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Hit-and-Run OCD

Hit-and-Run OCD

Hit-and-run OCD involves the fear of causing accidental injury or death while driving.

“Hit and run” OCD involves the fear of accidentally hitting a pedestrian while driving.  In most cases of hit-and-run obsessive-compulsive disorder, fears focus on unintentionally killing, injuring, or maiming a victim.  Other individuals worry about causing car accidents or causing other vehicles to swerve and hit pedestrians.

Fear of Driving

Hit-and-run OCD, or motor vehicle accident OCD, is distinct from other syndromes that involve anxiety about driving or the fear of car accidents. Hit and run OCD differs from panic– or agoraphobia-related driving avoidance, in which individuals fear driving due to the possibility of having a panic attack while in the car. Diagnosis of hit and run OCD is slightly more complicated in cases in which one fears “losing control” while driving, as this symptom can reflect either panic or OCD. In the case of panic, this fear is based on panicking and “losing control” or “going crazy”, whereas in OCD this fear is based on acting on an unwanted impulse (e.g., impulsively swerving).

Hit and run OCD differs from “driving phobia” largely in terms of the rituals/compulsions that are present in OCD. Driving phobia involves more generalized fears. MVA-OCD also has a different symptom profile than post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which might develop following a car accident and include flashbacks and other PTSD symptoms.

Symptoms of “Hit and Run” OCD

Hit-and-run OCD resembles other forms of checking OCD.  Just as checking a stove is used to prevent fire, checking for accidents while driving is a way of preventing (or reducing the severity of) accidental injury or death.  A common form of checking is driving back along the same route in order to scan for victims.

Unfortunately for sufferers, this compulsion actually creates yet another opportunity for having caused an accidental death or injury.  Despite driving along the same road multiple times, the potential for having missed something remains.  Relentless OCD doubt and uncertainty persist.  Many individuals get stuck in checking loops that span many minutes or hours until exhaustion and/or distress make further checking impossible.

Symptoms of hit and run OCD are time-consuming, distressing, and often debilitating.  Let’s review some of the most common symptoms of hit and run obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Common Rituals in Hit-and-Run OCD

Similar to other forms of checking OCD, hit-and-run OCD involves checking and reassurance rituals. These rituals include:

  • Circling back and checking for victims/bodies.
  • Looking in the rear-view mirror for signs of an accident.
  • Looking in the rear-view mirror to assess the reactions of other drivers (e.g., to see if other cars have swerved or pulled over).
  • Listening intently while driving in order to hear screeching tires or the sounds of someone who has been hurt.
  • Listening for emergency sirens (i.e., from ambulances, police cars, or other emergency vehicles).
  • Monitoring the road for bumps that might signal having hit someone.
  • Pulling over to the side of the road to look into ditches or gullies for injured people.
  • Holding the steering wheel tightly in order to be able to react more quickly.
  • Compulsively checking/readjusting mirror positions.
  • Compulsive car maintenance (e.g., checking tire pressure).
  • Reassurance rituals involving other passengers.
    • Asking other passengers questions about whether or not someone has been hit.
    • Watching other passengers’ reactions as a way of reassuring oneself that no pedestrians have been injured.
  • Mental Rituals.
    • Reassuring self, “No one was hit.”
    • Reassuring self, “I’m a safe driver.”
    • Reassuring self, “Nothing bad is going to happen.”
    • Reassuring self, “I’ve driven this route a million times and nothing bad happened.”
    • Mentally replaying, reviewing, or retracing one’s driving route.
    • Mentally reviewing evidence that indicates that no accident has occurred.
    • Praying.
    • Thinking “safe thoughts.”
    • Replacing “dangerous” thoughts with “good” thoughts.
    • Planning what to say to the police if they show up investigating a hit-and-run incident.
    • Planning what to say to your victim is s/he survives.
Avoidance Behaviors in Hit and Run OCD

Hit and run OCD is often associated with a wide range of avoidance behaviors. Common avoidance behaviors include:

  • Avoiding driving entirely.
  • Avoiding schools or neighborhoods where children play.
  • Driving only when other people are in the car (to get reassurance that no one was hit).
  • Driving only when one is alone (to prevent distraction).
  • Driving in silence (i.e., without the radio on) in order to hear the cries of someone who might be injured.
  • Avoiding night driving or driving in the rain.
  • Avoiding “dangerous lanes” on the highway.
  • Driving only on back roads.
  • Not driving in unfamiliar places.
  • Consolidating errands so that one doesn’t have to leave the house as often.
  • Limiting driving distances and staying close to home.
  • Avoiding cell phone use or other forms of distracted driving.
  • Driving below the speed limit.
  • Avoiding parking lots.
  • Avoiding busy intersections.
  • Avoiding seeing or hearing about car accidents in movies or on TV.
Feared Consequences in Hit-and-Run OCD

Feared consequences associated with hit and run OCD vary. Although the most obvious feared consequence is the actual death or injury of a victim, potential emotional consequences may cause even more distress. For example, individuals often fear the prospect of harming someone because they can’t imagine living the rest of their lives with unrelenting guilt. Common feared consequences include:

  • Fear of something falling off your car and causing an accident.
  • Fear of killing someone.
  • Fear of maiming someone.
  • Fear of going to jail.
  • Fear of feeling unrelenting guilt over having killed someone.
  • Fear of being “irresponsible” or “negligent”.
  • Fear of having your life “ruined.”
  • Fear of being perceived as “a horrible person.”
  • Fear of getting convicted of manslaughter and “ruining” the lives of your friends and family.
  • Fear that others will condemn you for what you’ve done.
  • Fear of having to face the family members of your victim.
  • Fear that life will never be the same.
  • Fear of committing an unforgivable crime.
  • Fear of unrelenting depression and possible suicide.
  • Fear of having to face your victim (if s/he survives).

Effective treatment of hit and run OCD should be based on exposure and response prevention for OCD.  In my South Florida (Palm Beach) psychological practice, I treat many individuals with hit and run OCD and other harm-based obsessions. Treatment involves eliminating avoidance behaviors, resisting rituals, and purposefully tackling your feared consequences according to a personalized anxiety hierarchy.

Questions? Comments? Do you experience symptoms of hit-and-run OCD? Sound off below.

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  1. Thank you for distinguishing between hit-and-run OCD and driving phobias. I have definitely experienced the hit-and-run OCD. I also go through times (one was an extended period of time about four years ago) when I am afraid to drive, and I’ve wondered if it was all OCD.

    I started the hit-and-run OCD when I was in my 20s. It produced so much anxiety. I drove up and down streets looking for bodies until I was afraid someone would call the police about the same car passing through the neighborhood multiple times.

    I thought I was the only one with this bizarre pattern, and I didn’t tell anyone about it. I don’t even think I told my first psychiatrist about it. Years later, I discovered that the symptoms are not unusual for a person with OCD.

    I have found that refusing to let myself give in to the compulsion helps, if I can get my mind on something else. Medication and learning more about refocusing have also helped tremendously.

    The driving phobia started after I had a wreck (single-car, just me) on the way to work. At the time, my workplace was an hour away from home, and I had to leave home very early in the morning. Whether it was because of the accident, a period of horrible anxiety I was experiencing, or something else, I was literally afraid to drive, afraid that I would have another wreck. I eventually quit my job, partly because I just couldn’t do the driving anymore.

    • The difference between hit-and-run OCD and “driving phobia” can be subtle, but I do conceptualize it largely in terms of compulsions, etc. Of course, things become more complicated when individuals begin avoiding the car because they don’t want to “set off” a flurry of checking.

      Sometimes, it’s helpful to make a simple chart to map out your fear. I often identify triggers (What initially activates your anxiety?), thoughts/feared outcomes (What are you worried might happen?), and “safety behaviors” (How do you keep the feared outcome from occurring?). When considered together, this information can help you differentiate one type of fear from another.

      I’ll probably post more about hit-or-run OCD treatment strategies at some point. As you mentioned, response prevention and non-avoidance are certainty critical components to recovery.

  2. Hi Dr. Seay. That picture of crime scene tape at the head of your blog really struck me. Actually gave me a little spike in adrenaline! That is EXACTLY what I think of when I struggle with my hit-and-run OCD. Posting that one little picture shows to me that you have a clear understanding of OCD thinking (not that I didn’t already think you understood it, but I think you know what I mean!). I fear being this horrible criminal and horrible person. In fact, all those “feared consequences” you listed are right on point. I giggled a little when I also read about driving with the radio off so that you could hear the cries of any injured party. Yep, done that one! It seems funny to me now though, to read that in print.

    Overall, my obsessions and compulsions have improved dramatically. Slowly but surely hit-and-run OCD is getting better too. I wonder though, in your experience, does the fear of these consequences ever really truly go away in patients or is it just something that they learn to push to the background?

    • Hi Sunny,

      It’s amazing how the right picture can really make the point. 🙂

      I think that in treatment, the most important goal is to reach a point where your symptoms don’t limit you or negatively impact your quality of life. The end of treatment usually involves rather high-level exposures, such as driving past multiple schools at the end of the school day…or other similar tasks that target one’s particular feared outcomes. Once you’re able to drive to any and every destination you want…at any time of day and in any type of weather…you’ve reached the most important treatment milestone. Some people do reach a point at which they can drive with few or no obsessions, but others find that their obsessions persist in the background.

      As a therapist, I never advocate selecting all-or-nothing goals. As soon as you’ve defined your goal as being 100% symptom-free, you will likely be internally checking to see, “Am I there yet?” This type of mental checking can actually increase the frequency of your obsessions, because you train yourself to be hyper-attuned to unwanted thoughts. I elaborated a bit on this idea here:

      In addition to in vivo exposures like driving, I think it’s also important to do imaginal exposures dealing with the what-ifs. Being able to genuinely appreciate that you could learn to cope even with your worst case scenario is part of this process.

      Best wishes on your continued recovery!

      • Thank you so much for this article. It is so helpful.

  3. Thanks for posting, Dr. Seay. I am a 25-year old male, and I have suffered with harm-related obsessions for about three years now, but hit and run is by far the worst obsession.

    I do not trust my own memory, therefore I have to make lists of places where I’ve driven and then google those neighborhoods for hit and runs. I have no actual memory of ever hitting someone, but I live in constant fear of “suddenly remembering,” or finding something new on google that I might have missed the first time around.

    This obsession started for me after I saw a horror movie called “The Machinist”, where the main character is responsible for the hit and run death of a young boy. I am ashamed and embarrassed that at age 25 I am so affected by a scary movie.

    Dr Seay, I wish your practice was in the northeast. You would definitely have a new customer, oh well. I do appreciate your insight on this issue though, I will definitely check back in if you write a followup.

    Tina- How do you stop your self from compulsively checking? How do you even label it as checking? For me, every time I check seems like an absolute necessity…like the only way I can make sure I haven’t killed anyone is by checking the news RIGHT NOW.

    71 and sunny- I totally relate to your worries of being a horrible person/criminal. I dunno if you are religious or not but I have huge struggles with faith and morality as well. Its interesting because as much as I worry about “the victim” that I may have run over, I worry twice as much about my own self, how I would be viewed in court, by my peers, by my family, etc. Obviously this is irrational thinking but it just makes me feel more selfish, which means I am really a selfish person, which means I might actually be capable of hitting someone and running off, etc, etc, etc and you see how the vicious cycle continues.

    Sorry for the long post its just this article and your comments really hit home with me.

    • Hi Nathan. I’m sorry you are struggling so much. Absolutely no shame or embarrassment about having that movie set you off. Doesn’t matter if you’re 25 or 65 – OCD does not know an age limit.

      I am a Christian, and yes, I’ve definitely struggled with issues of morality and faith from an OCD standpoint. Things have gotten much better in that area, well things have gotten much better in every area. A combination of ERP and medication have been literal lifesavers for me. I’m not necessarily advocating medication – it’s certainly not right for everyone, but after some trial and error I’m on a low dose of the right stuff and it has helped.

      As far as the hit and run OCD, I know exactly what you mean. I would feel terrible for the poor victim if I accidentally ran over anyone. However, a couple of years ago I realized that I was actually more worried about myself and the consequences that would occur after such an accident. It was a harsh awakening about myself. But you know, I’m not sure it makes me or you especially selfish. I just think it makes us an average human and the OCD really knows how to play off of that. I bet you tons of other people w/OCD feel the same way.

      I also know what you mean about not being able to trust your memory. I’ve experienced that and it is very disorienting.

      I agree with you that Dr. Seay has a great depth of knowledge of OCD. Thankfully, there are other doctors who share Dr. Seay’s understanding, my own doctor included. I don’t know where you live in the Northeast, but I know that there are excellent doctors in Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania. Those are just the ones I know about. I also believe some doctors will treat by Skype. I personally drive over an hour one way to my doc’s office, but I consider it well worth the time and effort. I’m getting my life back, and you can too.

      If you want to chat more, visit me at my blog. I’d be glad to talk some more. Blessings to you.

    • Hi Nathan,

      Hit-and-run symptoms can be incredibly distressing, but recovery is definitely possible. If you’re looking for a treatment provider, I would recommend checking the treatment provider database on There are many great providers in the northeast, so hopefully one is near you.

      Regarding your question about the motivation to stop checking…it’s very difficult at first, but it gets easier and easier with practice. You might consider practicing in lower intensity situations. Design a hierarchy that includes lower risk situations (e.g., shorter drives, familiar places, less populated areas), medium risk situations (greater distances, more populated areas), and high risk situations (unfamiliar places, places around schools, parking lots, rush hour in urban areas). Tackling things in a systematic way is much more manageable than tackling the most challenging situation straight away. Treat your recovery as a process.

      As Sunny and Tina mentioned, other strategies might involve getting a better understanding of your fears and then potentially doing some imaginal exposure to address these what-if’s. Learning to accept your own human qualities is part of the recovery process. Aren’t we all selfish sometimes? Even “selfish” people can live happy lives, can’t they?

      Best wishes in your recovery. At some point, I’ll blog about this again…perhaps in a more treatment focused way. In the meantime, Sunny & Tina both have excellent blogs which address some of these issues.

    • Hi, Nathan–

      I’m sorry you’re having a hard time right now with the OCD. Believe me, I know how it is.

      How do I stop myself from checking? I don’t think I am always successful at NOT checking. For example, just today, as I was backing out of a parking space I work, I felt a little bump. I knew what it was–there’s a hole in the asphalt and I’ve hit it before. But I still checked behind me as I pulled away to “make sure.”

      The key for me is to remind myself–literally tell myself–that its the OCD talking. I don’t need to check. It’s a compulsive urge to check. Then I try to refocus my attention. I’ve gotten to the point where the anxiety subsides pretty quickly as soon as I drive on down the road.

      Easier said than done, I know. But it gets easier the more I practice. And I have even thought, well, I didn’t hit anyone, but on the off chance I did, I will deal with the consequences. That helps too.

      Hang in there! If you’d like, visit my blog. The posts and the comments from other readers might help you know that there are lots of us out there going through similar experiences as you.

    • I completely understand what you are going through. I am so scared that I hit someone that I turn around and check at least 5 times, then when I get home I sit in worry that the fifth time could have been the time I hit someone. It hurts my mental health so much. If you would like to chat, that would be great! It’s really hard to deal with things alone!

  4. I periodically research Hit and Run OCD information online but hadn’t stumbled across this article until today and I am grateful that I did. I tend to search for information when I am going through an especially difficult trigger. I find reading the information comforting but I often wonder if it just plays into my need for reassurance and becomes another compulsion which may be preventing me from making any progress.

    Nathan, I relate to the fact that your cycle with Hit and Run OCD started with something specific. Mine began after reading a case study about someone with Hit and Run OCD. I remember thinking how absurd it sounded to have to get out of the car and check the bushes for a potential victim but then, not too long after, the doubt crept into my mind while driving and it has continued to haunt me on and off throughout the years.

    I’ve struggled with different components of OCD since I was young. I find that it waxes and wanes and that the themes of my OCD seem to morph. The guilt and depression aspect of Hit and Run OCD, however, sometimes feel the most debilitating. As I write this though, I think of how awful the shame and secrecy of it feels. Just writing this on a public forum, especially on a site which was the first hit on my Google search, makes me think it may be read by more people and that frightens me. But at the same time, I am tired of being so ashamed and secretive. I am tired of replaying scenarios in my mind and feeling hopeless.

    I’ve dabbled in therapy but never seem to be able to commit. Avoidance tactics start running rampant or I’ll feel good and I won’t be triggered which leads me to not wanting to work on it because I don’t want to return to that dark place.

    Dr. Seay, do you find that it is common for each new trigger to feel the worst for people? For me, I’ll be obsessing about a recent situation wondering whether I’ve hit someone and then a new scenario will occur where I think I’ve hit someone but because it’s the most current it feels like “this time it really DID happen! All the other times didn’t but THIS time is real!” My mind will suddenly dismiss all of the other scenarios and try to magnify the current trigger. And the cycle repeats.

    • Sometimes people use that fact to their advantage. They’ll say things like, “My OCD is a drama queen and has no long-term memory. It always tells me that my current worry is the most important…but I know from my experience that whenever something new pops up, OCD will focus on that. Because I can’t trust OCD to give me accurate information about danger, I’m going to work on ignoring it.”

      BTW, great job on posting despite your reservations!

  5. I also suffer from hit and run OCD..I am Greek and I follow my therapists instructions..but not with great success…especially one hit and run OCD fact..seems as really came again in my mind..after many years..and I feel as I am the most terrible person in the world! Have I really hit someone?? I really suffer…in addition, I had a great recover the last 4 years and now the same old(not new) OCD symptoms… Thank you in advance for reading my mail…

    Please help me…how can I know for sure that I didn’t hit anyone…? I had many such past ideas but this one despite happened many years..came again to my mind and I feel awfull!!! I have done many efforts for many years I was ok…and now again that idea That I hit someone almost 8 years ago…that was the most painful idea I ever had..because after passing from that place I remember(but not sure) that the police was Thera…I can’t afford to live a normal lift when I think I may hit someone with the car…

    Dr seay, I respect whatever you say, despite the fact we are million miles away..and I don’t know you personally..could I please contact you through mail or telephone..I am sure you can help me!!! I’m really sorry for my bad English..I havent practiced at all for a long time!!!

    • Hi Maria,

      It sounds like you’re in a lot of distress. Because hit-and-run OCD is best treated through driving-related exposures, it’s important that you have a local therapist to physically guide you through the process. The goal of treatment is to learn to deal more effectively with doubt. Efforts to satisfy or appease OCD will only backfire in the long run. Recovering from OCD involves learning that your emotions can be poor sources of information. Just because you experience doubt and fear doesn’t necessarily mean that something bad has happened.

      FYI, past doubts that continue to get stuck after many years can also be addressed effectively through imaginal exposure.

      Best wishes in your recovery!

  6. Thank you very much for your advice..I really appreciate it…but after so many years of medical and psychologically treatment..this particular fact seems to be so real..I had thousands of hit and run OCD symptoms all these years but I really want to ask you..can this particular fact be a real one?? I can’t continue living a normal life when I have the idea that I might hit someone with my car!!! I don’t deserve to be happy!!! Please forgive me for my bad English again!!

    • Maria,

      Your recovery must be based on coming to terms with not knowing for sure. After all, if there was a way for you to know for sure, you would’ve discovered it by now. Attempts to remember and/or figure out what really happened at this point in time are simply rituals that make your OCD stronger. In addition to working on your OCD, it’s also important that you address any current symptoms of depression. Therapy and/or medication can both be good options.

      Do not let OCD set the rules for your life. It’s time for you to fight back against your OCD and take your life back as your own.

  7. This is amazing to read. I never knew this had a name. I’m so glad I now know it is something that’s a real thing.

    For many years, even as a child on a bicycle, I often become anxious at home ‘realising’ that I might have caused an accident while participating in traffic. I remember clearly that one time as a kid I bumped my little bike against a lamp post and had one of the most anxious and feverish nights ever, because I was extremely afraid that the lamp post might fall on someone because I hit it with my bike. My mom told me it was nothing to worry about and off course didn’t let me go check on the lamp post in the middle of the night.

    Tonight I had something similar happen to me. I’m 28 now, driving a car and after a stupid mistake I made on the highway tonight (cutting through a second lane to go straight ahead into the third lane for the highway exit) I became intensly nervous and anxious and started looking on the web and found this site.

    When I read ‘A common form of checking is driving back along the same route in order to scan for victims’ I looked up and thought: Is someone kidding me? Are there really other people that also do that? I have done it several times before and was on the verge of doing it again. I even almost called the police to ask if there perhaps has been an accident on that part of the highway. Even now I seem to hear/remember the ‘bang’ of the crash that never happened, in my head.

    Something I also do is look around while driving to check if the cars (or bicyclists) that were around me are still alive and kicking after I passed them. Which is off course not good because I should focus on the road ahead. Even more so when on the highway when I try to figure out which cars were around me and which lane or exit they went to.

    As someone with a bipolar disorder I swing from highs to lows and mainly when I’m depressed or feeling mentally exhausted and weak (like today) I am susceptible to things like this. In general I can really enjoy driving a car. Highways, busy neighbourhoods, driving far from home, it’s all no problem at all. I’m also an okay driver and never had a ticket or accident in the seven years I’ve been driving.

    In short, I’m so glad that I have found this article, because I knew I’m not phobic to driving, but do occasionally have severe issues. I just never recognised it as an OCD type of thing, which gives me new leads to explore.

    Thank you, Dr. Seay

    Michael, The Netherlands

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Michael. I’m glad the article helped you make some sense out of what you’ve been experiencing. These symptoms can be very scary but knowing that they are common and that they reflect OCD can make a huge difference.

  8. Hallo again!!! For me is also very relaxing that this article exists…I read it almost every day…I understand every individual that suffers hit and run OCD!!
    Dr. Seay I would like to ask you: after 4 years of my recovering( still after medication and therapy) how is that possible that my mind went back to a particular fact( where after checking I saw a police car there)..this happened about 10 years ago..and I wasn’t thinking about it for more than 4 years, but now I’m thinking of it again.. This guilt feeling is killing me.. I’m driving without fear for many years..but this specific fact with the police car stuck into my mind… Do you think is normal? The guilt for me is something I can’t really handle, since I’m a sensitive person..I do not check when I drive, no rituals, but still that “past guilt”.. Thank you in advance, for your article and for reading my mail again..

    • Symptoms of OCD may fluctuate over time, but they are more likely to flare up when you are experiencing more stress (distress OR eustress) or are going through a transition. To maintain your gains, it is important that you develop relapse prevention skills.

  9. Dr. Seay, it is comforting to know other people experience a this-time-it-DID-happen type of phenomenon. I’m also grateful you shared a strategy to help combat it!

    Michael and Maria, I agree that this article and all of the interaction is comforting.

    While my strongest OCD theme is currently hit and run, I’m curious to know if others experience anything similar to the following…

    When my hit and run OCD isn’t flared up (often because I haven’t had to drive for a few days), I’ll notice that I become obsessive about ordinary things. It may be something bigger like making a decision about what car to buy (e.g. make charts, read reviews excessively, the subject will occupy most of my thoughts) or something minor and mundane like buyer’s remorse over an article of clothing. Whatever it is, it doesn’t seem to happen when I have been recently triggered by the hit and run theme. When I’m triggered by the hit and run theme, other things seem so irrelevant and trivial in comparison. Worrying about having made the wrong purchase seems so petty and it just doesn’t concern me when I’m worrying about whether I may have hit someone. Which, in a way, is a blessing since it puts things into perspective and helps me let things go. I’d much rather worry about making the wrong purchase than worry about whether I’ve hit someone but I guess the main point I’m trying to get across is that it rarely feels like I have a break from these obsessive and urgent thoughts as they are constantly running through my mind in either a mundane way or a magnified, terrifying way. Just curious if others experience anything similar and/or if you are familiar with people reporting this, Dr. Seay.

  10. I was driving my sisters new truck to the feed store last week to pick up some hay for her horse. While backing up to the dock the man that was loading the hay was standing behind the truck. I really believe that I hit him in spite of the fact that the truck had no damage and my mother who was with me at the time assured me and even wrote a note that nothing happened. I even went back with my husband the next day and spoke with the man and he assured me that he was fine. I am still obsessing on it, even waking up my husband several times a night and asking him repeatedly what the man said. How do I deal with this. My stomach is in knots and I don’t know what to do. I went to a local hospital that treats psychological disorders for some outpatient counseling and all they wanted to do was admit me. My understanding is that they mainly treat substance abuse and they acted like they had no idea what mine was all about. They refused to help me unless I checked in. I came across your web page yesterday and was reading the posts and it sounds like my problem is not that uncommon. I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and would appreciate any type of guidance you could give me on how to deal with this. Thanks.

  11. Dr. Seay,

    Thanks so much for posting this. I hit a kerb last night at twilight at a badly-lit intersection just after a bicyclist startled me by suddenly appearing (and stopping) on the sidewalk in my peripheral vision, and woke up this morning obsessing about it. Which is why I’m combing the internet for ways to stand up to the “oh-god-maybe-I-hit-a-toddler” thoughts. I know perfectly well I hit the kerb, and the fear feels very external. But the irony is that since I’ve never hit a person before, I have no idea if it feels like hitting a kerb. I assume not, therefore the OCD fears toddlers at 9pm. Nrgh. I appreciate your guidance on this blog!

  12. Thank you for posting this!! OMG, I thought I was the only one suffering from this. I was in a car accident a few months ago and ever since then, driving has been a literal nightmare. I have to drive though, as I work long distances. Anyways, I know that had I hit someone/ something I would feel it, but I still double back. Sometimes I have doubled back for over 3 hours! Pretty ticked about that as I spent so much in gas.

    Just a few hours ago I did the same thing but for about 30 minutes. The anxiety is unbearable and I have such a huge desire to go back to the area… but instead I googled driving OCD and came across this.

    Everything you wrote is spot on about me. Before my accident I used to love to drive. I would drive every weekend to another town that was 4 hours away just to hang out with friends. It has been several months since I have seen them because I am literally too petrified to drive.

    I am living and working in a poorer country now so access to decent medical care is nearly impossible. But reading about it has definitely helped some.

    thanks to all!

    • Hi Jene,

      Glad the article was helpful! There are some popular workbooks that address hit-and-run OCD, some of which I mentioned in my post about OCD books and websites. If you don’t have access to a local provider, some of those books might be a good way to start addressing your symptoms.

      All the best…

  13. I relate to all this that all of you describe…i have called the police thousands of times…and the tv channels for reassurance.. some years ago, i saw on a tv programm about hit and runs, an accident that happenned with a car like mine..i found through a hospital, the mother of the man that was hit..i called them and i told the problem i had..the woman was very kind to me..her son had serios problem, being in a wheel chair…ofcourse the woman asked me some things, but after so many years, i didnt remember to answer her…the fact that she was kind, relieved me.. i dont check any more, but after 4 years almost ocd free, i am wondering, if i really did something horrible…the idea came back to my mind, and it feels awfull…i feel a bad person that hit someone and didnt pay for it, didnt go to jail…how can i live nice moments and be happy ? does someone has this feeling?

    • In addition, i would like to ask you… how can i be sure that this is ocd, and i really havent done anything bad…like hit someone with my car? And if its ocd, why cant i say..that this is just my ocd, instead of living such a traumatic experience with so much of guilt? All your posts helps me a lot, and it helps me as well to post here, because i get precious information!

    • Maria, I can relate to this sentence of yours: “how can i live nice moments and be happy ? does someone has this feeling?”

      I struggle with these types of thoughts too. I also sometimes wonder about whether or not I actually hit someone from years ago when I had my first episode with this.

      But I am guessing this is part of the disorder. It is nasty and tricky. With my rationale brain, I like to think that if I REALLY DID hit someone, I would NOT just keep driving. If I TRULY had any doubt, I like to think I’d stop. These thoughts sometimes provide me with some comfort but not always.

      It’s such a messy and confusing thing and involves so much shame and doubt. Even just writing this reply to you fills me with paranoia, terrified that people will think I actually did hit someone. So then I think, well if I’m scared people will think that when I didn’t, then I really didn’t hit anyone. But doubt sure is persistent.

  14. hi i am confused that the police came back today and said the driver that run me down . he his only getting done foe section 39 . but he run me down on purpose and took me 250 yard on to a main road is that right can some help me with advise ty

  15. hi i am confused that the police came back today and said the driver that run me down . he his only getting done foe section 39 . but he run me down on purpose and took me 250 yard on to a main road is that right can some help me with advise ty

  16. Hi I am 71yrs old and ive had OCD for 60yrs but my worst one is the driving OCD well i have”nt driven for years now, but now i even feel guilty when im a passenger and that its because of my presence an accident has accured it even happens when im walking now i check the traffic all the time walking up and down sometime for hours, is there anyone else out there that has this i often call the police and ask if anything has happened and check in the paper ect. ive just had an operation on my ankle and on wed. i had to go to the hosp. to have it checked and when the nhs. ambulance bought me home he had to drop some other people off so went a route which i hate and is very busy especially at 5pm. well i felt sick when i got home i couldnt stop thinking had someone walked out in front on the ambulance he was driving really well but i still got the horrors that he”d hit someone and because i was being driven home it was my fault. if theres anybody else that can relate to this please let me know. i did infact start the first obsessive action group in London in the early 90s but OCD has just drained me and even now at my age im suffering. I know rationally that if a car or whatever hit the slightest thing i would hear it but i still cant be sure. Michael. Hove sussex england.

    • Hi Michael, I can’t speak from experience, but I do know that many people experience symptoms similar to what you’ve described. The most effective treatment for these types of symptoms is exposure and response prevention (ERP).

  17. My driving experience goes something like this. I live in a complex with a small spot to park my car. I start to panic as soon as I sit in my car. I do the usual check before backing up to make sure no one is coming or walking. As i pull onto the street i look back at where i just came from to make sure I didn’t hit anyone. Then after i do that, i have to look in my mirrors to check my new location and make sure i didn’t hit anyone because I took my eyes off the road to check my driveway.

    If i hit a bump in the road and don’t go back to check, I feel guilty and worry that the police will show up at my door. I can worry myself into a frenzy. I have having young children in my car because they are noisy and ask questions which take my focus off the road.

    I fret about whether i went through a red light so i have to look in my mirrors to see if it is green but you still have that marginal what if scenario because even though it is green now it may have changed after you went through. I have to make sure traffic is flowing to make sure i never caused an accident. Sometimes the fear is so intense i have to go back and make sure but even that brings new worries.

    • I just wanted to share that I relate and that this disorder is just absolutely awful. My hit and run OCD is flaring up again and I’m having a difficult time. I come back to this comment section to try to find comfort and feel less alone but ultimately I’m stuck with the torment of the what if’s as well as the dread of having to drive.

  18. Oops typo: i hate having*

    When i backtrack I lose focus and miss other things because I am focusing on seeing if a car crashed or if people are tending to an injured party, and thus around i go again.

    This started after my car accident a few years ago and have been unable to get rid of it. I have been able to manage it by speaking out loud as i turn a corner by saying no one is coming/no one is crossing/light is green, but sometimes i forget then i fight over it for a while.

    I want my life back:( It is driving me crazy. Hubby can’t understand why i can’t just say nothing happened and forget about it. Argh!

  19. Sir,
    I am 95% normal when i am with my friends and like 100% normal when with relatives
    But whwn i am alone most of the times i am having the worst symptoms of ocd,, all types, my mother know this,, i am 60%normal when i am with my mother,, do you think mine is a special case, that i am curable

  20. Hi, i am from india,, i really want to know if my case is a special one like if it can be cured completely,, i am having hit and run ocd, and also like other icd symptoms,, i am normal 100% but when alone everything goes upside down,, please help me

  21. Hi I suffer from this and wonder each day if I hit someone usually if its busy traffic or my mind drips onto other things. I’m on autopilot at times. If I see pedestrians I think if I think about other things my mind drifts and I think I’ve hit someone without knowing as my mind tells me I have. I do try to convince myself i haven’t but it usually occurs if my anxiety and stress levels are raised

  22. I have OCD and my anxiety spiked after driving through a narrow intersection on this street..what I fear is that I hit someone’s car parked on the side. I wish I went back to check..I kept driving tho. I think in my mind, “well if I hit someone’s car and damaged it..what if they dont notice the damage and another person hits them causing a fatal accident. I feel like I would be partially responsible for that fatality..If that makes any sense.

    • Great article I don’t know if the thoughts I am having are hit and run OCD, but I think they are somewhat similar.

  23. Hi guys,

    Glad I found this and it has helped a little knowing other people have experienced this. I’ve checked and rechecked parking lots and routes I’ve taken many times. This past weekend I had my worst experience yet, driving late at night on a city road. I don’t recall seeing a single person whatsoever, or hitting, swerving, bumping anything at all. I didn’t think twice about it until the next morning. I drove my route twice the next morning and saw nothing, but all I can think about are the “what ifs?” I can’t stop checking the news to see a report (about 30 times a day) about a hit and run, and all I think is that the cops r out for me. Again, I have no reason to believe I hit someone, but the ” what if” remains. How do people deal with this?

  24. Hey, it is the first time I have the courage to google about my problem. My OCD has had a lot of faces, but “hit and run ocd” (i didn’t knew the name until now) the most difficult one i have experienced. It is new for me to know about other cases, and it is good to know i’m not the only one dealing with it.
    I know everyone of us will get better one day, ’cause we are fighting with it.
    Hope the best for you all, and thanks for the article doc.

  25. I am going through this right now. i went to the store tonight to pick up a few things and we pretty much had a down poor. I am always scared of hitting people who cross the street and those stupid speed bumps make me think that they are people. So it usually leads me to stop the car and check behind me to see if a person is down. I also check to see if someone drives right behind me, then I know that I didn’t do anything. Most of the time I check the local news station to make sure there wasn’t a hit and run. I get so paranoid because I would know if I hit someone. Sirens scare me because I always think that they are coming for me and am going to arrest me. What if I did hit someone but didn’t know that I did? It gets so annoying! Still listening for sirens…

  26. Hallo everyone! today i felt awfull… some months ago i thought i caused an accident. today i googled it and i found out that in that place someone hit a motorbike and left without to help. i try not to call the police..that was in march and i dont remember details, but they write that the accident happened at 11,00 mornings on tuesday, and when i pass that road is usually after 3 0 clock, where i go to meet my therapist in the centre of athens.
    i really had an awful day…and still have! thank you all for reading this. can anyone relate?

  27. I have been driving very rarely lately which, for awhile, was a relief since I did not have to always be wondering whether I had hit someone even though rationally I knew I hadn’t. But now the hit and run ocd seems to have morphed into a different form due to the minimal driving. Now sometimes just WALKING from Point A to Point B is stressful because I think I see dead bodies/dying people even though rationally I know it is my ocd. I am afraid of anything I see in my peripheral vision, I am afraid to glance inside parked cars by accident or glance underneath parked cars all because I think there may be a dead body/dying person and that I will be the only person to notice and thus it is my responsibility to check and make sure they are found. I fight the urges to double check and if I don’t check, I replay what I thought I saw and feel anxious.

    I still experience hit and run ocd when I do drive but like I said, now just walking can be scary.

    Dr. Seay- is this common for hit and run ocd to morph in such a way? Has anyone else experienced this or something similiar?

  28. I believe I have this and it worries me. I don’t want to see a doctor because I don’t want to be told I’m “crazy”. Is there anything that I can do to get better?

  29. I am having the same exact issues with this. I am terrified to drive alone because I’m so scared I’m going to hit someone. I leave way before I have to to get somewhere just so if I have to go back and check I have time to and make it to wherever I need to go on time. That doesn’t always work however and I’ve been 3 1/2 hours late to work before and didn’t show up once making the excuse that I was sick and couldn’t come in. I’ve had to pull over and check in ditches and canals. I just can’t take this anymore. I think this all stemmed from a time I was driving with my mom and didn’t see a pedestrian and she did and it scared me. I’ve had some close calls with people in cross walks and the blind spots in my truck and still think about those times and wonder. I think of bad things happening when I’m driving which fills my head with false memories and drives me crazy and I’ll have to go back and check. I wish I didn’t have to do it and have had suicidal thoughts before because of having to continuously do this checking. But I love my life and the people in it I just hate this part about me. I don’t know what to do and I’ve tried ignoring it and refocusing but it just leads to more stress and I’m constantly going over in my head exactly what happened so I can make sure I didn’t hurt anyone. Please help me. I just don’t know what to do anymore and I’m so tired of having this run my life.

  30. Hello all! First I have to say I have been diagnosed with Pure O. I was diagnosed close to 10 years ago. I normally worry about harming others and all the what ifs that come along with it. I have a mild case of Hit and Run OCD. I usually check when I pull out of my driveway at home to see if anyone is laying on the sidewalk. Once I see nobody is there then I am good to go and forget about it. I have had fears in the past of hitting people while I am driving but I can usually weigh the evidence and come to the conclusion that I didn’t hit anyone. However, this morning when I was driving to work I heard a sound under the car like maybe I ran over some garbage in the street or a twig or something. I looked in the mirror after I heard the noise and I think I saw a white paper cup or some kind of white piece of trash in the road. I kept driving, but there’s that part of me saying what if it was a person or an animal, despite not seeing a person or an animal in the road I keep thinking about it. I joined a gym yesterday and I a hoping with proper exercise and eating habits I can get this OCD under a bit more control. I am sorry to everyone who has to suffer from any form of the OCD monster. I wish there were a cure and we all would be worry free.

  31. In the past year or two I have found myself suffering from severe ‘hit and run’ OCD.

    I constantly fear that I have knocked a biker down whenever I change lanes. The OCD comes even if I check my side mirrors and blind spots. I constantly look at the drivers behind me to see if they are reacting. Often I wonder ‘what happened to that car, which was right behind me? Did they stop to help an injured pedestrian or biker?”. Every pothole and bump in the road is a cause of anxiety. Sometimes I find myself circling back 3 to 4 times often causing more anxiety because I fear I may have hurt someone while circling back. Sometimes circling back will cause me to sit in traffic unnecessarily. I will often get out of my car and stare at the spot where I think I may have hurt someone. Sometimes I will stare at the spot, see nothing, yet still believe that I may have hurt someone, because my mind will think that they were quickly rushed off to a hospital by a passing car before I could circle back. Sometimes I will stare at the spot and not trust my own eyes. I will stare at the spot as though my eyes are blocking out a tragedy. This causes me to get to work and other places later than expected. Once I arrive at work, I wait 15 minutes and navigate to google maps (traffic) and other free live traffic services to check my route. I investigate each incident, which has occurred close to where I think my hit and run may have occurred. I do this every single day if i have driven.

    I refuse to wash the exterior of my car, simply because I can use the dust as a sort of litmus test. I often arrive at my destination and check to see if any dust has been disturbed anywhere on the surface of my car. Sometimes this is difficult to do because of poor lighting. Luckily my iphone has a torch, which I can shine at a low angle over the surface of my car to see if all the dust is still present. Even when I see dust, I wipe my finger over it to make sure its not just faded paint or something. Its obvious that If my car was to glance a body, some of the dust would be wiped off.

    If I see a police car, I make sure to drive just in front of them for as far as possible, this makes my drive easy because I know they would stop me if I had to hit someone with my car. If they dont stop me, well it obvious then that i didnt hit anything.

    If I arrive home and have had a ‘hit and run OCD’ episode nearby, I will wait outside and listen for sirens. If I hear any sirens, I rush back along my route to check if those sirens are helping possible victims.

    I know this is crazy, maybe I am losing it. I have stopped listening to music and drive with a window open on each side of the car. This is so that I can hear knocks and bumps (maybe even screams for help)etc.

    Im not scared of driving, Im scared of hurting someone and then the cherry on top is possible jail time, which would inevitable mean suicide for me.

    I have decided to start a carpool with my coworkers so that there are more eyes in the vehicle. Hopefully this can remedy my debilitating situation.

  32. Thank you so much for your post, I finally understood what is my problem now, I thought I had driving phobia but now I realize that I am not scared of driving the car by myself, I am scared of causing an accident and I always check several times to see if something bad happened.
    The funny thing is that with my new job I have to drive all day and so even if in the past I tried to use public service more often now I do not have any other choices but to drive.
    For the last few years I forced myself to keep driving and I think that now I feel better with my problems but when it rains or driving at late evening still stress me a lot.

  33. Hello everyone,

    I’m writing because I have a severe form of OCD called hit-and-run OCD. I’ve been fighting this for a few years-sometimes successfully, this time, not.

    A year or so ago I read something in the newspaper about two girls at a local university who got hit by a car and had non-life threatening injuries. The car mentioned in the paper was similar to mine. But the thing is, I had no damage to my car. There were no dents. There was no blood spatter on my car. I’d been driving in that area around that time.

    At the time I didn’t worry much about it. But for some reason, it flared up about a few days ago. I began thinking, what if I was driving slowly but hit them? Wouldn’t there be some impact to my car? Wouldn’t the police have found me if I did something? Thoughts of people walking into my car, landing on my windshield and walking into my car by the side of it while driving have hit me. I know these thoughts are irrational but I’m really having huge anxiety. I think what triggered this all was my turning around in my car to check several times last week when the weather was bad.

    I have also been asking myself if I prayed that God would free me from this for a year if I did this and have had thoughts that I did. That sounds like magical thinking to me.

    My anxiety is really wearing me down, as is my OCD. Has any of this happened to anyone else?

  34. Thank you very much for this article, actually this article ease my mind when I read it. I suffer from hit and run OCD and paranoia, I feel trapped in my own thoughts and I start making scenes in my head thinking about the past and the future, I feel like something bad is going to happen, also I have several thoughts that if I dont follow a certain pattern, something bad is going to happen (i.e I did not close a door in a cerrtain way)

    I feel very familiar with most of the symptoms posted in this article, each thought (in which I think I may have hit someone while driving) lasts for about a 3 days to a week. I really want to make it stop. I goback to the places where I was driving, also I drive extremely slow when someone is walking near my car, then when I pass a person I check the mirros to se eif he is okay then I realize that I wasnt watching the road and start to worry again and think that I may hit someone and I did not notice, its like running in circles.

    Also I am addicted to stimulants such as caffeine, and performance enhancing drugs including steroids (I am an amateur athlete), when I am on these drugs I feel relieved and powerful, but that makes things worse because I am to narcissistic that I feel that anything can ruin my feelings of greatness and performance.

    Also these symptoms are usually worse when I am single, but when I am engaged or going out with someone I like for some weird reason the symptoms get better, I think that one of the keys is to think about other things and keep your mind busy, like when reading this article. I find this article a good therapy actually, hopefully you can post some tips to overcome this awful confition.

    Thanks for posting.

  35. My husband does not have Hit and Run OCD yet, but his general fears and compulsions and obsessions are driving both of us crazy. We need to do something. He goes to the men’s room at a restaurant and spends the rest of the night obsessing on the belief that he’s left the water running in the sink. Sometimes we even drive back and check. Even when he looks at the faucet, he doesn’t believe it’s off. He puts a dry paper towel under it to watches it to be sure it stays dry, then he carries the paper towel around with him to reassure himself that it’s off. He also goes the the self serve gas station, pumps the gas, and obsesses for the rest of the day about whether he hung the gas nozzle up again or not. Even if he goes back and looks, it doesn’t help. THEN he’ll spend ten minutes checking and rechecking whether he turned the electric stove off at home. Over and over and over….and still doesn’t trust his own eyes. He’s in therapy now, for PTSD and childhood trauma, but his present therapist, I feel, is unresponsive and over simplistic about this whole OCD thing. We’ve got to get help and I don’t know where to go.

    • I know you know this already, but it sounds like he could absolutely benefit from OCD treatment. Establishing the right diagnosis will help clarify the most important components of treatment (i.e., ERP vs. something less effective for OCD).

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