I Feel Afraid to Drive Because of Schizoaffective Anxiety

July 25, 2019 Elizabeth Caudy

I'm afraid to drive. My schizoaffective anxiety used to only make me afraid to drive in the snow, and then the rain. But now I feel anxious whenever I drive. Here’s how I’m coping.

Using Exposure Therapy to Cope with Being Afraid to Drive

Despite my schizoaffective anxiety, I take my car out nearly every day even though I'm afraid to drive. I’ve been trying to do this in the rain as an additional challenge. In cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), this is called exposure therapy. I’m making myself do the thing I’m afraid of doing.

It is helping. I am recognizing that I’m a good driver, even in less-than-perfect weather. I’m nervous when I drive in the rain, but I can still do it. It used to be that I would hear schizoaffective voices when I drove in even a shower. My voices didn’t tell me to do anything, so I could still concentrate on driving when I was hearing them. But I don’t hear voices anymore when I drive in the rain.

I suppose that, in a way, it’s good that I’m anxious about driving because it makes me a more careful driver. But my anxiety is so extreme it can trigger resistance to driving.

I'm Afraid of Driving in the Snow

Last winter was very snowy in Chicago, where I live. I was afraid to drive at all for months. Then, in the spring, when I tried to take out my car, it wouldn’t start. The battery died because my car had been idle for so long. So I had to get a new battery.

I take a drive to places I like at least once a week to keep the battery in good condition. This is a blessing in disguise because it forces me into driving exposure exercises. I just don’t need to drive to many places. My husband Tom drives everywhere when we go out, and most places I go to alone, like therapy, are more easily accessible by train. Tom and I live across the street from the train station.

I’m very nervous about driving in the snow next winter. I know I have to do it—the car battery will remain a good incentive. So we’ll see what happens.

I'm Afraid to Drive Long Distances

My general practitioner’s office is about a half-hour away. I’m very nervous about going to see him in August because of the drive. But I know it’s important to go for my annual checkup. It’s particularly important that I get bloodwork done because of all the psychiatric medication I’m on.

Last year, I took a cab. That’s always an option for this year—especially if it’s raining—but I really want to see if my exposure exercises will have paid off. And I know I’ll be so proud of myself if I’m able to drive to my appointment.

APA Reference
Caudy, E. (2019, July 25). I Feel Afraid to Drive Because of Schizoaffective Anxiety, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, May 22 from

Author: Elizabeth Caudy

Elizabeth Caudy was born in 1979 to a writer and a photographer. She has been writing since she was five years old. She has a BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago and an MFA in photography from Columbia College Chicago. She lives outside Chicago with her husband, Tom. Find Elizabeth on Google+ and on her personal blog.

July, 31 2019 at 2:30 pm

I am not driving because of the medications I am on impair my ability to respond in a timely manner. I have had a couple of accidents and do not want to let that happen again.

December, 19 2021 at 6:43 pm

Hi everyone , I have a schizo affective partner who crashed the same car in one calendar year twice. We just replace the car. It was an economic burden to do so. My partner has a team of therapists behind her, but is not on any medication at this point. She stopped taking it she didn’t like the side effects. I am very concerned about her driving our brand new vehicle and that we owe thousands of dollars on, I would like to see her symptoms controlled better before we allow her to take our only vehicle out. When I reached out to her therapists with this concern they slapped us with a CPS case immediately . The case was ultimately found to be “unfounded“ however I feel so shocked and despondent after that experience that I am scrambling to know how to handle this. We have a five-year-old daughter and I cannot allow her to drive my daughter. I am struggling to know what to do.

December, 20 2021 at 11:13 am

Dear Bryon, Thank you for your comment. It definitely sounds like you're in a tough spot. Personally, I believe that schizoaffective disorder requires medical treatment and part of that treatment is medication. I understand not liking the side effects -- that is a very real and common concern, one that I struggle with myself -- but there are many medications out there and there may be medications your partner can try that don't have the kind of side effects that concern her. Communicating her specific concerns to her doctor may help.
As for the car, that's difficult. I might suggest you just be open about your concerns. Simply say something like, "Crashing our car twice in one year is a very big concern for me. You seem to have trouble driving and I think that has to do with not taking medication. I'm very concerned about what may happen in the future if you drive without medication. While I respect your decision not to take medication, there are consequences to that decision and one of the consequences I have to insist on is that you do not drive for the protection of yourself and our daughter. If it's important for you to drive, please reconsider taking medication. If it's important for you to stay off medication, then we will work around your driving."
Of course, that won't be an easy conversation to have, but for the safety of all involved, it's important, as you already know.
Maybe you can get some support for your decision with other family members? They may be able to help too.
I hope that helps. Thanks again, Elizabeth

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