In my quest towards health, healing, and self actualization, there are a few "phobias" that still affect my life in a very big way and I'm looking for a different perspective to combat them. I call these things "phobias" because simply put, they are irrational fears. My coping strategies work to a certain extent, but my life is still severely affected. So...please don't laugh, but....I'm going to share one of them with you. I'm hoping to learn from others what they've done to cope with their own phobias and if it's ever dissipated completely...

Will I have to live the rest of my life this way???

I hope not!!!

Right now my most debilitating fear is driving. Especially on the freeway. And forget being a passenger. I can't be a passenger easily without freaking out. I finally got my car fixed, but still use public transportation as much as humanly possible. There are times however when I NEED to drive.

I know that this fear stems from years of abuse in cars, as well as the accidents I've been in. It's all totally PTSD related. But my ability to manage it only takes me so far. I went to see my girlfriends today and on the way home I HAD to take the freeway at least part of the way. There was no other option. It was raining. Hard. Dark. Semi trucks everywhere. Thankfully I made it. I had to literally talk myself through it...."You can do it! Just keep focused. It will be ok. Your car is fixed, it's safe to drive. You've done this a million times before. Stay the speed limit. Don't slow down and you'll be fine..."...

As soon as I could get off the freeway and take the back roads I did. It took every ounce of energy not to literally flip out. I had to breathe very deeply and this over and over the entire way.

It's exhausting.

So....has anyone dealt with stuff like this? There are other things, but this one right now is just....getting very hard.


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When I start driving, my hands are sweating and I feel like I'm going to black out, as if I'm standing on the edge of a tall building.  I think I'm sensible to avoid driving myself around the public roads at lethal speeds.  I will always have to do without driving.  This probably doesn't help you much. 

We have autism in our family, and I've heard that a lack of 3-D coordination (and being good at maths) is an autistic trait. 

I don't know if it can go away totally but the symptoms can be reduced to a very manageable level so that you can still do what you need to do without too much discomfort. You still might feel a little nervous at times around the object of your phobia, but not terror.

One technique is called flooding. I don't recommend it. It could either cure the phobia or make it much worse. It involves intense exposure to or immersion in the object of the phobia. Like for fear of driving you would go out and drive on the biggest fastest busiest multilane freeway you can find. After that, theoretically, regular driving would be no problem...or you could be scarred for life.

I prefer an approach of systematic desensitization. It's a combination of baby-step exposures to the object along with relaxation techniques at each step. For example, day one, you sit in the parked car and practice relaxation until the anxiety subsides. You don't drive anywhere. Day two, sit in the car and start it, relaxation until anxiety subsides. Still no driving. Day three, drive to the end of the driveway and back, relaxation. Next day, around the block. And so on. The key is to pay attention to increasing anxiety and address it before it becomes panic, so you progress at your own pace. Less chance of permanent scarring and better chance of longterm success. After all that there may still be times of anxiety when you have to pull over and relax for a minute.
Thanks Erock, yes I've basically used the second approach. I can't pinpoint the exact day/time, but it's been the last year it's been really bad. Prior to I could drive in any condition without any problem. I don't understand it. I used to be unable to even go on the freeway. Now I can, but usually only for about 10 miles. I can't handle working through the panic for more than that.

I don't generally have a problem with driving the side streets (no more than 40mph) but even then during rush hour is hard...

And I can't be a passenger no matter what. That is the most difficult.

@Simon, I don't believe it's connected to autism, I'm not autistic (at least I've never been told I am...have no reason to think I am)....

It's 100% PTSD stuff....

I had ideas consistent with Erock. And maybe take time out just to drive on the freeway (back and forth, for no other reason) when the traffic is lightest.

My driving experience is hyper-vigilant, but not anxiety producing. Most of my younger years were on a motorcycle, where life and death were even more at risk. I just learned habits like checking the left and right streets of an intersection, even when the light's green, giving myself plenty of space in front of me (especially if there's a tailgater behind me), and just assume that all drivers are unpredictable. In some cases, you can just tell by the way someone's driving when they're on a cell phone, and not likely to be sufficiently aware or in control.

I had severe a fear of heights once, and ironically never got over it until I learned to fly! I gained an unexpected sense of control.

I like riding the bus and/or walking when possible. A few days ago my bus stopped at a pedestrian crossing, and after the pedestrian started walking, a car in the lane left of us zoomed by, barely missing the pedestrian. To top it off, the pedestrian shook his head and watched the car speeding away in disgust, without even looking to see if more idiot drivers might be targeting him accidentally. I'd say the pedestrian was a fricken idiot, too! I'm always aware of the hidden-pedestrian possibility, and if I were the bus driver, I would have been watching for traffic and hit my horn while the pedestrian was walking out.

My main point is, yeah, driving can be dangerous, and trying to be aware of whatever might possibly be going wrong around you can be stressful, but keep working at it. It's better to be stressed out than too relaxed.

OK, I know this is unlikely, but is there any way you can take some car racing lessons?

Yah I did this when I went home for the holidays...I had avoided the freeway like the plague, but when I was in my hometown there was a certain familiarity there...I went to visit a friend who lives waaaaaayyyyyy up in the mountains. it had been snowing. The freeway was clear, the backroad was not serviced, so if I wanted to see my friend, I had to drive on the icy freeway...

I honestly didn't know if I could make it.

Well I'm here to tell the story,

It was probably my first step towards recovering from this....

I may need to do some EMDR or something with it. The thing is sometimes you HAVE to go on the freeway, you know? I've driven across country by myself several times, never had an issue, never been afraid to drive....I wish I knew what triggered it. Honestly it could have been several things. I just know that it started when I got pregnant.

Afraid not. ;)

You have nothing to fear but fear itself.

Check out "the Brain That Changes Itself" by Norman Doidge

Your brain makes connections that solidify (wrong word, but right concept) with repeated exposure. If you change the exposure, the connections rearrange to the new pattern.

You can work on brain plasticity to change behavior even in cases where there is limited physical damage to the brain, like from a stroke.


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