How Being Left-Handed May Increase Your Risk of Driving Fears

fear left handBeing left-handed can do more than make it tougher to learn to drive with a right-handed stick shift. Loads of research over the years have linked left-handedness to certain mental conditions and tendencies that could affect the degree or even the existence of your driving fears and anxiety.

Specifically, left-handedness has been linked to:

  • Increased levels of fear
  • Higher levels of anger, worry, moodiness and other negative emotions
  • Greater difficulties processing emotions
  • Psychotic disorders, such as schizophrenia
  • Mood disorders (depending on whom you ask)
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, aka ADHD
  • Dyslexia and other language issues

Lefties and Driving

Those suffering from driving fears, driving anxiety or driving phobias may indeed get to blame part of their suffering on their left-handedness, or at least on the underlying tendency to develop such fears, anxiety and phobias. There may still be a batch of other factors, or a single traumatic incident, that remains as the driving force that prompted those fears, anxiety or phobias to pop to the surface.

The lefty link to negative emotions and difficulty processing emotions could put a fair warning in the air that left-handed folks may want to look out for how they react to situations while on the road. Road rage is never pretty, no matter if it’s coming from a left-handed, right-handed, ambidextrous or mixed-handed person.

What Makes People Left-Handed 

Statistics put about 10 percent of the population as left-handed, and about 1 percent as using a mixture of their left and right hand for completing any given task.

More than one factor determines if people end up favoring their left hand, their right hand or using a mixture of both. Genetics is one factor, although not the only one. Identical twins with the same genes have ended up favoring different hands as their predominant one, the Wall Street Journal says. A report in Neuropsychologia puts genetics at about 25 percent to blame for left-handedness, leaving environmental factors to pick up the other 75 percent.

High levels of stress while pregnant have been shown to increase the chances of giving birth to a lefty. This includes stress experienced by the mother-to-be from mental anguish as well as stressful physical conditions, such as mothers giving birth at at an older age or babies born with lower birth weights. While the exact reasons behind the phenomenon remains unknown, the WSJ says it is known that handedness is determined by the way a baby’s brain develops while still in the womb.

Lefties and Fear 

Lefties are more likely to be plagued with fear than right-handed folks, according to a study showcased at a British Psychology Society conference. The study subjected subjects to an eight-minute clip from the movie “Silence of the Lambs,” then asked participants to talk about what they just saw. The lefties tended to exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress disorder, which include recalling things incorrectly or in a more fragmented fashion.

Lefties and Negative Emotions 

A study published in The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease showed left-handed people were more likely to have negative emotions, such as anger and moodiness. They also tend to have a tougher time processing those emotions and other feelings.

Another study out of Scotland’s Abertay University additionally found lefties were prone to be hurt by criticism and scolding as well as more apt to worry about making mistakes.

Lefties and Psychotic Disorders

The left-handedness link to schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders has come up more than once, most recently in a study published in SAGE Open. The study found that, although about 10 percent of the general population is left-handed, 40 percent of those suffering from schizoaffective disorder or schizophrenia happened to favor their left hand.

The study involved 107 participants who were undergoing treatment in an outpatient psychiatric clinic in a low-income, urban community. Researchers asked what hand the person wrote with and then compared results with mental disorder statistics. They kept the survey simple to ensure even those suffering from psychotic disorders could easily respond.

Another note on this study is the racial mixture in the results. “The study showed that white patients with psychotic illness were more likely to be left-handed than black patients,” according to PsychCentral.

Previous studies mentioned by the Wall Street Journal have put about 20 percent of people with schizophrenia as left-handed.

Lefties and Mood Disorders

The WSJ points out lefties may be more prone to suffering from bipolar disorder, although other research disputes that. The research published in SAGE Open, for example, found there was not a marked increase in people suffering from mood disorders, such as depression, who happened to be left-handed.

Other Conditions Linked to Lefties 

Studies undertaken by Mid Sweden University psychology professor Alina Rodriguez found links to left-handedness and ADHD as well as dyslexia and other difficulties with language. Her research found an even stronger link between ADHD, and possibly similar disorders, and people who use both hands without favoring a dominant one.

The WSJ notes knowing a child used both hands and suffered from ADHD, as opposed to just knowing a child had ADHD, helped predict how long symptoms might remain.

While lefties may get a bum deal with an increased chance of suffering from driving fears or other detrimental conditions, there are some major pluses to being left-handed. For starters, you’re part of an exclusive club of lefties that includes famous folks like Michelangelo, Reggie Jackson and Marilyn Monroe.

And even if the WSJ brings up studies that bust the myths that lefties are more intelligent or artistic, you don’t have to tell anyone those myths have been busted. You can also tout the fact that lefties have been shown to have enhanced creativity in certain areas, such as with an element known as divergent thinking.

Two more left-handed myths worth busting include the fact that lefties tend to be clumsier or typically die at a younger age than righties do. Both are urban lore and untrue, although you may still have a tougher time learning to drive a right-handed stick shift.


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