Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hit-and-run OCD


When I was in graduate school, when my OCD was at is worst, I drove certain streets in my college town a lot.
If I hit a bump in the road, or if I even thought I might have hit a bump, I turned the car around and drove back to look for bodies. Or I stopped in the road to look behind me and try to see if I had hit anyone.
I drove up and down some streets enough that I started to get worried that someone was going to call the police and report someone casing the neighborhood.
My long trips on visits home could turn into nightmares. I remember on one trip, while traveling around Columbus, Ohio, I frantically tried to find a local radio station, listening for any reports of an accident on the freeway that I may have caused.
In reality, I knew I hadn’t caused an accident, but I felt like I may have.
Over the years, the obsession lessened, but I still go through time periods when I obsess over whether or not I’ve hit something or someone with my car.
On my checking hierarchy, hit-and run-OCD is a 70. It causes me some distress, but not as much as numerous other things on my hierarchy.
Here are some recent driving experiences I’ve had:

·  I actually turned around my car to drive back over an area to make sure I hadn’t hit anyone or anything—even though I knew that I had hit rough spot in the road.
·  On a positive note, I drove for about 192 miles round trip recently to attend a church meeting out of town. I didn’t turn around and drive back at all, and I looked in my rear view mirror only occasionally to check the cars behind me.
·  I offered to drive a co-worker to a work related workshop in a nearby town.
·  I drove along a street crowded with trick-or-treaters rather than drive the long way around to avoid them.

The difference between the “bad” driving experience and the successful ones? My willingness to put up with the anxiety until it subsided.
Something that has helped me tremendously is something that Dr. Jonathan Grayson said in his book Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: A Personalized Recovery Program for Living with Uncertainty.
In laying out the rules for doing ERPs for hit-and-run OCD, he says the rules for not driving back and not looking stopping the car to check “may only be violated if you have no doubt that you hit someone—if you have the slightest doubt, continue driving” (p. 162).
This helped me tremendously. I have started applying it to other checking compulsions. I tell myself that if I’m not 100 percent sure that there’s a problem, if there’s any doubt of there being a problem, then I’m not checking.
Sometimes I’m more successful than others, but that mindset is helping me be successful more often. I feel the anxiety of not checking, but I have discovered that it dissipates fairly rapidly once a few minutes have passed and I become focused on something else.

  Do you have anxiety about driving? How have you dealt with it?

24 comments:

  1. I am so glad you wrote this. I have done the same thing for years and never told anyone for fear I was "really crazy"!! I quit driving at night because it was a huge trigger for this happening. It is a scary, lonely feeling! Thanks for sharing!!

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    1. Shannon, you're right--it is a scary, lonely feeling, and I used to think I was the only one in the world who did this.

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  2. I think that sounds so frustrating! To have to deal with that in the midst of the daily task of driving. Sounds like you've had some positives recently though!

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    1. Yes, Lisa, I've had some positives, and that's encouraging me to keep going! :-)

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  3. Sounds so exhausting...I have a driving phobia myself, and I appreciate the stress you've felt!

    BTW...I'm sorry I'm not commenting much these days; I want to, but find it very, very difficult to read the confirmation word...it usually takes me many many tries before I can get it to work!

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    1. Thanks, Jean. It can be exhausting, but it's getting better. I'm sorry about the word verification. I know it can be hard to read--I see that on other sites, too. But it is cut down my spam wonderfully.

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  4. So sorry you have this type of OCD Tina.
    I've never got this problem like this with driving, but I cannot drive anymore anyway because of panic attacks. I completely freak out in a car.
    I just love love love what you say about "if there is any doubt"! Never thought about it like that before and I'm sure it will be very helpful.

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    1. Thank you, Klaaske. I love that idea about "if there's any doubt" too and find that it's helping me.

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  5. Sounds like Dr. Grayson's book is really helping you, Tina! I know that hit-and-run OCD isn't that uncommon and find it interesting that something so specific is so common. Would love to figure all this OCD stuff out one of these days :)!

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    1. Janet, it is very helpful, for sure.

      I don't think I'll ever get over marveling at how such specific OCD symptoms can be shared by so many others.

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  6. I think that it really helps when you try and try and try. It would never be better, if you would just stop it. I'm very happy for you that you still drive and don't let your OCD to stop you. I guess that it's not that easy for you. So, keep it going!

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    1. Sanny, thank you for your encouragement. I like your attitude--keep trying!

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  7. I like the "any doubt" thing as well. Good for you driving past the trick-or-treaters. It can be nerve-wracking to drive with a bunch of people walking around the car.

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    1. Kristina, That idea of "any doubt" was eye opening for me and gives me a new way to think about what I'm doing.

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  8. I have experienced Hit and Run OCD a few times in my life. By that I mean a few "episodes" that may last for weeks and then I'm free of it and then it will come back for a few weeks. I have noticed that when I have it, I am under extremely high stress.

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    1. Elizabeth, I think higher stress makes it more likely for me to have the driving problem, too.

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  9. I have a lot of anxiety about driving in rain!

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  10. Ha! I just posted about H&R OCD! Oh, yeah, I have anxiety about driving! I had forgotten about Grayson's H&R OCD advice. Thanks for reminding me about this. Really good stuff.

    Hey - good for you for for volunteering to drive your co-worker. Talk about facing your anxiety head on! Totally awesome!

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    1. Sunny, great minds think alike, right? :-)

      Thanks for the support--I was nervous about driving my co-worker, but I got through it.

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  11. When I was younger, I had the opposite problem. I was such a reckless driver that looking back, I can't believe I didn't kill myself or worse, someone else. I'm a much more careful driver now. But I do get anxious driving at night in the rain because of all the reflected lights. Thanks for sharing your stories about driving.

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    1. Galen, thank you for your comment. I don't like driving at night in the rain--or even in the daytime in rain.

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  12. I can really relate to this, Tina. I used to have a terrible time. It wasn't so much with driving but with being a passenger and feeling out of control. I think it was actually more related to PTSD than OCD though because I had been in an accident as a passenger. I'm better now but not perfect by any stretch.

    A few years ago I remember thinking I might have hit someone while driving. I knew I didn't but I kept doubting and worked myself up into a tizzy, thinking that I would be reading about a hit and run in the next day's paper. It came so totally out of the blue and I've never had a situation like it since, knock on wood. ...Now with it getting dark earlier, I'm finding myself driving slower. I have a terrible time with oncoming headlights. People are rude and don't dim them or they've got those dang fog lights on below their regular lights. Grrrr.... don't get me started. LOL.

    Great post as always Tina Dear. You're making progress and I'm cheering for you!

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    1. Thank you for your support, Grace. I don't like driving at night either.

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