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anxiety about driving in heavy traffic (freeways)

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by cln1812 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:36 am

I live in a suburb of the Houston, TX area. (In case you didn't know, Houston is the 4th largest city in the United States, and it really has a huge sprawl.) I have such a problem with panic disorder and anxiety that I rarely drive on the freeways or even into Houston on the side roads (not to mention there is always road construction and unknown detours in Houston). It really puts a damper on what I can do, where I can take my daughter (there are some great museums in Houston, not to mention the zoo, and farms and things north of the city though you must drive through downtown Houston to get there).

Does anyone else have a paralyzing fear of driving in traffic? I especially get anxious in heavy and rush hour traffic. As a result, I'm stuck in the city I live in and surrounding cities I can get to on surface roads. I can't even visit my sister in a nearby suburb except during certain hours because she lives by a mall with super-heavy traffic and a busy freeway.

Anyone know how to get over this? Is it even possible? I'm almost 40 years old, and it's ridiculous. I will start to panic any time the traffic gets heavy, if I need to change lanes and traffic is busy (in Houston, traffic is always busy, just in rush-hour it's nearly stand-still). I even have panic attacks while driving because of this. As a result, I keep myself near home, and luckily, I have most of what I need nearby, but I do wish I could drive myself into Houston proper to some of the stores and things to do there.

Sigh.
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by AvantGarde » Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:40 am

Yep, can't drive to save my own life :? I can, I just won't.

Is there a good public transport system there? Luckily for me there's a great one here in Lisbon, and cheap to, so I mostly ride the subway or bus or sometimes taxis.
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by Duckysmom » Wed Oct 18, 2017 2:59 am

I can relate. I get panicked even when someone else is doing the driving on expressways or freeways. Drive them, no way! Rush hour traffic is a nightmare for me. Unfortunately, where I work, I have to get on a freeway. I go to work early everyday to avoid rush hour, but I still get hyer-vigilent and avoid changing lanes. I also get freaked out having to drive anywhere I've never been before.
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by cln1812 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 3:05 am

OMG, the Houston area has the WORST public transport system in the world. There is one county bus that will take you into downtown Houston, but it runs only 2 times a day, once in the morning for pickup, once in the afternoon for drop-off (not to mention there is no public parking near the stops or benches to wait at). I think I will only take that bus if I get summoned to county jury duty in the Houston courthouses. Luckily, municipal jury duty is more common, and I can drive myself to the municipal courthouse. It will not take you into other areas, such as the big suburbs north and west of Houston, which often have great things going on. There is a bus system in Houston proper, but you have to actually get yourself into Houston to use it (sigh). I really, really hate the lack of public transportation here. My husband is from Southern California, and every time we visit my inlaws, I'm envious. They have sidewalks everywhere for walking (not so here. lots of busy streets lack parallel sidewalks or sidewalks end or people park across them and block them, plus they actively ticket anyone who blocks the sidewalk by parking across it in California) and there are buses that go everywhere. It is likely we will move to California soon (possibly within the next year because my inlaws are in failing health, and we want to keep them in their house and out of assisted living and we're not exactly making a fortune here, with my husband a high school physics teacher and me unable to work), but OMG, if that's the case, it will fall to me to drive my inlaws to their doctors' appointments, and they live in the Los Angelos area (Long Beach), which has even worse traffic than Houston.
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by AvantGarde » Wed Oct 18, 2017 3:23 am

That's too bad :?
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by cln1812 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 3:54 am

Yes, and even when we move to So. Cal. (the hope is my husband can get a job teaching high school science out there), I can't exactly put my inlaws in failing health on public transport for all their tons of doctors appointments. They are good people, and my husband and I have talked it over, I would basically be their main caregiver as long as we can manage while he works and brings in some money (possibly to get my daughter into a better school as despite her sensory issues, she is extremely intelligent, scoring nearly 99% in all her subjects, or even 100%). Hubby's old school district when he lived out there was particularly horrible at the time and apparently still is according to his friends who still live out there. So we might be paying some school tuition but would be mortgage-free living with my in-laws (assuming we are able to sell our house out here). Anyway, my inlaws are good people, and they don't deserve to have their finances eaten up by assisted living if it is possible for us to move out there and help out. Also, they really need someone to advocate for them at doctor's appointments and not let themselves get walked all over, seen for just 5 minutes, their questions unanswered, basically mistreated by all their doctors. I have no problem standing up to cruddy doctors or even doing assisted living type tasks that likely will eventually fall to me (helping them shower, use the toilet and such). It's just my driving in traffic situation that sucks :(
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by AvantGarde » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:08 am

I see. Do you take any antianxiety med? Anxiety is a pretty common comorbid disorder with BP.
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by Pancake » Wed Oct 18, 2017 4:52 am

I do prefer not to drive given a choice, but it just doesn't make me shake in my boots... However I've had quite a bit of training and do a lot of driving for work.

I have 2 thoughts. The first is therapy. I don't know what kind of driver ed programs you have in the US (I only know what I see on TV, is that an accurate representation? :shock: ) there's a very real possibility that the 'paralysing fear' isn't your fault, but more of an amygdala hijacking happening because that's how you've gotten wired when you were learning (or at some other unspecified time/s) and you may well be able to re-write that with the right help.

The second is to consider a low-risk (NOT "defensive" or "advanced") driving course. (Low risk moves away from 'skills' as making people more likely to make risky decisions because now we're all such ace, racy drivers, and towards actively reducing risk. It's hard work, but worth it).

There's some good info here
https://practicalmotoring.com.au/car-ad ... er-driver/

I wouldn't normally put it out there, but if you're looking at an arrangement that would mean having to be reliable in city traffic, it might be of interest you.

**Disclaimer: I still hyperventifreakout if I can't find the right address, or feel like I don't know where I'm going. Thank the technology gods for GPS.**
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by AvantGarde » Wed Oct 18, 2017 5:14 am

Pancake wrote:There's some good info here
https://practicalmotoring.com.au/car-ad ... er-driver/


This is interesting. My country recently adopted by law the defensive driving technique to teach in driving schools. I kept mumbling "Idiots" and my instructor kept telling me to watch myself instead of others, of course that was a lousy advice. To drive in a big city you need to be 80% aware of what the other morons are doing.
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by Spm24 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 6:13 am

I can drive anywhere for the most part but at times my anxiety picks up when there starts to be more traffic on the freeway. I tend to stay in my lane while driving, until I need to move to another one. When my anxiety picks up my hand starts to shake. At least it is the hand I don't us to drive with. I do not normally drive in dense traffic(stop and go).
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by cln1812 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 10:51 am

I do take medication for anxiety (Klonopin), but it still doesn't seem to help with the anxiety I have while driving. And it's confusing when there is constant construction, unforeseen lane closures due to accidents (there are ALWAYS fender-benders or worse on the freeways each rush hour. Yes, it makes it worse that there are a lot of bad drivers on the road and also impatient ones (won't let you in for a lane change in traffic). I have found the drivers in Houston are even worse than the drivers in So. Cal.! And the South is supposed to be known for friendliness...though NOT while driving. Also, most drivers here have massive pickup trucks whereas I have a small Subaru SUV; they could mow me over in an instant. Most of my worst panic attacks have happened behind the wheel, and there is no predicting when they will come on.

I have panic and anxiety about other things in general, but that comes and goes, with traffic it is always, always there, and the Klonopin does nothing for it. I don't know, is there a med that would work better? Should I mention it to my pdoc?

Sometimes, I will get up the nerve and try driving a little on a freeway, get a little used to it, but this area, there is constant construction, things change up, once I found myself in the HOV lane (high occupancy vehicles, i.e., 2 or more persons in a car, carpool lane), and in Houston, you cannot just exit the HOV with a quick illegal lane change (assuming the police are not around) the way you can in states like California. The Houston HOV is bordered by tall concrete medians and has limited controlled exits. I was freaking out I'd get ticketed for driving there with only one person in the car, and I couldn't exit in forever. It was a nightmare. I haven't tried freeway driving since.
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by Pancake » Wed Oct 18, 2017 12:03 pm

AvantGarde wrote:This is interesting. My country recently adopted by law the defensive driving technique to teach in driving schools. I kept mumbling "Idiots" and my instructor kept telling me to watch myself instead of others, of course that was a lousy advice. To drive in a big city you need to be 80% aware of what the other morons are doing.

:lol: unfortunately, making it law doesn't teach the instructors to 'get it'. Like your instructor, the article doesn't teach you *how* to do it, and to be 80% aware (You can do much better than 80%) of what the other morons are doing, you need to know how.

That article was just a description, I can find some more detailed information if you're interested.

Cln, is driving something you have tried targeting in therapy?
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by cln1812 » Wed Oct 18, 2017 1:13 pm

No, I haven't targeted it in therapy. It's been a few years since I've been in talk therapy. I just haven't clicked with a therapist for many years, and our insurance isn't great; even on a sliding scale, it's hard to afford.

I've had so many other issues that I never really brought up driving anxiety when I was in therapy.
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