Do you feel your heart race, cold sweat running down your forehead, or become breathless at the thought of driving? Do your symptoms get worse once you get behind the wheel? This is called driving anxiety, and causes many people suffer intensely while driving. There are a number of ways to treat driving anxiety. One solution that’s effective for some is to take medication for driving anxiety.
Whether or not you should take medication for driving anxiety is a decision that can only be made with your doctor, or another health care professional who’s licensed to prescribe anxiety medication.
I am not a doctor or a health care professional. This post is purely informational, and should not be construed as medical advice of any kind.
You Could Take This Common Medication for Driving Anxiety
When anxiety relief techniques or natural remedies for anxiety aren’t enough to ease your driving anxiety symptoms, you may consider talking with your doctor about taking medication. Obviously, it’s important to work closely with your doctor to make sure you’re aware of the way medication could affect you before you get behind the wheel. Here are some commonly prescribed medications for anxiety, and their side effects:
Antidepressants are often used to reduce anxiety. They alter the chemicals in the brain to help you cope better with day-to-day stress. They’re good for driving anxiety because antidepressants generally don’t have a heavy sedating quality, making them safer for driving. Commonly prescribed antidepressants include:
- SSRIs (Serotonin Selective Reuptake Inhibitors) — SSRIs have been around for decades (think Prozac), and are probably the most common type of modern antidepressants. They work by increasing the level of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain. This type of medication reduces depression, and, in some people, anxiety as well, which is great if you get anxious while driving. Side effects include restlessness, sexual dysfunction, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
- SNRIs (Serotonin-Norepinephrine Reuptake Inhibitors) — SNRIs are given for depression, but some are also used to treat generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), like Cymbalta. SNRIs work somewhat differently than SSRIs because they increase norepinephrine levels as well as serotonin. These medications can reduce your driving anxiety to manageable levels, but side effects include insomnia, dizziness, fatigue, constipation, and headaches.
Benzodiazepines (aka benzos) are some of the most commonly prescribed anxiety medications in the United States. They include familiar names like Valium and Xanax. Though effective for anxiety, these medications should be used with caution while driving because they are minor tranquilizers. They’re extremely popular because of their sedating effects. They can be highly addictive, and are among the most abused medications in the world.
It’s extremely important to listen to your doctor to find out how these medications may impact you before operating a motor vehicle. You should never take benzodiazepines (or any medication for driving anxiety) without a prescription. Benzodiazepine side effects include:
- Blurred vision
- Memory loss
- Poor concentration
- Extreme fatigue
- Feeling lightheaded
- Withdrawal symptoms
Is Medication for Driving Anxiety a Good Choice?
I am generally not in favor of taking medication for driving anxiety. I believe cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnosis are more effective in the long run, which is why they’re the basis of the Driving Peace program. However, I do recognize that some people need to take anxiety medication just to function, and that’s perfectly legitimate.
If you’re wondering if you should take medication for driving anxiety, I highly recommend you take some time to sit down with your doctor and make that decision as a team. It’s the only way to make a sound decision about this topic.