Learning To Drive With An Anxiety Disorder

     Learning to drive is anxiety provoking under the best of circumstances. When your baseline anxiety level is already sky-high, the experience can be even tougher to manage. One of my friends began telling me about her anxiety surrounding learning to drive the other day, and beyond making me feel a bit less alone in the experience, I realized some of the things that helped me overcome my anxiety and get to the point where I can drive myself to school each day without a problem. When I realized that others are probably experiencing this same exact fear, I wanted to share what helped me (or I wish I'd done) in the hopes it will benefit some other anxious drivers out there.

— If possible, start driving with the car you'll be using. This isn't always possible, but if you will be driving a specific relative's car or have already purchased the car you'll be driving, begin practicing with that one from the get-go. All cars are a little bit different in how sensitive the gas and breaks are and where the buttons to operate the caution lights, AC, et cetera are. By learning on the car you'll be using, you won't have to worry about relearning the way your new ride works.

— Start off driving in a large, empty parking lot. If you live in the South like I do, drive to your nearest mega church on a Tuesday afternoon and get used to the gas and brakes in your car. Drive in circles a few times. Practice using your turn signals and stopping at stop signs. Above all, give yourself mercy if you speed up too fast or slam on the brakes at first, because you are learning!

— Next, try driving through your neighborhood! The speed limits are usually low, and you can get used to driving around people without being surrounded by other cars. When I would run errands with my mom, I'd drive us to the end of the neighborhood and switch with her, and then we would switch again once we were heading home. Practice in your neighborhood until it feels relatively comfortable! You will likely never feel completely at ease, but when you begin to feel confident in your ability to make it to the end of your neighborhood without issue, you're on the right track. 

— Now comes driving on a real road... but don't worry! If possible, try to find a less populated road to start on. You might be surprised when your reach the end of the road and want to keep driving, but if not, celebrate the victory of however long your drove! On a road! With other drivers! 

— Next, try driving to the places you usually go and will need to drive yourself! This might be school, work, the grocery, your favorite coffee shop, or any other location you can usually be found at.  Every time you're going to the store with your family, ask if you can be the one to drive. After driving to one location a few times, try driving to another!

— Revel in your new driving ability! The key is to just keep driving. Every once in a while, you're going to be nervous, especially when you need to drive somewhere you haven't been yet. But with a little faith in yourself (and a GPS app), you'll be ready to tackle driving anywhere.