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Driving Fears & Driving Avoidance in Teens & Young Drivers

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Reader Question: My daughter just turned 15, and no matter what I say, I can’t seem to convince her to practice her driving. It’s strange, because in the past, all she could do is talk about how excited she was to finally get her permit. I truly thought that she’d be practicing constantly once she was legally able to. Have you seen this before? Could her driving avoidance possibly be related to her OCD? Sincerely, Stressed-Out Parent Answer: Maybe, maybe not. Driving Fears May Be Normal… Driving-related anxiety is a completely normal phenomenon. For many people, learning to drive is the first time that they are individually responsible for handling a situation that could potentially be life-threatening. Although car accidents are (hopefully) rare for most individuals, accidents can be harmful (or deadly) when they do occur. Being in charge...

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Hit-and-Run OCD vs. Other Driving Fears

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What is hit-and-run OCD? Hit-and-run OCD (sometimes called MVA-OCD) is a subtype of obsessive-compulsive disorder that involves persistent and recurrent worries that you’ve hit someone while driving. While most people with hit-and-run OCD worry, “What if I accidentally hit a pedestrian?”, some worry about unintentionally causing car accidents, bike accidents, or property damage. Hit-and-run OCD is frequently misdiagnosed as panic disorder given that many people with panic disorder (with agoraphobia) also report a fear of driving. However, hit-and-run OCD and panic disorder are distinct conditions that may often be differentiated on the basis of their core fears. Driving Fears Related to Panic Disorder (with Agoraphobia) For someone who has panic disorder with agoraphobia, driving fears might arise because: Driving may have been associated with panic attacks in the past. Some people with panic disorder have a history of having...

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OCD About Pets and Animals: Harm

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Obsessions focusing on pets and animals incorporate all the common themes: contamination, checking, harm, scrupulosity, and sex. In this 3-part blog series, I discuss some of the common ways obsessions may target our lovable, snuggable friends. This article, Part 1, will focus on harm obsessions; Part 2 will cover contamination obsessions; and Part 3 will address sexual obsessions and scrupulosity, as they pertain to pets and animals. Pets. You gotta love ‘em. They’re so cute. They’re so cuddly. They always get excited when they see you. So why does OCD hate them so much anyway? Probably because we love them. Just as OCD tends to torment parents who love their children, OCD also loves to torment pet owners who love their pets. Get ready to brace yourself for all sorts of violent and horrific thoughts about pets and animals....

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Imaginal Exposure vs. In Vivo Exposure for OCD

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As I’ve talked about in numerous posts, overcoming OCD involves learning to co-exist with doubt and uncertainty. This idea can be a bit counter-intuitive at first, as many people initially expect OCD treatment to reduce uncertainty. One therapeutic approach that helps with this process is exposure and response prevention (ERP) for OCD. Not surprisingly, ERP consists of two parts: 1) exposure, and 2) response prevention. An exposure is when you do something on purpose to provoke an anxiety spike. By definition, exposures are not accidental; rather, they are pre-planned, deliberate offensive strikes against your OCD. Exposures are designed to help you build up your tolerance to fear-producing situations. Exposures are often completed according to an exposure hierarchy, meaning that people typically complete lower level exposures (i.e., less distressing exposures) before gradually working up to higher level ones. Response prevention...

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Postpartum OCD – Fear of Harming Your Baby

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Parents brace themselves for many changes when a new baby comes home. As new routines replace old, life quickly becomes a confusing jumble of cherished memories, bottles, and dirty diapers. Parenting can be joyful, but it can also be terrifying. Parenting comes with many important responsibilities, and it can be intimidating–if not downright frightening–to be responsible for protecting and caring for a vulnerable new life. What is Postpartum OCD (ppOCD)? For some parents (mothers and fathers alike), new parenthood may spark postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a surprisingly common anxiety disorder that is associated with violent and disturbing thoughts, images, or urges (Fairbrother & Abramowitz, 2007). Symptoms may begin suddenly after the new baby arrives home, or pre-existing OCD symptoms may be exacerbated by new parental responsibilities. Postpartum OCD symptoms can involve virtually any type of OCD symptom, but harm obsessions...

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