Trying to deal with anxiety attacks while on the highway

Started in 2003 I used to be able to drive over 300 miles no problem then one day it started affecting me I thought after a couple of times of it happening that fumes may be getting into the car but now it happens every time I get on a major highway I've read posts that people say to not think about it or to relax it doesn't work or makes it worse any advice is welcome I do like to drive on highways and would like to be able to again.

5 Replies

  • I have the exact same problem as you! Although mine is about getting stuck in traffic I drive to work every day and worry that if I get stuck in traffic I may not be able to get out of a panic situation or a situation where I need help. Although this isn't much advice this is just to let you know you are not alone! All the best. Kenan

  • No Lucas you're certainly not alone. My first full blown panic attack was driving back from Lancaster along the M6 to Cheshire. It sounds daft with hindsight, but I though I was dying and wouldn't get home.

    I crawled along the hard shoulder 'til a patrol car appeared and the officer was wonderful. He got me to follow him on the inside lane to my exit, having told him I knew I'd be ok once I was off the motorway.

    My GP arranged for me to see a therapist. Guess what.............I had a 20 min motorway drive to get to him with no alternative route.

    But it was exactly what I needed ; a 12month commitment to a hair-raising motorway drive every Tuesday acted as aversion therapy because it was small doses of something I feared and wanted to avoid, but needed to address.

    I saw a documentary years later about phobias, and one person was an HGV driver who'd driven for a living all his working life.

    He was so embarrassed that he told no one but invented another illness to avoid the dreaded motorways.

    When he eventually sought help, it was suggested that he do short stints, just from the slip road to the first exit & build up gradually, and after 6 months he was back driving for another company.

    My therapy itself was pretty useless, but the journey there and back proved to me that if you want to beat a phobia you have to tackle it head on.

    Whichever solution you try, it might be disruptive to your life for a time but I hope you can overcome this worrying problem sooner rather than later.

    Regards, Cat x

  • Hi, sorry to hear of your difficulty there, I have anxiety disorder to, along with a load of other probs. Anyway, I've had some strange situations myself with lots of things but with regards to driving I have strange thoughts of me loosing control and visions of suddenly turning my wheel erratically. Of course I hate these thoughts and I certainly wouldn't want to do it or carry out anything like that but its an overwhelming thought and I find myself having to come of the road to rest and compose myself a lot. I've found its worse on a motorways or straight fast road than normal everyday roads. I've not got any explanations as to why I get it, and it is frightening. I also get serious anxiety and muscle tension that tightens up in my arms and chest and the pain is strong. so I can relate in many ways to what you are feeling. Hope you start to feel better soon. Take care

  • I have the same problem. I was shot on the highway in a chase and now I'm always scared that it will happen again. I have crazy thoughts then my anxiety takes over. One weird thing i'll do is take my shoes off and my bra. It kind of helps me relax.

  • It's odd how I'm never anxious driving on urban roads, and can drive fast along a duel carriageway quite happily.

    I often wonder whether long stretches of motorway cause us to enter into a different state of consciousness, almost like an automotive, hypnotic state. Then we suddenly get a reality shock and panic.

    As James described, there's often a feeling of unreality and fear or losing control. Trouble is, once it hits you it quickly develops into a full blown panic, affecting all the senses.

    Learning to endure that panic is the key, all the time remembering that on previous occasions nothing bad ever actually happened.

    But short journeys help such a lot. If you know you're coming off soon it's manageable, and you can gradually build up, all the while knowing there'll be another exit soon.

    Take care all. xx

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