Driving is both a privilege and a responsibility. It is a skill not everyone knows or learns. So, many people fear harming others because of their carelessness. Their thoughts of unintentionally harming an innocent bystander can consume them to the point of developing a disorder.
This psychiatric disorder falls under a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder, also known as OCD. This specific OCD is called hit-and-run OCD. If you are constantly questioning yourself or driving with anxiety, it may be time to seek professional help. Acknowledging your problem is the first step to healing.
What Is OCD?
OCD is a psychiatric disorder that causes repetitive, unwanted thoughts. It can manifest by doing compulsive, repetitive actions to drive those intrusive thoughts away. Many people can suffer from distressing thoughts, but for people with OCD, it can get in the way of their everyday functions.
Drivers who suffer from hit-and-run OCD may specifically have distressing thoughts about running over a pedestrian. Their thoughts can manifest through
- constantly checking their rearview mirror,
- fearing to hit or run over a pedestrian unknowingly,
- developing anxiety driving over speed bumps, and
- avoiding driving altogether.
Hit-and-run OCD can dangerously impact a driver’s life, consuming them with these unwanted thoughts. Because of that, people suffering from hit-and-run OCD may try to avoid driving as often as possible and check the news obsessively over car accidents.
It may lead you to believe that you unknowingly hit a pedestrian or an animal. These thoughts may cloud your judgment and make you believe things that are not true. People with OCD have lower levels of serotonin and dopamine, which can likely cause them more anxiety since their neurobiology is wired differently than the average person.
What Can Cause Hit-And-Run OCD?
OCD can be caused by genetic predisposition and neurobiological factors. Many studies are researching the causes of OCD, but not much is known. However, family history is the most likely cause of the disorder. One out of every four patients with OCD has a family member also diagnosed with OCD.
What Are Common Misconceptions About OCD?
Because intrusive thoughts are harmful, many people may feel like these are their legitimate subconscious desires. But your intrusive thoughts do not define who you are. These thoughts are repetitive, unwanted, and redundant.
OCD is not all about obsessive thoughts about hygiene and cleanliness, as mainstream media may portray. It is not caused by stress or childhood upbringing either because your neurobiology characterizes OCD.
Many people may tell you to stop obsessing about running over pedestrians unintentionally or to calm down while driving. But OCD is not as simple as that. It is defined by unwanted thoughts that constantly cloud your judgment. Telling someone with OCD to stop having negative thoughts is insensitive, as these thoughts occur unwillingly.
How Common Is Hit-And-Run OCD?
Hit-and-run OCD can affect anyone of any race. But Black Americans are less likely to receive treatment. In the US, people of color are least likely to be diagnosed with this disorder properly. While many will exhibit the same symptoms, people of color are least likely to receive adequate treatment.
OCD can occur at any age, from childhood to adulthood. But hit-and-run OCD is most diagnosed in adulthood because driving is a responsibility generally for older people.
How Can Therapy Help?
Speaking to a proper mental health professional can give you better access to the treatment you need. In many cases, this driving anxiety can be misdiagnosed as a panic disorder or another psychiatric disorder. Your therapist will guide you to an accurate diagnosis.
Refraining from your compulsions can be extremely difficult for people with OCD, as this was used previously to cope with their obsessive thoughts. It might give them momentary relief. But in the long term, it will not completely heal them from OCD.
This problem may seem bigger than yourself, but it’s a hurdle that anyone can overcome once you receive proper treatment. Trying not to think about your intrusive thoughts will not help, but you have to face your fears yourself, too. Your therapist’s goal is to ease you off your anxiety and help you get back on the road again.
The world is filled with uncertainties, and the challenge in life is getting past your doubts and moving forward.
There have been many studies, but medication alone is not enough to help clients with OCD. Many may suffer from anxiety and will be reasonably prescribed anti-anxiety medications alongside therapy. But no pill can erase OCD thoughts. This is why therapy is very prominent in these kinds of treatments.
How Can You Address Or Prevent OCD?
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT involves exposing yourself to your triggers and refraining from giving in to your compulsions. Your therapist may give you a script to repeat to yourself over and over again. They may also help you while driving by reading the script with you to practice resisting your compulsions.
Exposure Response Prevention or ERP method is believed to work best for hit-and-run OCD because it addresses your discomfort and uncertainty. This is something you must engage with to heal yourself from negative thoughts.
This specific type of CBT allows you to grasp and understand your feelings of uncertainty fully. Your therapist may vary your exposure depending on the severity of your symptoms. They may also ask you about your recent experiences with driving when you start having anxiety.
For your driving practice, it is best to seek help from a mental health professional. Your therapist will provide you with a treatment plan for you to heal from hit-and-run OCD. You don’t want to suffer constantly when driving your car. Driving is a life skill that many people learn. You don’t want your head to be clouded with intrusive thoughts and potentially harm anyone.
OCD can be terrifying, and it can negatively impact your work and social functions. In many ways, it can ruin your relations with others if you do not seek proper treatment. Like every psychiatric disorder, there is always a path toward healing. And you can start by acknowledging that you have a problem to address and receive therapy for.