Has anyone successfully gotten over the fear of highway/freeway driving?

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Date Joined Apr 2005
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   Posted 12/4/2009 7:36 AM (GMT -7)   
I would love to hear how you did it! I face most of my fears head on, but I feel that it would not be responsible for me to just force myself to go on the thruway again. I haven't driven on one in over 6 years. Truthfully, I don't even like being a passanger on one anymore.  I am positive I will have huge panic attacks on it (I feel panicky just talking about it) and I need to be very alert and not dizzy when I'm driving. It would be nice not to be limited by my fear though.

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   Posted 12/4/2009 8:22 AM (GMT -7)   
Good Morning,
I used to and still do have some issues with driving on freeways but when my sister was sick and in the hospital in Minneapolis the only way for me to get there was to drive the freeway so I just did it. 
For 10 months I would make the trip however I never did feel comfortable and was always worrying about the trip home...........the old anticipatory anxiety.  I don't have a great answer for you other then to take short trips on the freeway at 6:00 AM on a Sunday morning when there is very little traffic. smhair 

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   Posted 12/4/2009 9:02 AM (GMT -7)   
Yep I think the only way to get over it is to just do it, and I know that can be a hard pill to swallow.

I never really had a fear of driving on the freeway. I had a fear of leaving metropolitan areas some years back. I didn't want to get sick in the middle of nowhere. Of course I'd have to go home for Christmas and things and very often did have to pull over on the interstate sick. It was no fun. Later on when I was better physically, I had anxiety, and when I got anxious the feeling in my stomach was strikingly similar to what I felt like when I was sick. So just the thought of having to take any kind of lengthy road trip would really tense me up (to put it mildly). Actually I think I worked myself up so much I couldn't help but to be sick at my stomach.

Eventually it passed. I live in Texas, USA -- car country. There's some mass transit in Dallas where I live but I cannot use it for work. In most cities there is no viable transit. Only option to get between cities is to fly or take Amtrak, which is painfully slow down here. Not like it is in the NE, that's for sure. So basically if you want to live, you have to drive.

I think if you'd expose yourself to being on the freeway/motorway/thruway/whatever it's called where you live, you would find that it is definitely in you to do it again. It may not be any fun at first but eventually you'll be okay. Just take it slow and you'll get there.

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   Posted 12/4/2009 8:49 PM (GMT -7)   
Maybe starting with a short stretch of freeway during good weather and in the daytime when visibility is best, and avoiding commute hours would be a good beginning. Then work up to longer trips and more adverse conditions once you feel comfortable. If you are like me, you will have better luck overcoming your anxiety if you are driving than if someone else is driving. I'm still working on a fear of bridges (an old anxiety that has recently returned) and tunnels. Good luck - it's difficult to have these obstacles in the way but I really do think that starting small and working up is the least intimidating way to face it.

I have Lyme; it doesn't have me.

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Date Joined May 2003
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   Posted 12/8/2009 12:48 PM (GMT -7)   

So I had an idea. I thought maybe I could pretend to be intoxicated (or really relaxed) while driving. It actually works for me.


My approach is to give in to the anxiety and let it try to take over. I tell myself that I just don't care what it does to my body. As I'm in a situation where the anxiety is about to come I relax into it even more. The more the panic feeling wants to come over me the more I give in and say, "take me I just don't care anymore.” I stay calm and cool. If you fight it you're allowing it to exist, giving it credibility as though it is really something that can hurt you...if you give in, you tell yourself that it's a made up thing that can't really do anything to you.


On the freeway I used to sit up straight, turn the radio off, adjust the mirror (I'd just keep trying to distract myself from the fact that there were all these cars around me and I couldn't get away if I needed to). I would end up freaking out and drive dangerously in order to get over and pull off. Now I focus on letting every muscle in my body relax, I breathe slowly, I make sure I don't shift my head around too much. Picture someone sitting with their mouth open and drool coming out the side of one’s mouth. That’s how relaxed I try to get.


Get an attitude about you like, “I just don’t care what happens anymore.”

If you walk through a dark street at night and don't care what happens to you you're not afraid (I don't do that but am making a point).
Fear comes from giving something credibility. You can be afraid of a dark room at night and try to tell yourself there's nothing under the bed or you can say to yourself there might be something under the bed but you just don't care what it does to you anymore..."bring it on!" Two different approaches.
43, male, UC diagnosed in 1985
Flares occur after some illness: food poisoning, flu, mono...
Flares last 6 months to a year and lately involve several weeks of severe symptoms with lots of diarrhea, blood, pain, fever, dehydration.
Remissions last 1 to 4 years and are absolute with no symptoms 
Current Meds: 100 mg azathioprine, Colazal 9/day, Lialda 2/day,  60 mg 50 mg  60mg 80 mg prednisone
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   Posted 12/10/2009 9:06 PM (GMT -7)   
Paniccu i hate to hear that you are having that problem but glad to hear that i'm not alone. I haven't traveled on the highway in about 6 years as well. I have tried but the panic gets so overwhelming i have to pull off. I sometimes feel like if i try to take a long road trip that i will have a panic attack so severe that i will die. I also fear tunnels and bridges. Everywhere i go in my city i go the long way if it requires getting on the highway. So a trip that may take 15 minutes on the highyway it takes me 30 minutes because i go around. It's usually aggravating to some people when they ride with me but i would rather keep doing that than to have a panic attack. I try not to ride with other people because i dont want to have to expalin why i cant go certain routes. And i also dont want to inconvience them. But i agree with everyone else the only way we can get over this fear is to face it and i have yet to do it. Maybe one day i'll build up the courage. If i do i'll let you know and if you do it you let me know. I would be happy to just take a 2 hour road trip but i can't even do that.

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Date Joined Apr 2005
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   Posted 12/11/2009 7:12 AM (GMT -7)   
Thank you for the suggestions. I was afraid the answer would be to just do it :-).  Burli, I liked your description of how relaxed you try to be on the thruway, it made me laugh! It's funny, but a few times at night, after having dinner with friends who live a few towns over, and a glass of wine (only one wine after 2 or 3 hours, not drunk or buzzed), I have considered taking the thruway home. The roads were calm and I was not feeling anxious, but I chickened out. Maybe I should do it next time. Panike, lets definitely let eachother know what helps if we get the courage to take the thruway! I live in a small town and don't have a need to take it much, but the few times I do, it is very frustrating to take all backroads. Sometimes backroads are not an option because I would be going through a dangerous part of the city. I am also uncomfortable on bridges, but if they are short I can do it. I can't picture myself ever driving to Canada again (pnly 40 minutes from me) . That would involve freeways and bridges! If there are any other ideas or stories of success, please keep them coming! I have thought about mapping out my route so that I know how to get home from each exit on the thruway if I decide to take it and get panicky. I also have a GPS now so I would not feel so lost if I  had to exit.

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   Posted 12/11/2009 1:24 PM (GMT -7)   
Know this. I thought that I would never be able to do it again. I was concerned about how I would function in society. I had two girls and thought about how I would drive them around with their friends (would their friends make fun). Just as I got over my fear of speaking in front of groups of people (that I never thought I could do), I too am getting over this fear. I believe fears are temporary based on what's happening in your life at the moment. We think this is the way it's always going to be or even get worse. Well for me it always gets better. I believe you will get to a point where you'll say: "I don't care". "Let's go!"
43, male, UC diagnosed in 1985
Flares occur after some illness: food poisoning, flu, mono...
Flares last 6 months to a year and lately involve several weeks of severe symptoms with lots of diarrhea, blood, pain, fever, dehydration.
Remissions last 1 to 4 years and are absolute with no symptoms
March 2009 colonoscopy showed no signs of UC; azathioprine reduce from 100mg to 50mg
Started current flare August 2009, bleeding by October 2009
Current Meds: 100 mg azathioprine, 750 mg Colazal 6/day, 400 mg Asacol 6/day, Lialda 2/day,  60 mg 50 mg  60mg 80 mg prednisone
Currently in hospital, severe left sided colitis
100 mg predisolone, demoral for pain
Xanax, Valium for anxiety
Eating "low residue" hospital diet, (foods that produce small stool; no fiber)
Tegretol XR for epilespy
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Regular Member

Date Joined Aug 2006
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   Posted 12/15/2009 8:36 PM (GMT -7)   
I don't drive on highways anymore other than driving only north into the next town over. But to drive south into downtown, forget about it. It's the fast paced, mulitlane ordeal that does it for me.
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   Posted 12/15/2009 10:03 PM (GMT -7)   
It's really hard for me not to drive on the interstate, but it took a long time after a bad accident for me to get back on it. For quite some time, I took back roads everywhere. I just gradually got on and drove. The first time I was only on until I got to the next exit, which was only about a mile, then went the back way. Then I gradually drove a little more at a time until I didn't think about it as much. I still have anxiety when driving at night on the interstate (that's when the accident happened) but I force myself to deal with it. Sometimes if I'm anxious to begin with, I'll take half a klonipin before driving.

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Date Joined Nov 2006
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   Posted 12/16/2009 7:57 AM (GMT -7)   
In regards to taking it slow...

The reason I was nervous about driving was because several years ago I was very sick, and I'd often get physically sick while driving on freeways. One night in particular I was driving through a construction zone that had no shoulders. All the exits were blocked off. The flow of traffic was probably 80 mph but it seemed like 180 to me. I got sick, couldn't help but to swerve, and in heavy fast moving traffic that is not a good thing. I didn't have an accident like Becky, but it was only by the hand of God that I didn't. To this day I don't know how I didn't start a pile up that night. That may have been the most dangerous incident, but back in those days I had lots of incidents.

But still that didn't cause me to have a fear of urban interstates. Those types of construction zones are rare. If I'm in the city and things get bad I'm either close to home or I could get a hotel room. Like I said before, I was always nervous about driving in the middle of nowhere, far away from everything.

Well, here is the thing. For work today I have to drive a long way. A lot of it will be urban but I have to go way, way up to the Northwest. This is as "in the middle of nowhere" as you can possibly get. When I'm at my farthest away, the nearest town of any size will be at least forty miles away and it's only 100k people or so.

Even after all these years, I'm nervous about today. I should have left 20 minutes ago. I have all my stuff ready to go. The GPS is programmed. My paperwork is all set. Cell phone charged. Laptop packed. I'm dressed and showered. All I have to do is put on my shoes and go, but I'm having a hard time doing it.

I could be upset with myself about this. For example I could be telling myself "how long has it been since you've gotten sick in the car, you fool?", or something like that. But that's not the way I look at it. My mind does try to go that way, but instead I focus on more positive things. I know I will get out. I know I'll get done what I need to get done. A 20 or 30 minute delay is not the end of the world. If I force it, it will be worse.

So it takes time to get over these types of things.

New Member

Date Joined Jun 2015
Total Posts : 1
   Posted 6/2/2015 7:23 PM (GMT -7)   
Hi I am currently in this situation
I was from a small town and in the military
I recently got moved here in San Diego
And it's a necessity for me to go on freeway due to traffic everywhere
I have to leave 2hrs ahead to take back roads to go to one base to another which is hard because my works starts at 6am and gets off at 430 by the time I leave work rush hour is terrible adds an hour going home taking back roads so I'm on the road for 3 hrs after tiring training.
I only leave 30 mins away from base so it's frustrating fear to have with work.

I need anything that could help me thru this...
I've tried a driving instructor and I'm fine but once I'm alone and think that I'm on car driving on my own without help I get shaky and feel stuck couldn't move to make myself turn to freeway exit.
It makes me stress all day not knowing that somehow I get lost and end up having to take a freeway to get back on my back road route. I fear any road that looks like would be an exit to freeway.
I even have to take a month leave to practice back roads to make sure I don't mess up and end up exiting to a freeway on accident with no choice but to thru exit or else I would create accident to other driver.

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   Posted 6/3/2015 7:56 AM (GMT -7)   
Welcome Tiny, to Healing well Anxiety forum. This is a very old thread so I moved your post to a thread of it's own and will lock this one since we like to keep older threads off the forum.

Here is your new thread.
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