What Is Driving Ocd?

The definition of driving OCD

As a car enthusiast, driving has always been an enjoyable experience for me. However, for some individuals, driving can be a source of immense stress and anxiety. One such type of anxiety-related disorder is known as Driving OCD or Run and Hit OCD. This subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder is characterized by an irrational fear of driving someone over and not realizing it.

Unlike other forms of OCD, where individuals may resort to compulsive behavior such as washing hands or rechecking appliances multiple times, driving OCD is mostly a mental and intrusive thought process. The individual may experience intense mental images or thoughts of accidentally hitting someone while driving. This could lead to them repeatedly checking their rearview mirror or even avoiding driving altogether, which can impact their daily life significantly.

Understanding the symptoms of driving OCD

Driving OCD can manifest in several ways. It may begin with a sudden thought of accidentally hitting someone while driving. The thought could be triggered by a news report, a conversation with someone, or even just the sight of a pedestrian. The individual may then start obsessively checking their rearview mirrors, looking out for any signs of hitting somebody.

The following are some common symptoms of driving OCD:

  • Excessive worry about accidentally hitting someone while driving
  • Repeatedly checking rearview mirrors, even when on a deserted road
  • Obsessive thoughts of hitting someone, even when there is no real danger present
  • Avoiding driving altogether or driving only when necessary
  • Replaying the scenarios in their mind, trying to make sure that they didn’t hit anyone
  • The impact of driving OCD on everyday life

    Driving OCD can cause significant distress and affect an individual’s social, personal and even professional life. The constant fear of causing harm while driving could cause the individual to avoid any situation that involves driving, leading to isolation and frustration. Moreover, the stress and anxiety caused by the intrusive thoughts can affect their ability to focus on tasks or even function efficiently in everyday life.

    The following are some of the ways driving OCD can impact an individual’s life:

    • Difficulty in carrying out routine activities that involve driving, for example, going to work, school, or running errands
    • Feelings of guilt and shame for having such thoughts that go against their moral values
    • Mental and physical exhaustion due to the constant mental chatter
    • Difficulty in maintaining relationships as the condition may cause the individual to become irritable and withdrawn
    • The possible causes of driving OCD

      Like other forms of OCD, the exact cause of driving OCD is unknown. It could be a combination of genetic, environmental, and other factors that contribute to the development of this disorder.

      The following are some factors believed to contribute to the development of driving OCD:

      • Genetics – Studies suggest that genetic factors may play a role in the development of OCD.
      • Trauma – Traumatic experiences like a car accident might trigger driving OCD in some individuals.
      • Brain chemistry – Imbalance in serotonin, the neurotransmitter that regulates mood, can contribute to the development of OCD.
      • Stressful life events – Traumatic experiences such as loss of a loved one or losing a job can also contribute to the development of OCD.
      • How to manage driving OCD and reduce its impact

        Driving OCD can be managed with various techniques and strategies. It is essential to seek help from a mental health professional for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective treatment method for OCD. In CBT, individuals learn to identify their negative thought patterns and develop healthier coping mechanisms.

        Here are some additional strategies that can help manage driving OCD:

        • Mindfulness practices like meditation and yoga can help calm the mind and reduce stress levels.
        • Stress management techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can provide relief during an anxiety attack.
        • Limiting exposure to triggers like news reports or images that may trigger the intrusive thoughts can help reduce the frequency of the thoughts.
        • Positive self-talk and affirmations can help shift negative thoughts toward positive ones.
        • Seeking professional help for driving OCD

          If you or a loved one is suffering from driving OCD, it is crucial to seek professional help. A mental health professional can provide a proper diagnosis and suggest a treatment plan that suits your needs. It is essential to look for a licensed and experienced therapist who specializes in treating OCD.

          Psychology Today is a great resource to find a mental health professional in your area.

          Real-life stories of individuals dealing with driving OCD

          My cousin, who is an experienced driver, developed driving OCD after a hit-and-run accident that happened while he was in the car. The accident left him with intense feelings of guilt and a fear of causing harm while driving.

          He started avoiding driving altogether and developed severe anxiety when in the car. It affected his ability to go to work and attend social events, leading to isolation and frustration. He sought help from a mental health professional who provided him with a treatment plan that included cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication. He now drives regularly with much less anxiety and is leading a healthy and fulfilling life.

          It is essential to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel for individuals dealing with driving OCD. Seeking professional help and support from loved ones can go a long way in managing the condition and leading a happy life.

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