Panic attacks and driving?

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New Member

Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 4
   Posted 6/10/2009 9:15 PM (GMT -6)   
Well my panic attacks probably started in grade school but really came around when I was 19 or 20 (I'm 38) and it began with highway driving...really bad....then all driving, especially at night, and then just general anxiety.  Have been on and off meds then, some worked and I just went off, some didn't, some did but had effects such as anger or weight I just weaned off Zoloft not too long ago after a 40 lb weight gain with the hope of getting through this on my own, and with acupuncture and such..
Well the past 2 weeks have been a living hell, my husband's had to drive me to work and pick me up (I have a 40 mile commute) and the past few days he's had work so I've managed to do back roads but now even those are making me crazy....I feel like I'm floating, only half I'm dizzy's so hard to explain.  I used to feel like I couldn't swallow, but this is like I'm made of jello. 
I was trying so hard not to go on another pdoc gave me samples and a script of Pristiq but naturally I read posts and people who report negative side effects (like nausea, a fear of mine) stick with me so I'm so afraid, and afraid to gain more weight as I'm having a hard time losing what I gained thanks to Zoloft (hard enough to fit into my wedding dress after exercising like a maniac and eating nothing but chicken and veggies).
I would rather fight the weight and feel ok, just afraid of the nausea..but I'm getting off subject.
Why driving?  Why highway driving? Anyone else have this?
I feel like I'm losing it, I feel horrible all the time, not just driving, I feel like I'm constantly in this weird...state....
Thanks for listening.

Regular Member

Date Joined Mar 2009
Total Posts : 341
   Posted 6/11/2009 12:08 AM (GMT -6)   

I can relate to the fear of driving. I quit my last job because it required driving and I couldn't handle it anymore. I no longer leave the house unless its a "good" day and then its no further then 1 mile to the local store.

I have a huge fear that if I do actually need medical assistance it will take them forever to get to me. Or I'll pass out at the wheel I live in the sticks so to speak. 15 miles outside of town. But 1/2 mile to the closest fire department and I wont stray very far from them.

Having a fear of driving is not fun. I used to be all over the place. Going here and there every day. Never home for more then to cook dinner and sleep. Always on the go. Now I have a very hard time going anywhere and I don't without someone with me. Rather it be one of the kids,hubby or my mom. Someone is always with me. I used to drive a school bus and loved my job. Managed to deal with the anxiety for 5 years and it just over powered me. Worked at Auto Zone for 2 months delivering parts and had 22 major anxiety attacks while doing that. And quit. Along with the death of my grandpa. It was to much. I've been homebound since.

I gained a lot of weight off of these meds. A total of 70lbs. And I'm still working on getting rid of it. But it is harder then losing the baby weight. I gained off of Paxil and Celxia. My baby brother gained off of Zoloft. And he was one of those that ate whatever he wanted and it didn't effect him. Well now he is a chuncky boy.

Just so you know your not alone. And I know i'm not much help with advice on how to move past this as I haven't in about 3 years now. All I can say is nip it before you end up in my shoes. The sooner the better.

Veteran Member

Date Joined Nov 2008
Total Posts : 2859
   Posted 6/11/2009 6:39 AM (GMT -6)   

I used to have a terrible fear of driving and it got so I wouldn't drive anywhere unless someone else was in the car with me.  I was afraid of getting stuck in traffic and being trapped.  Or being in an outside lane and having no where to pull over if I had a panic attack...then if I did pull over everyone would see me and send an ambulance.  If I had to travel any distance, I would take a route where I knew people along the way incase I panicked and I could go to their house.  Because of my Meniere's Disease I have a restricted license and I am not supposed to drive at all without someone else in the car. I drive alone anyway, but don't go any farther than it would be inconvenient for someone to get me if I had an attack.  I got stuck for twenty minutes on a bridge over the river the other day that was letting a barge through the locks and I was fine.

For me, making myself get in the car and driving short distances then adding to the distance every day helped.   Panic attacks pass and are not dangerous even though they feel like it.  I have a friend with P/A that bought a house she hates right next to a hospital so she can walk there if she has an attack.  She listens to sirens and traffic noise all day and night.  But it makes her feel safe and I understand it.  All we ask from this disorder is to feel safe, and unfortunately, we rarely do until we finally decide it's not going to rule our lives.


fibro, menieres disease, RLS, anxiety disorder, disc compression, scoliosis, spinal stenosis TMJ  Meds: Lexapro and valium

New Member

Date Joined Apr 2009
Total Posts : 18
   Posted 6/11/2009 8:00 AM (GMT -6)   

Just a thought about the side effects message boards -- most people taking a medication experience no serious side effects and thus do not seek out a message board to tell people how wonderful the medication is. They just take the medication, feel better, and go on with their lives. When you're reading posts on the medication boards, keep that in mind. The population that frequents them are usually the few people with bad reactions which can lead us all to believe that the medications are just waiting to drive us nuts or make us sick, etc. In particular, I've found psychiatric drug message boards are the worst about this -- and very often when you contact people you found they didn't following the correct dosing, didn't taper on or off, etc.

I have GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder), IBS, and Ulcerative Colitis, and while I don't have a fear or driving per se, I do have a fear of needing a bathroom suddenly and there not being one. So traveling is not my favorite thing right now -- even to the store or a friend's house. Especially now that I have a 3 month old, who I cannot tell "wait here for 15 minutes while Dad runs to the bathroom". So I understand the frustration of feeling trapped, limited in life, and just plain crazy at times!

I agree with Donna's suggestion above. Set a goal a short way away and drive to it, then come back. Do this several times over a period of time, then work your way up and away. It will take a while -- perhaps even a long while -- but you can do it and reward yourself for each small victory (my wife is constantly reminding me of that -- every good trip to Wal-Mart is a victory). You can replace your negative experiences driving with good ones and gain your mobility back. A professional therapist or counselor might would be able to provide more support and perhaps a structured program in this area.

As to the medication, why do we beat ourselves up about taking medications? Yes, it can be extremely hard to find one that works (I just finished eight weeks of trying six psych medications for anxiety, five of which caused terrible digestive issues before I found one that is now working), but you are suffering! Why cause yourself more suffering by refusing to take a medication that might provide relief of your symptoms? Who ever said that he or she who gets to the end of life having taken the fewest medications wins? If you're staying in close contact with your doctor and your goal is health -- not a high -- you have NOTHING to feel guilty about. Medications are tools that some of us need. To put it another way, some people can climb a mountain with just their bare hands, but some of us need a good pair of boots and a friend wtih a rope to help along the way!

Just my thoughts, and I'm not a medical professional by any means. I hope they provide some encouragement.
Ulcerative Colitis 2000
GAD 2002
IBS-D (occasional forays into IBS-C) 2002
Meds: Pentasa (UC), Synthroid (Thyroid Disease), Lomotil (IBS), Diovan (High Blood Pressure), Prednisone (UC, flare-ups only), Librax (IBS & Anxiety), Lorazepam (Anxiety)

Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 6/11/2009 8:32 AM (GMT -6)   


I have anxiety thinking of driving the son was killed on one of our major freeways and ever since then I have to really push myself. For 10 months up until April I had to just do it as my sister was in the hosptial in the inner city and I had to drive the freeway to be with her. 

I always did fine once I got going but it was going that was my challenge.

Here are a few tips that you may find helpful:

1. Take small steps and you will eventually get to your destination -- A lot of people who have a fear of driving simply give up using their car altogether. This is the way to perpetuate your condition, not to heal yourself. If you feel that you're unable to drive, simply use the car for short periods. Either drive around the block, or to the grocery store, or take frequent pit stops to make sure your fear doesn't build up. By doing so, you're conditioning your mind to gradually overcome your fears.

2. Listen to soothing music while you're driving -- Music has great effect on our mood. Find some music that you can relax to and play it while you're driving. It will lower your overall stress levels and your will enjoy your ride more.

3. Take deep breaths -- If you're ever driving and start to experience one of the many symptoms of your phobia (sweating, stomach aches, nausea), take a few deep breaths. Inhale and exhale slowly. Deep breaths steady the heart beat and help you to relax

Think positive thoughts, leaving no room for failure that you “just can’t do this.”

I wish you peace,




Kitt, Co-Moderator:
Depression,  & 
*~* *~*
"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."
Not a mental health professional of any kind
Clickable Link: Anxiety-Panic Resources

Veteran Member

Date Joined Apr 2005
Total Posts : 1011
   Posted 6/11/2009 4:05 PM (GMT -6)   
I can totally relate and understand what you are going through! I used to drive on the thruway daily for work, but after I quite to be a sahm I started getting nervous while I was on it. I didn't need to go on it much and I would still take it when it made sense. When I was pregnant with my second I had a big ole panic attack on the thruway and I was so scared I was going to lose control of the car. I vowed not to let the PA get the better of me and I went back on a couple of weeks later and bam! Had another huge one and haven't driven on one since. The thing that keeps me from forcing myself to face this fear is that I'm afraid I will not be driving very well. I know that PA won't kill me, but when I have one a get dizzy and lightheaded and I really feel that I am somewhat impaired when this happens. I'm afraid I won't be giving the road my full attention because I'll just be trying to get through the attack. I do make myself drive on unfamiliar roads and busy roads when I can just so I don't lose any MORE ground and at some point I want to drive the thruway again, but I don't know how. I probably can't do it without therapy. Anyways, I have no advice for you, but just wanted to commiserate.

New Member

Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 4
   Posted 6/11/2009 6:27 PM (GMT -6)   
Thsnk you all for your postings. You have no idea what it means to me to hear from you...the commiserations, the positive comments, the suggestions from those that husband tries, but gets very frustrated and we ended up in a huge fight the other night (not helpful) because I haven't "stepped out of my comfort zone"...although it's only been a couple weeks that it's been really bad. To me, I feel that I need to do this on my own time. Today I took the cat to the vet, granted not far away, but felt no panic and felt better than I have all week. And I almost cancelled it because I was feeling lousy. So to me, that was a victory.

Again, thank you all for sharing....and BigA, you're right...I should just TRY the might work. I tend to focus on the negatives maybe because I'm afraid? I did pick out all the positive postings about the med I could find and pasted them into a document that I can refer to. I'm going to take it tomorrow. It's big for me, as I've always been afraid of meds in the beginning and it seems to take me longer than usual to take anything prescribed.

Kitt...I'm so sorry about your son. Sorry seems like such a small word, but I can't find the right one. It makes my feeling seem so ridiculous. Words can't express what I want to say to you.

Thanks again for everything. It's so comforting to have this forum.

New Member

Date Joined Feb 2009
Total Posts : 5
   Posted 6/21/2009 8:51 AM (GMT -6)   
I can so relate to your posting. I suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. I used to go every where and do everything by myself. My husband passed away 15 years ago and I was left with three childen to raise. I did it all and went every where now I sometimes can't even get into the car to go to the store which is 1/2 from my home. I am basically homebound unless my kids take me where I need to go, and even sometimes going with them is stressful too. I don't really understand why sometimes I can talk myself out of the attack and other times it's so over whelming. I am on prozac but it doesn't really seem to help much. I tried zoloft, paxil and neither helped, probably made it worse. I can drive as long as someone is in the car with me sounds crazy but I will take a cab or bus just to avoid driving. I can't handle feeling this way anymore my kids don't understand and sometimes tell me it's stupid that I can't drive and we wind up fighting. so know you are not alone.

Elite Member

Date Joined Apr 2007
Total Posts : 32602
   Posted 6/21/2009 9:53 AM (GMT -6)   
Hello and welcome to HealingWell and the Anxiety and Panic Forum.
I am so sorry to read that you have huge issues with your anxiety.
May I suggest you start a thread of your own :-) Simply click on the "New Topic" button and the program will open a box for you to post your intro. This will help members see your first post and extend a hand to you. You are always welcome to post responses directly to members.
Your own thread will allow us to help you and your particular problems.
Gentle Hugs to you,

Moderator: Osteoarthritis & GERD/Heartburn
Co-Moderator: Anxiety/Panic, & Depression
*~* *~*
"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others."
Not a mental health professional of any kind

New Member

Date Joined Jun 2009
Total Posts : 5
   Posted 6/21/2009 3:41 PM (GMT -6)   
I have had anxiety about driving since I was 17 and I was in a car accident. I am now 35 and still struggle with anxiety and panic attacks when driving. I currently take Prozac 40 mg once a day and Wellbutrin SR 200 mg twice a day and Hydroxazine PRN. It took me taking medication and going to counseling for about a year to really start feeling better. But, I kept at it and now am happy I did. I have had those heart racing, lump in my throat, sweating profusely, light-headed painic attacks while driving and while even thinking about driving. But, my husband stopped driving me to places as he said he was only enabling my condition. My psychiatrist told me to drive around town on Sunday's when there was not much traffic. So, I drove a little over time and eventually it became easier. I still fear driving on the East side of our town and on interstates, but I still do it every one in awhile. If I don't then I will become so fearful I will not be able to do it again.

My biggest turning point was my job. First my job required me to drive to the East side of town one time per week. If I wanted to keep my job, I had to do it, so I did it. then, I realized the easiest and fastest way to get there was a highway, so I gradually started taking that. I gripped the wheel with all of my might, but I did it. My friends and husband encouraged me and that helped a lot. Then, I applied for this job that I really wanted as a Group Leader at my Community Mental Health Center, which required me to drive a 13 passenger mini-bus. Talk about panic!!! But, I was honest with my co-workers and boss about my anxiety and they encouraged me to drive it. I don't drive as often as my co-workers do, but I am making progress and have been at this job for 2 and half years now. At first I just would not schedule groups to go out in the community if I was the only Group Leader for that group, but my groups and myself got tired of being coped up in the building and I realized I was not helping my clients by not overcoming my fear of driving.

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that there is hope for improvement. I am not saying your anxiety or panic of while driving will ever go away, but there is hope that you will be able to cope and live as normal of a life as possible!!!

Marcy (Laughlin is my dog's name...LOL)
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