Calm, Cool and Connected - The Guide Book to Peace of Mind

Navigating Driving Anxiety

April 18, 2022 Calm, Cool and Connected Season 1 Episode 171
Calm, Cool and Connected - The Guide Book to Peace of Mind
Navigating Driving Anxiety
Show Notes Transcript

Approximately 55% of Americans suffer from driving anxiety. This  anxiety can manifest in a variety of ways, leaving some sufferers unable to drive at all. 

Dr. David Shanley, a psychologist specializing in  anxiety and OCD, talks with Dr. Liz about his work with those suffering with anxiety and common practices in treating driving anxiety. 

Key Takeaways from Liz's chat with Dr. Shanley:

• Learn about Dr. Shanley's background and treatment modalities
• Hear what driving anxiety really is
• Discover what can trigger driving anxiety
• Find out more about the impact of driving anxiety on sufferers
• Learn some quick tips for dealing with your own anxiety while driving

All of this and more, on this episode of Calm, Cool and Connected.

Learn more about Dr. Shanley on his website: 

For more information on Dr. Elizabeth Fedrick, visit her website:
Connect with Dr. Fedrick on Instagram: @drelizabethfedrick

Watch the video interview on our Facebook Page

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[00:00:00] Now more than ever. We have an opportunity to be a positive force in the world to help heal the divide, to treat each other and ourselves with respect. Well, there's so many tools out there from meditation to physical training, proper nutrition therapy, and so many others. We all need a little help navigating all the options.

Join us as we share in-depth information, insights and thought provoking discussions that will help answer your questions about how to stay calm, cool, and connected. During these times. Welcome to calm, cooling, connected your guidebook to peace of mind.

Dr. Liz: Hello and welcome to calm. Cool and connected. I'm your host, Dr.

Elizabeth. Driving anxiety is a very real and actually rather common thing about 55% of Americans have reported feeling anxious while engaging in very common driving maneuvers. And about 62% of Americans reported having past traumatic driving experiences and driving anxiety can really run along the spectrum of feeling some slight anxiety while driving all the way to feeling [00:01:00] panic attacks by just thinking about driving.

Joining us today is Dr. David Shanley, a licensed psychologist who specializes in treating anxiety disorders. Dr. Shanley's here to provide us with a better understanding of what exactly is driving anxiety and what are some good treatment options for that? Hi, Dr. Shanley, welcome 

Dr. Shanley: to our show. 

Dr. Liz: Thank you so much for joining us.

So you identify as a anxiety expert, so to speak, that is the core of the your practice as a psychologist. Can you tell us a little bit about that, about the work that you do and your background in psychosis? 

Dr. Shanley: Yes. So I've been in private practice for about nine years now, graduated from the university of Denver with my Sidey or doctorate in psychology.

And I've really gotten some great training and supervision along the way in treating adults with an adolescent. With anxiety disorders across the spectrum. So that includes the driving anxiety that you mentioned. Well, as social [00:02:00] anxiety PTSD, OCD, generalized anxiety, panic attacks. I use more of a cognitive behavioral treatment model as well as what's called acceptance and commitment therapy.

And it kind of try to branch the or blend the two approaches to meet my client where they're at offer a variety of tools to help them overcome their anxiety. Okay. Yeah. 

Dr. Liz: Great information. And those I can completely relate with both of those treatment modalities as being really effective for anxiety disorders.

Tell us what exactly is driving anxiety. How would you best describe that? 

Dr. Shanley: Yeah, I think driving anxiety is the experience of all of the classic anxiety symptoms, whether that's racing, heartbeat, sweatiness, sweaty, palms, racing, thoughts as well as just that felt sense of anxiety. And then the negative thoughts, the anticipation of anxiety happening all within the context of anything related to driving.

Whether that's sitting at intersections and feeling trapped or [00:03:00] stuck, and it kind of corresponds to that claustrophobia feeling as well as being on highways, feeling fearful of being able to get off in the event of anxiety increasing or having a panic attack. So any of that felt sense of anxiety in the context of driving.


Dr. Liz: And, and how do you see this impact your clients? And as I was even preparing for this interview, I have multiple clients that come to mind who I've been working with with the same type of struggles. And it is so debilitating for them because driving is so important. For our day-to-day life to get to work, to get to the grocery store.

How do you see your clients being impacted by their driving 

Dr. Shanley: anxiety? Yeah, I've really heard and seen the same thing. People who started with, well, I, I live out in Colorado, so I just don't like driving up to the mountains cause that's more intense and scary, then it becomes, I don't like driving on any of the Heights.

Then it becomes like I had a bad [00:04:00] experience just leaving my neighborhood on one of the busier streets or at an intersection. And their life just gets narrower and narrower over time. The more they avoid the driving and which is a natural response to what we do in the face of anxiety. Fortunately, then the problem gets worse and worse and more debilitating.

Now they're relying on friends or Uber, which gets really expensive, or they just end up staying home a lot more and missing out on opportunities that would otherwise be positive experiences in their lives. 

Dr. Liz: Yeah. And that's a really great point. I see that happening so commonly as well that it's just then really starts to perpetuate the fear because the more the avoid it, the bigger.

The fear grows and they're really they're watering that seed. Where do you start with your treatment? If somebody seeks you out for help with driving anxiety, what, where do you start with. 

Dr. Shanley: Yeah. First, first session is in the office getting the details and the history around when, how long has this been a problem?

Was there a precipitating kind of traumatic event or [00:05:00] specific event that happened? Was it more of a like a car accident or was it an experience of anxiety or panic that happened that now they don't want to have repeated? I then explain a bit of what the treatment looks like to them. And I usually try to, by the second session, The off on the road in the car with them driving around the neighborhood, around my office to start getting a feel for how they're feeling in the car, continuing to reinforce all the concepts and the strategies really emphasizing that this is all about approach and practice and being willing to face your anxiety, gaining some confidence and expanding your life again, back in the various driving content.

Dr. Liz: Oh, so that's really interesting. So you are doing it with them. It's a InVivo type approach that you're taking with that of directly being with them in that fear. Is that the approach you've always used or is that a newer approach for. 

Dr. Shanley: Yeah, that's the approach I've always used with the individuals who are willing to take it.

[00:06:00] Sometimes there are people who are like, I'm not ready for that. So we meet in my office and we talked through other strategies and really. Just trying to reinforce that idea of how anxiety is not something that's going to hurt you. It's not going to take you down. It's not dangerous. Try to help build their confidence.

In other ways, maybe give them a game plan for where they can drive that feels comfortable enough and start gaining some practice on their own. If they're not willing or comfortable having me in the car with. 

Dr. Liz: Okay. Absolutely. And so mentioning talking through it with them, that anxiety is not actually as dangerous as our brain is trying to tell us it is at that moment.

Or what other types of logical self-talk do you use for this particular element?

Dr. Shanley: You know, you are safe enough, even in the presence of intense, intense anxiety or panic symptoms in our society or messaging or language puts panic attacks up on this pedestal of like, ah, I can't do it. [00:07:00] I have to just get away from it. I shut down. I think I'm going to die. I think we're going to go crazy.

So it's really trying to help the person dispel those myths in their minds. And. Maybe usually try to draw on some previous experiences in their lives where they have conquered something that was difficult or challenging at first, give them that idea that the more they do it, the easier it gets and they just have to be willing and and stick with the process.

Dr. Liz: love that. And that motivator, motivational interviewing approach is commonly what I use as well of when have you done something hard? Okay. Did you survive it? You made it through, so that means you can do this as well. Yeah. I led that. What type of like coping skills or grounding skills do you suggest?

Because often when we talk about coping skills, maybe. Going for a walk or deep breaths or closing your eyes to meditate, obviously none of which is great while driving. What are some suggestions you give for that? 

Dr. Shanley: Yeah. So I think first off, I tried to clarify that coping skills are, like you said, a great [00:08:00] way to stay grounded while you are still approaching the thing that is difficult and scary and challenging.

Coping skills are not going to make your anxiety go down to zero, but they are just trying to help you get through the process. So that could still be taking some deep breaths, counting your breaths to 10, and then starting over again to keep, give you your mind. Something to still focus on in the car.

You can also then use music or favorite podcast rolling down the windows, using the air condition, kind of giving you that sensory input to make yourself as comfortable as possible. 

Dr. Liz: Oh, those are really great ideas. Absolutely. And really that we know the sensory component of that can kind of like shake you out of when you're heading into a panic feeling or something.

So that's a really good idea. The wind on their face or the air. What, what would you give as maybe like, One piece of advice for somebody listening that can really relate to these driving anxieties of either where to start to seek treatment or even [00:09:00] something that they can do to just start to stabilize this fear.

Dr. Shanley: Yeah. I would find a trusted person in your. Talk about this with them. See if you can enlist them to help you. If you don't want to go into the official therapy route, of course, I'm a proponent of seeking counseling when you need help, if you're struggling and it's really debilitating your life but pick up a book or something around the idea of approach and this, I can conquer this, I can do this.

It get into that mindset that. I'm going to do this. It's going to be hard and it's not dangerous. It's not going to take me down. I'm going to stick with it. 

Dr. Liz: Good information. Really helpful. Where can our viewers find you? Where are you a website? Where are you located online? That they can link up with 

Dr. Shanley: you?

Yeah, easiest ways to find me on my website, Dr. David got all sorts of information on there about various anxiety disorders, strategies for overcoming them a link to some of the books that I've written as well on the top. [00:10:00]

Dr. Liz: Very good. Well, thank you so much for joining us today, Dave. I really appreciate it.


Dr. Shanley: you for having me. It was a pleasure. 

Dr. Liz: Absolutely. And thank you all for tuning into this episode of calm, cool and connected. Please make sure to find us on Facebook and Instagram and also make sure to rate and subscribe to our podcasts so that others can discover our content as well. Thank you again for joining us on this episode of calling cooling, connected. .