I Can’t Learn To Drive Because Of My Anxiety

Growing up, I thought that driving was something that absolutely everyone could do easily, as soon as they turned 17.

Obviously, at this point I had no idea of the actual cost of learning to drive, taking tests and then purchasing a car, mot, and insurance; how any teenager can afford all that is beyond me.

As much as currently learning to drive is not at all feasible for me, as saving up for a mortgage is a killer! I can’t actually learn to drive for a completely different reason.

I first jumped into a car when I was 19, I had a few lessons and I loved it because I thought I was pretty good at it. Then life got in the way and my instructor just went AWOL, considering I have serious social anxiety, I chose not to chase it up or find someone else.

Fast forward to 21 years of age, I decided to take my theory test, I crammed it all really hard and I managed to pass, well, just. Feeling high on my own ego, I booked some driving lessons which I got a pretty good deal with, I was certain I’d be on the road in months.

The first lesson was fine, the instructor came across understanding when I told him about my mental health.

Four lessons in and cracks went from showing to giant gaping holes, I would be panicking and he would be shouting and insulting me. Needless to say that I ditched him and took a month or so away from the road; until I could find someone else.

I found another instructor who was actually pretty friendly and understanding, he let me learn at my own pace and even though I knew I was slow, he didn’t try to force me.

He did allow me to learn in automatic because from our first lesson, as I had told him before booking, manual cars and I are a pair doomed to end up in an accident.

I felt more comfortable in an automatic but I would still get terrified of junctions, other cars and the car that I was driving in fact. I was so scared and on edge that I was just as dangerous as a reckless driver; I just couldn’t get into the zone.

You see, I don’t really want to drive, I hate the idea of being in a little tin car that has hundreds of chances to be compressed and leave me in a hospital every single journey.

As someone who is ‘hypervigilant’ and aware of lights and sounds more than most people, it is incredibly distracting and hard to take in everything all at once; it’s just too much for me and I find it so overwhelming.

My last lesson, I had a full-blown panic attack because I was driving badly and I knew it, but I couldn’t stop because my whole body was going into a meltdown.

I told myself I couldn’t give up, even when we had to pull over for both our safety. Yet when I went home, I realized that if I rushed, I’d be spending money to essentially have a panic attack.

I made the decision to put driving on pause, it’s not something I am eager to do, I’m happy to walk or jump on the bus.

My theory is that if I focus on my mental health and get better management of my anxiety first, then I can learn to drive with a clear head and the ability to focus even when I wobble.

The truth is that driving isn’t for everybody. It’s not something programmed into us or a skill that you just pick up, it is manmade and you need to learn.

There is so much pressure for everyone to have that ability to drive, like a sign of adulthood but does it really matter?

I can’t drive right now because of my anxiety, it is safer for me to be off the road and I am okay with that.

I know there are people who may scoff and say how easy it is to drive but in reality, we are all so unique and individual that we deserve to learn at our own pace and even more importantly, make our own life decisions.

So, if you’re way past 17 and still can’t drive, that’s okay.

You are still here and at the end of the day, you have a lifetime to learn, if you want; but mental health, that needs to be put before everything else.


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8 Replies to “I Can’t Learn To Drive Because Of My Anxiety”

  1. Oh I get that. Luckily I had a brilliant instructor and my anxiety was kind of under control when I was learning….though I did have a panic attack in my test and the instructor pulled us over till I calmed down (I still passed!).
    Now a days with my anxiety off the scale most days, I can’t drive even with over a decade of experience behind the wheel so you’re really not alone in this fear. There are too many idiots on the road and pedestrians with the self preservation instincts of lemmings, so if you don’t want to drive and can do public transport, heck more power to you!!


  2. I get what you mean. I’m in the same boat. I don’t drive because of my anxiety, it’s probably much safer for everyone that I don’t drive right now, but I’m not saying never because I’m hoping I’ll get to a place where my anxiety won’t stop me. It’s something I would love to do in the future. If people scoff and say it’s easy then clearly they’ve never suffered with anxiety – and if they have, then they ought to understand that anxiety isn’t always rational and can’t always be explained. Maybe one day we’ll both be able to do it, but if not then that’s okay. It’s important to take care of ourselves first.


  3. Hi,
    I just thought I would say that if people “scoff and say how easy it is to drive” at your difficulty with driving they’ve missed the point.
    When the time is right I’m sure you’ll get driving. Until then enjoy being the passenger!


  4. Oh god, I’m totally with you. It took me years to get the courage to start learning, years to ACTUALLY learn to drive, and years to feel even remotely comfortable driving. I probably went through 6 instructors. I can drive now, but sometimes I still feel anxious. Other people, ones who don’t have any anxiety driving…I think it’s really hard for them to understand. I wish they’d TRY to understand, though!!


  5. Charlotte,

    This is a great example of how to live with and manage anxiety. With anxiety it is so hard to know how hard to push yourself and when to back off. This blog post shows that you know how to keep a healthy balance.

    Thanks for posting it!

    – Jay


  6. Great post and very honest. Sometimes people prefer not to drive and it’s totally okay. I know when I first turned 17 I didn’t want to even get my provisional let alone book a lesson but I’m 20 now and I’ve been driving just over a year but still suffer with the nerves of driving places!


  7. I’m so glad I’ve found someone who feels like I do. I started learning and passed my theory, but since going to uni I haven’t continued lessons. After my driving lessons I would come back feeling so tense as the experience was really stressful. I’m also a city person and I think as long as you have good public transport access then you’re fine. Driving isn’t for everyone. I lack hand-eye coordination, so me and driving don’t go well together. Great post! X

    Megan | https://meganelizabethlifestyle.com/


  8. Charlotte, good for you in that you know what is best for you. I remember being very nervous when I started driving. I would panic crossing bridges. When I moved to the prairies, the vast open spaces would terrify me. I am comfortable driving these days after years of experience. But I am not one of these people who love to drive. I don’t want to drive on busy freeways or through huge cities. I am most happy to let others do this.


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