Anxiety While Driving -- Conquering Life’s Left Turns with GAD

February 5, 2018 Cheryl Slavin

Anxiety while driving commonly affects people with anxiety disorders and without. My anxiety while driving hasn't kept me home. Explore driving anxiety here.

Anxiety while driving is commonplace for me. Due to generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), my brain magnifies my anxiety while driving. Even driving to a nearby store turns into a worst-case scenario in my mind’s eye. Some of this anxiety seems reasonable. Other fears involve driving activities that don’t distress the average person. When I drive, there is a specific driving anxiety I can’t conquer. I have a fear of getting into a car accident while making left turns in traffic.

My Anxiety While Driving Has Roots in My Experience

I have a high-stress level in any kind of traffic because of GAD, but my anxiety escalates if my route involves left turns. The most obvious element of my fear is oncoming traffic. My aunt was in a serious car accident when turning left once, and the memory often crosses my mind when I turn across the flow of approaching cars. As with all things in life and left turns, I also have to be conscious of what's in front of me and what's behind me. I hate holding up traffic and I’ve frequently been honked at while waiting to make a left turn. Logic tells me that she who hesitates is lost, but my driving anxiety often forces me to wait for an ideal moment.

Why Left Turns Provoke Endless, Anxious Possibilities

Left turns provoke too many variables for my anxious brain to consider. I worry specifically about where my left turn lane leads because I have little depth perception. And if there are two left turn lanes, sometimes other people try to get into your lane. They illegally go into the wrong lane because it's more convenient. This possibility significantly increases the chance of getting into an accident, and it also makes me an extremely defensive driver.

Continuing to Drive in Spite of Driving Anxiety

As an anxiety sufferer, I must learn to accept that certain tasks are more challenging for me. Though I battle GAD and phobias every day, I continue to drive. I hope for the day that I can forgo white knuckles on the wheel while yielding the right of way. But I also realize that I may never get over the anxiety of a more difficult path. And that’s all right. I take life one day, and one left turn, at a time.

APA Reference
Slavin, C. (2018, February 5). Anxiety While Driving -- Conquering Life’s Left Turns with GAD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, June 22 from

Author: Cheryl Slavin

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May, 25 2019 at 1:40 am

Thank you for this article.

Lady Belle
February, 21 2018 at 4:58 pm

I too suffer from anxiety when I even think about getting back on the road after 10 years of being without a vehicle. my last attempt at driving was 2 years ago and a friend let me use his car for a day to so I could run my personal errands. I felt uneasy and it seemed as though everything I learned about driving went out the window. I panicked at an intersection and had to pull into a parking lot of a shopping center to regain calmness. I had to call another good friend of mine to help me navigate the car back to my friends house because my confidence in driving was hit hard. I just got my drivers license by simply turning in a license from another state and paying the fee to get it, so I didn't need to take the written or the road test. I know the time is approaching that I must conquer my fear of intersections, making left turns, driving on highways and being on the road in general are what damper my confidence. I envy those who can just get in their car like second nature and drive like its nothing.

February, 7 2018 at 2:15 pm

I, too, suffer from driving anxiety and have very poor depth perception (had a bad accident on a multi-lane highway while trying to change lanes to get off at the right exit). It would be so helpful if there was recognition of this problem and vision specialists to teach us ways of compensating for it. Anybody know of anything that helps?

Lizanne Corbit
February, 5 2018 at 2:10 pm

Thank you so much for putting this post out there. Driving is one of those things that many people don't think as causing anxiety but it can be a serious trigger for many people. Driving is tricky because we're not only dealing with ourselves, we have to think about the other people on the road and that can be nervewracking. Giving yourself tools like breathing techniques, soothing music, and soothing scents in the car can help ease the anxious tension that occurs.

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