I Am Not Giving Up!

I am happy to have found this website and read TayterTots story.....TayterTot,  if you happen to read this,  let me know how you are doing - its been almost a year since you wrote.   Don't give up!  It is scary and frightening, but hang in there.  I am hoping that by sharing my story that others will write also, and we can support each other as we conquer our fear.

I have been driving for over 25 years and I have always loved it.  I have driven all over the country, many many long distance trips with no problems, I would drive anywhere, alone or with friends at the drop of a hat.  For seven years I owned my own consulting company and drove an average of 4,000 miles per month,  all without a second thought.  Sure I've had close calls a few times, but have never been in a major (or minor) accident.  In July of last year,  I noticed that I started to get anxious while driving,  mostly dizzy, and that the road was coming at me too fast.   I would get this feeling maybe once a week and it would last for 15 0r 20 minutes, and then when I reached my destination and got out of the car,  the feeling would go away.  Gradually this began to occur more often.  I am having more trouble seeing at night, but this was happening during the day.  It has gotten to the point where I now have panic attacks every time I get on the interstate.  I get sweaty palms, heart beating out of my chest,  short of breath, and very very dizzy.  There are times when I have to pull onto the shoulder and just stop.  I find it helps if I am in a place where I can get out of the car and stand up.  I feel a sense of disequilibrium like the road is coming at me too fast or that my eyes cannot find the horizon also.  I have to drive about 40 miles to work every day, round trip.  Part of this commute used to involve one nearby interstate.   One day in early January I took this route and it was raining and I knew I was anxious but I literally could not see the lines on the road and I could not see where the road ended and the gray sky began, so I became dizzy and had to pull off for fear that I would lose control.  I pulled off twice in three miles before I reached the next exit.  Since then  I have not travelled this portion of the interstate.  There is an interstate  loop around my city ( a different one than I drove in January) which is very familiar to me and I can drive around it with no problem, but for some reason,  once I leave it and get on a connecting interstate I just freak out and have an anxiety attack.  I have altered my route to work because of my panic attacks.  This has gotten progressively worse in the last few months and is terrifying to me but also mystifies me.  Last month,  I was able to drive my boyfriend's daughter's car to her college approximately 125 miles away, but I took a regular 4 lane highway, drove 55  mphthe whole way,  and during the span of 2 hours and 15 minutes,  had 4 separate panic attacks.  But I just kept on going, telling myself that it would eventually go away,  that if I need to,  I could pull over,  and that I could do this.  I was exhausted when we finally got to our destination.  The next week I drove my daughter and 3 of her friends to a town 30 miles away on the interstate and had two more panic attacks on that drive.  I keep trying but I am getting a bit discouraged. 

I went to the dr and got started on anti anxiety med about 3 weeks ago.  It is finally beginning to take the edge off and stop my continuous worrying about panicking while driving.  And every workday,  I force myself to drive at least one exit on the dreaded interstate.  Some days I freak out for the entire mile,  and other days it is bearable.  I have heard from many people that I need to keep doing this and taking baby steps to desenstize myself.  But I am still very dizzy, especially when I have to turn my head to check for traffic when I change lanes,  or when the entrance or exit ramp is one of the round cloverleaf things - those really mess with my balance.

Has anyone else suddenly developed a fear like this?  How did you overcome it?  Any ideas, suggestions,  advice, etc would be appreciated.

lifesabeach31 lifesabeach31
12 Responses Mar 10, 2008

I have been diagnosed with Atypical Meniere's Disease by a really good doctor, a world expert, and I've had vertigo attacks on and off throughout my life with occasionally prolonged feelings of instability when walking. These have gotten worse with time, and, guess what I now have too? Difficulty driving.

Many people with Meniere's don't drive at all, but my attacks have enough of a prodrome of at least a minute that I've never stopped driving. However, I'm having a lot more motion-related problems these days, and one of them is impossibility driving in cars, either as passenger or driver. I also have panic attacks, but they are highly situational and come in situations where I have no control. The car doesn't feel like it qualifies. All I know is that I'm having a hard time getting around. This happened for about a year, went away for as long (along with other vestibular problems), and then came back recently when I hit my head and got a concussion five months ago. Since then, I'm back to driving along, feeling like I am having severe disequilibrium and am free-falling through space or shuttling around at 10,000 mph, along with not being able to see all the motion. It's worse on mountainous roads and highways both, as well as much worse at night. I'm not even 40 years old, so it's distressing, and since I'm probably worse as a passenger, that doesn't help either.

Mainly, I'm driving in the right lane and slowly, and stopping a lot. I'm avoiding traffic like no one's business. Music makes it worse because it sounds tinny (all the time these days) and makes me feel unsteadier. My car feels like I'm driving an airplane or something. It's really weird. I do take some anti anxiety meds already, but they don't help. So, I relate. I find that the more visual references I have, the better (like trees) unless they are also moving (like other cars) or are uphill or downhill (like mountainous roads or bridges). I DO have panic attacks from the sensory overstimulation, but it's after an hour or two of driving.

Doctors really want to say it's psychological BUT I'm not scared of driving! I actually have driven across country and have driven hundreds of thousands of miles in major cities throughout the world. If you asked me about driving ten years ago, I would have said it was one of my favorite activities. I've never been in a wreck or anything. I like driving. Or I did like it. I liked to race cars as well. NOW, I can't drive well at all, sometimes a mile even on a bad day when I am feeling unsteady in general (but not vertigo, just slightly off; if I didn't know about the Meniere's, I might not notice it). It's not psychological. I find that wearing light-prescription reading glasses while driving in the right lane helps a bit for some reason, so I do this a lot. I can still see, but it reduces the amount of visual information coming at me. It's also good if there's quiet in the car. I think it's my vestibular system.

I really identify with this post more than I can state. I've worried at times that I had a terrible brain tumor or something. I think it's just my inner ear acting up. If this happens to you, be sure to see an otolaryngologist at a teaching hospital. The other doctors know VERY little about the inner ear. I've had a lot of tests for my ear over the years. It's pretty broken. My actual diagnosis is "endolymphatic hydrops" probably caused by a previous surgery to my throat that removed a lot of lymph nodes (long story) but the closest thing that most people have to this is Meniere's Disease.

Yes. I have experienced very similar things. I also used to love to drive. I have driven to different states by myself and did not bat an eye. For me it started a few months ago. I had a panic attack while driving on the road I take to work, it was completely out of the blue. I thought I needed to call 911. Luckily my boyfriend was with me and understands anxiety issues and recognized the signs. Since then it has been a struggle to get behind the wheel. I do it, but I also get dizzy and feel like I am losing control sometimes too. I hate it, and I am scared. I have to commute for my job and I really love my job. I am a math teacher and love it. I wouldn't trade it for the world. I just don't know how I am going to get through this. But, like yourself, I am not going to give up.

I am 23 years old and I had a little bit of anxiety while driving on highways when I first started to drive but I had gotten over that and was able to drive anywhere without panicking or having anxiety. I also live in Colorado when the roads can have pretty bad conditions, I was never afraid to drive in the snow, rain, highways, mountain roads, anything. Recently a friend came to visit and we were driving down a one lane highway with slight curves when I completely broke down, I felt like the world was coming at me too fast and I couldn’t focus on anything I was trying to look at. I began to shake and felt like I was going to black out so I quickly pulled over and drank water and ate sugar thinking it may have had to do with being dehydrated or a low blood sugar. It helped for a minute then when we started to drive again the feelings came back again. Ever since then I have had the same feelings pretty much every time I get in the car, it has gotten to the point where I can’t even be at a stop light for too long before I start to panic and feel like I am going to black out. I have read multiple forums where people are having these same reactions and haven’t gotten any real help. I have been to the doctors and I am going again tomorrow. The first doctor told me I had liquid in my middle ear which may be caused by an infection so he prescribed me antibiotics that have done nothing for me (sense of balance/vertigo comes from inner ears not middle ear). The one thing that keeps me going to the doctors is that it has progressed from just being in the car, to all the time. I constantly have these dizzy spells no matter what I’m doing. I feel trapped and helpless, if anyone has any ideas, maybe anti-anxiety meds? I am at a loss.

I hear you loud and clear. I don't know what to do either. Anti-anxiety meds are harder to come by than it would seem. My doctor wants me to try all of this natural stuff first. I don't have time for that crap. What I feel is real and dangerous to me. I can try singing a song or talking out loud, but frankly it does not help. I hope you can feel better. I know exactly how horrible it is.

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In my case, I find the anxiety hits when I have a dizzy feeling or sense of dysequilibrium when I'm driving on the highway. It passes as soon as the swimmy-headed feeling goes.

I don't know what's causing the problem. It seems to have started sometime last summer.

I find my sense of dysequilibrium is similar to the experience others have posted, in the sense that when driving at regular highway speeds I feel like I'm going faster than my brain can handle. I have had times where I have needed to stop just to pull myself together.

Driving on really busy highways while experiencing these sensations is a no-go, because my anxiety just magnifies then. I find taking slower back roads is a useful antidote, but I have to be careful to avoid routes that have steep grades because of my fear of heights.

Driving at night on the highway has also become a major problem. Last summer I tried driving home from Toronto on the 401 during a heavy rainstorm. The poor visibility and the rain and mist made my feeling of dysequilibrium worse - the car always felt like it was going to flip over on me. So I had to pull over and stay in a hotel for the night. The next morning I took a back road home and felt much better.

I wonder if this is all age-related, even though I'm only 51.

I do get periodic but very short-lived dizzy spells without warning, even when I'm not driving, and just simply sitting still.

Wondering what could be causing this, and if it has an answer. From all the responses I'm seeing here, I'm not too confident that a doctor could help resolve the problem.

Wow. I thought maybe, possibly someone out there has had this experience... But there are so many! It just does not seem like there are any answers. Have had some, but not all of the tests... and nothing. The last two drives home have been horrible. Like I have to try to literally hold my head on straight while I drive. Not dizzy exactly, but can only describe as dysequilibrium and moments of panic/terror. Seems a little worse when raining/dark. Most troublesome on the Interstate, but also have had issues on regular roads.

I am at the point where I am thinking I will have to quit my job and find something WAY closer to home, which right now is kind of impossible. But I just don't know what to do. I do have a script for Zoloft - which I might become nearly unavoidable, to get through this. I HATE taking the meds, but I am at a complete loss for how to deal with this.

I have been driving for several years and this also just began happening to me, has anyone received help for it?

Have you gotten better? I have this too!

Oh my god! I can't believe that someone else is having the exact same problem as me. I have been driving for 28 years and up until about 5 years ago I had never had any problems driving anywhere. Then out of nowhere I started getting anxious if I had to stop at traffic lights for too long which then developed into me having full on panic attacks if I drove up or down a road with a drop-off on the side. It has got to the point where I will go miles out of my way to avoid these roads. If I do go down one because I don't know the area, I nearly pass out. I get dizzy and it's like all the blood rushes to my head. I have had to say to my 12 year old daughter to start talking to me really quickly about anything to try and distract me. It's so bizzare because I used to live in the hills and drove hilly roads 3-4 times a day for years. Why does this happen? What brought it on? It really scares me.

I have developed a terrible fear of driving down the hill and across the bridge to go downtown and across the bridge. I have been on anti-anxiety medication. It helps, but I am still terrified to drive. I also experience panic attacks for a variety of reasons. It seems as if there is no help for this. Earlier in my life I was put on all kinds of weird medication - PROZAC, ELAVIL, some other stuff but these always made me feel worse instead of better. No one wants to help. The last doctor I saw basically told me I was crazy. I am going to try another one but I feel hopeless about this anxiety. It rules my life. It is hard to overcome.<br />

I have been afraid of driving all my life and have always had the support of my friends and family. I am recently separated and am for the first time in my life needing to drive and I can't bring myself to do so. It would be nice to know that I am not alone. Anyone out there from Raleigh, NC?

i could have WRITTEN THIS WORD FOR WORD.<br />
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i feel this way EVERY DAY on the interstate. exactly how you describe it.<br />
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it SUCKS.<br />
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stella<br />