sometimes with tablets. Others times with theraphy. Other times a mixture of both. But remember there is always a sollution. May take a while to get there. But with the right kind of help and the willingness not to give in your can make it. Medication is nearly always first suggested. But that is up to your doctor. Counciling is up to you to decide upon. Sadly we have all but a one or two members who would be in a position to talk medication. The rest of us are just people who have suffered ourselves at one point or another. But keep us posted and what you do decide. I am sure other members might add more to this thread. Good luck to you.
394991 tn?1214259507
Thanks for your response! Those are good words to describe what I am going through-- sensory overload. But it's so bad that I swear my brain decides to shut down. The reason I was never quite sure if it was an anxiety attack, though, was because I didn't really have any other symptoms, and it's not like it only occurs sometimes in the car. It is every single time.  
489725 tn?1280056153
i have the same thing when driving and lost control of the car twice with it.my heart starts flying and i just cant focus and like u describe very well. i feel like im go to faint.it is a terrible feeling.i have it for about a year now and have been driving for a long time and it just happened me one morning ,really stressed at work and got very overwhelmed at the wheel and had to pull in fact i just about got to pull in.i really felt i was going to pass out ,bunch of tests later and while i do have a svt in my heart that i knew about it was totally different to that .i went back driving the next day and it kept happening to me ,i would only make it so far and i would have to ring someone to collect me cause i would just freeze at the wheel ,so to speak.my doc just put it all down to anxiety.i too tried meds inderal--xanax---sometimes they worked depending on far i had to go but i am very nervous driving still and i have to drive where i live no shop for miles etc.i too dont dread going into the car or being a passenger ,i think maybe it just being in control thing .i would definitely like to hear how someone sorted this -----

let us know
Avatar universal
I stopped driving for about six months because of fear of having a panic attack while behind the wheel.  After a while, I had a little chat with myself and decided that I wasn't going to let this stop me from getting out there and driving.  I started by driving down to the corner and back, then to the end of the street, eventually around the block and I kept increasing my boundaries until I could go all over the city.  I still don't highway drive, but I can live with that.  Just so you understand, I used to love to drive.  It was nothing for me to go to my daughter's school 2 1/2 hours away by car to pick her up and bring her home for the weekend.  I also drove that same distance in one of the worst snow storms that the region had ever seen.  Life changed and I was housebound for a short time and then unable to drive for six months.  With the help of medication and CBT I was able to drive and get some part of my life back.  I still struggle with agoraphobia but I am  a real fighter and constantly challenge myself.  Restaurants, though are the worst for me and I am working on that.  Anyway, consider trying the method I used and see if it helps.
394991 tn?1214259507
Hi, thanks for the response. But I want to make it really clear. I am not fearing having a panic attack while driving. It's just this weird feeling that overtakes me that makes it impossible to drive. But it's not like I feel completely normal while driving, but fear that I will all of a sudden have a panic attack.  I have no fear of this; these weird feelings are already and always there.  I also HAVE tried densitization--baby steps. Sitting in the car, pulling out of the garage, driving around the subdivision.  This did not work.  I appreciate your trying to help though.  
489725 tn?1280056153
i like that method take further each time after im behind the wheel for 10 mins im finished -----and going down hill wooow boy.i really glad for u that it is working .good for u
480448 tn?1426952138
I think you'll hear from a LOT of people here (as you have already) that driving issues are one of the more common complaints with anxiety.  Just because your presentation varies somewhat, doesn't mean you aren't suffering from driving anxiety.

Logically, if it were ANYTHING else...it would happen other times and at other places, right?  So, there has to be something to that....somehow you are relating driving to these feelings (even if you do not feel "anxious" when doing so).  My guess is...it prolly happened like it did to the rest of us....we had an incident in the car...like you describe...and from there on out...you are anticipating it.  One cruddy thing about anxiety is we often don't let ourselves down....a lot of what we fear manages to happen, which of course scares us even more.

I think you should give therapy and/or meds another try....definitely therapy...and meds if you and your doc feel it would be helpful.  While you may have a lot of variances...I think you are in the same boat a lot of the rest of us are in.  It's hard to go through for sure.

Stick around.....you've landed in a great place!
Avatar universal
I'm so glad I read this post. the symptoms you described are the EXACT same thing I have everytime I get on the freeway. like exact. even my radio scares me because the sound of the radio starts sounding wierd, and the speed of the cars on either side of me are weirdly seemingly going at different speeds than normal, and I feel like im going to faint and lose control of my car. and everything I see doesnt seem normal, like you described, like I cant take it all in. and then everything starts feeling different, my foot on the peddle my hand on the wheel, the air conditioning in the car, everything. and since I dont want to hurt myself or anyone else on the road I am forced to pull over. The best thing I have found to do, is when knowing im going to drive to take half a xanax beforehand, and then after driving successfully a few times it starts to decrease...i feel bad but it really is so so comforting to hear someone else has these crazy symptoms to a point of exactness that i do.
394991 tn?1214259507
I also feel comforted that someone understands!  I just wish this happened intermittently and not EVERY time I'm in the car.  Seriously, I feel like it is ruining my life!  What dose of xanax do you take? I tried taking .25mg and .5mg but no effect except it made me very very sleepy.    Also, have you ever tired to explain these weird effects to a doctor?  It is very hard to put into words!  Thanks for understanding!
Avatar universal
I take .5 mg. and yes, I have..they said its typical panic attack. I actually stopped having the driving problem recently, and I'll tell you the one thing that helped..it was me thinking no one has ever died from a panic attack on the road, i know i feel weird right now but im going to keep driving and let my body do its thing, I know im starting to feel like i shouldnt drive ,but i know its just my panic attack talking and im actually extremely able to drive my car. So i let myself feel weird and i keep driving and keep thinking normal thoughts and i make it home, and it never goes into a full blown panic attack. try this method when your on a back road or somewhere you have a safe place to pull over, and see if it works for you. let me know.
Avatar universal
also just to let you know I never have racing heartbeat, sweaty palms or anxious thoughts in any of my panic attacks , so the doctors that are telling you this clearly arent very familiar with the millions of kinds of atypical panic disorders that have VERY odd or only some symptoms present, i know this because my doctor is world reknown in the subject and finally i found him by going through lots of doctors that had no idea what they are talking about. so dont think its not a panic attack just because your symptoms are atypical because ALL my symptoms are atypical..just like yours.
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