How Driving Fears May be Linked to OCD

anxietyDriving fears and obsessive-compulsive disorder , or OCD, are two different conditions. But the two may sometimes be linked, with one fueling the other. Here’s how.

Your Brain on OCD

Those with OCD are frequently plagued with worry, fears and doubt, with the typical thinking process outlined by Psychology Today:

  • You’re stuck with a disturbing intrusive thought or image
  • The thought starts to bother you, since you don’t believe you should be having “bad” or “dangerous” thoughts
  • You’re only having this thought, you believe, because it really must be true

An example might be the thought of making a mistake at work. You’re bothered by this thought, since you shouldn’t be having it. Perhaps it’s really an indication that you did, indeed, make a huge mistake at work.

That mistake, you think, is sure to blow up into something big and horrible, maybe even bad enough to get your fired!

You try to push the thought out of your mind, but notice it keeps popping up. Its recurrence, you’re sure, means it really must be true and/or there’s something wrong with you for having this thought. You may even return to the office to review your recent activities to see if you made any mistakes along the way.

You might turn to your boss, coworkers or even family members and friends who’ve never even been at the office for reassurance that you didn’t make a mistake.

Or did you really make one?

At this point, several things can happen.

  • You can try to escape the thought through drinking, binge eating or other harmful practices
  • You can start to believe you’re losing your mind
  • You can try to ignore it, at least until the next intrusive thought comes along to start the process anew

How Does This Fit with Driving Fears?

PsychCentral writer Janet Singer brings up her son Dan as a direct example of how driving fears may be linked to OCD. She says when his OCD was in its most severe, he was unable to drive due to his extreme fear of possibly hurting someone. The fear was potent enough to stop him from driving altogether.

She notes an underlying characteristic of OCD is the need to have control over every aspect of life. The actions many of those suffering from OCD take, thinking they are exhibiting more control, actually end up giving them even less control.

In Dan’s case, his avoidance of driving limited his control over where he could freely travel. Driving with the obsessive thought, however, may have backfired. He could have returned from each trip, full of doubt or fear that he hit someone.

That would have transformed into the compulsion to retrace his route to make sure no one was lying in the ditch. The compulsion part of the condition comes from any action a person feels he or she must take, over and over, “just to be sure.”

Therapy can be helpful for OCD as well as driving fears and driving anxiety, with the more you understand about either the better the results may be.


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