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Fear of Driving
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Fear of Driving
I'm in my late thirties and have never learned to drive. I've tried several times, but
fear and anxiety always stopped me. I've taken lessons from friends, my partner,
driving instructors, even a driving school specializing in older nervous drivers, but
nothing worked, even talk therapy and hypnotherapy. Now that I am a parent, I
really need to know how to drive, for safety's sake and so I can do errands with my
daughter. I'm stumped about how to do it.
I can't learn to drive with my newborn in the car, and my partner needs to be in the
car with me during practice sessions, so no one could stay at home with my
daughter. But mostly it's just overwhelming fear that stops me from driving. Has
anyone else coped successfully with a driving phobia?
Thanks. (Please note that I'm not looking for service offers from therapists or
Talk therapy isn't helpful for anxiety and can sometimes make it worse
you're talking about traumatic or anxiety producing things)! Cognitive
therapy should help. I'd suggest finding a CBT therapist. It's short
and very effective.
I, too, didn't learn to drive until adulthood. I, too, was
really anxious about driving and thought I would never learn. I
basically had to create an artificial deadline for myself (I
planned to do some work in a rural area for which I would need a
car and need to drive) to force myself to do it. In the
beginning I would have anxiety dreams (for example, that I would
stop at a stoplight, forget what to do, and just abandon the car
in the middle of the road). After the first year driving, that
anxiety totally went away. I have now been driving for 16
years. My advice is: give yourself a deadline. Get a
babysitter so you can take lessons or have your partner help you
learn. Force yourself to practice/drive daily, or you will slip
back into your fear. YOU CAN DO IT!!! It does get easier. You
just need to get over the hump.
More than once I have gone through periods of anxiety related to driving.
For me it
was really about trust and control. I didn't doubt my driving skills, but
it made me
incredibly anxious to have to trust perfect strangers to not do something
would kill me. I knew I had no control over what the other drivers were
doing and it
seemed incredibly foolish to put myself in a situation that was so
dangerous. I got
over it by getting my needs met in my own life--getting more sleep, making
husband take the baby out so I could have down time, getting a babysitter
so I could
exercise, not doing things for everybody else all the time and just saying
out loud, ''I
don't care if you don't like it, just do it yourself because it really
shouldn't be my
responsiblity'' and realizing that I could live through the ensuing
tantrums. I also
sang my favorite song over and over again when I was feeling paniky (I
also do this
on airplanes silently-same reasons!) and kept saying to myself ''the other
don't want to die either''. It did go away
I've had a hard time staying within the word limit. I wish I
could tell you about my incredible success overcoming this, but
it's still very much a work in progress for me. I understand how
difficult it can make things, especially with kids. Like you,
I've tried and failed to overcome this many times (I even managed
to get my license at one point). I think I'm finally on my way
to success now and I'm happy to pass on what's been helpful for
me. Be prepared to take it really slow. Try to feel proud of
small accomplishments along the way. Btw finding time with
sitters and the fear, it is just a slow, slow process. Drive
with someone you're truly comfortable with who understands your
issues. It's been important for me to feel in control-- if I
feel ''pushed'' I completely freeze up. Set reasonable goals. I
think of very easy driving trips I could do-- to my daughter's
preschool, to the grocery store-- and think what an improvement
it would be in my life & my family's if I could do just those
things. Better than nothing! I still find the goal of becoming a
totally ''normal'' driver overwhelming, so I've focused on these
smaller goals and am hoping to over-achieve someday. It's helped
to let the whole, crazy, ugly phobia out in front of my husband
so that I can focus on trying to overcome it. Laughing at the
absurdity of it all has been what keeps me trying. I wish you
all the best and I really think we can do it if we keep at it.
If nothing else, I wanted to write to say that I know what you're
going through and I'm rooting for you! I'm sure you will find a
way that works for you. Also, I know 4 adults who had
significant driving phobias and overcame them. One such friend
gave me the sage advice that as long as you are doing *something*
toward reaching your goal, you will probably get there
eventually. It took her years of lessons and super-short solo
trips before she could drive to work, but she drives everywhere
Finally On the Road
If you just don't know how to work out the logistics of learning
with a baby, it seems to me that the best strategy is to leave
the baby with your partner and take lessons from one of the many
driving schools in the area.
But you say you've taken lessons from several sources but
''nothing worked.'' What does that mean? You didn't finish the
lessons? You didn't feel like you'd learned enough? You didn't
pass the test? If you've tried to learn several times and still
aren't at the point where you can drive safely, or if when you
drive you are nervous and preoccupied, then maybe it's not for
you and for safety's sake please do the rest of us and our kids
the favor of not driving!
Don't run me over!
I sympathize because I really, really hate driving. My advice
is to take it super slow. Have your husband take you to an
empty parking lot and practice there. (Out in Alameda near Bladium
strikes me as a good place). Then drive down one block in traffic.
Do that until you feel comfortable (the same block). Then do two.
Stay off the freeway - forever, if you want. You can get everywhere
you need to go without going on the freeway, if you take enough
time. People are nuts on the freeway. Nuts, I tell you.
And by the way, you aren't crazy - most people who are drive ARE.
I learned to drive when I was 34. I was very frightened. I
attribute this to the difference between a 15 yo and 34 yo sense
of the real danger involved. I got my license without much
practice and was still frightened. After some practice, I am now
a normal driver-I drive well and safely and am totally oblivious
to the fact that I am driving a 2-ton steel box. However, I am
still afraid to drive on 80 or other very busy highways--esp.
with my precious son.
So the upshot is that practice will make driving seem
second-nature and you will no longer be afraid.
I look forward to reading others' responses, since I too do not
drive and am having a hard time overcoming my reluctance/fear.
However, I just wanted to put this out there: you don't
absolutely have to learn right this second, when you are dealing
with being mother of a newborn. There are mothers who don't drive
(like me!), and they do just fine. I too want to overcome my fear
so by the time my kid is signing up for soccer, I can help with
the carpools, but in the early years I have been able to get
around using my feet, the bus, BART, taxis, and yes, my spouse
driving. In a deadly emergency I would call 911, which is the
best thing to do anyway. I applaud you for your commitment to
tackle your fears, but I just hope you don't put too much
pressure on yourself at this particularly vulnerable time. When
your child is a little older, you will probably have babysitters
or daycare lined up, and that might be a better time to return to
your goal of becoming a driver. I hope we both get there someday!
Mobile Mama with No Automobile
I am looking for a female therapist/hypnotherapist/healer or
specialist of some kind, preferably in Oakland/Alameda or SF,
who can help me with my driving phobia. I have looked for
information in the archives but could not find anything.
I can imagine that your driving phobia is quite distressing. While you may have
suffered with this for a long time, there is definitely help that's possible.
Many people find that EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy is
a fast, efficient, and extremely effective way to treat phobias such as the fear of
driving that you've described. It often has dramatic results in just a few sessions.
When EMDR is integrated with other traditional forms of talk-therapy, effectiveness is
maximized and long-term resolution of symptoms is quite possible. You can read more
about this type of treatment at:http://www.emdr.com/q&a.htm
EMDR is most helpful for trauma recovery, anxiety disorders, OCD, phobias, and other
long-standing life issues. Linda
this page was last updated: Dec 22, 2008
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