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    Harry Palmer, posted by Daniel

stargazer

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A young friend who has had a fear of flying for some time now reports that she has become afraid of all possibilities of accidents, not only for herself, but for all her friends and loved ones. She said it has reached the level of an obsession. If her Mom or Dad go for a drive, she is afraid they will get into an accident. The same goes for her boyfriend, etc.

She's actually a very brilliant student at an East Coast university, and she began going to therapy through the school approximately a year ago after a break-up with a boyfriend. She's been diagnosed OCD, but I am wondering if this kind of phobia is more specific than that, some sort of situational phobia or something. Also, what can be done about it?
 

stargazer

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I've had those too at times, but this person seems obsessive about it. She admits that she can't get these thoughts out of her mind, and she had a hard time stopping talking about it. I was somewhat at a loss.
 

braveheart

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Mine is a result of early attachment issues (early attachment failure and isolation). Basically what I am learning to do is contain the fear.
 

sister-ray

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I wonder if its anything to do with loosing her boyfriend? I used to ring people up all the time if I hadnt heard from them, use to think they had been hurt in accidents or something, use to feel something was wrong, still do it now but not as much, tryed to gain control of it, the reason I did it was because I lost a very close friend of mine some years ago.
 

Daniel

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The crazy thing is that her fear is based on a rational concern, at least for highway driving. Personally, I would rather have an overactive amygdala than be driving on the highway every day.
 

David Baxter

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Daniel said:
The crazy thing is that her fear is based on a rational concern, at least for highway driving.
In that context, all phobias and many obsessional worries are "based on a rational concern" in the sense that things like accidents and viruses and bacterial infections and cancer, etc., etc., can and do occur on a regular basis varying in frequency or probability. However, it is the obsessional and/or phobic nature of the individual's response to the statistical or empircal/actuarial risk that makes it "abnormal" or problematical.
 

Daniel

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However, it is the obsessional and/or phobic nature of the individual's response to the statistical or empircal/actuarial risk that makes it "abnormal" or problematical.

I know, but I think it's crazy/weird/surreal that the most likely way she would be injured or killed at her age is by being in a car accident. So that her greatest fear is related to that seems more rational than, say, obsessive hand washing.
 

David Baxter

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I know, but I think it's crazy/weird/surreal that the most likely way she would be injured or killed at her age is by being in a car accident. So that her greatest fear is related to that seems more rational than, say, obsessive hand washing.

You mean "compulsive handwashing" which is motivated by obsessive worrying about "germs". But nonetheless, I'd argue that fear of "germs" or "bacteria" is no less real than fear of a car accident. If you do anything at all, you expose yourself to bacteria but most bacteria do not kill us. Similarly, if you drive with any regularity at all, sooner or later you will be involved in some sort of car accident - but again, most car accidents do not kill us.
 

Daniel

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You could also argue that anxiety/OCD is a greater risk factor for suicide, and so it would be possible that even rational concerns over driving could her lower quality of life, thereby increasing the chances for depression, though most depressives don't die by suicide.

Regarding car accidents vs. bacteria, I still think that for her age group, bacteria is not the biggest threat:
http://www.disastercenter.com/cdc/111riskd.html
 

Daniel

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My source of cognitive dissonance is that people who only have a "rational concern" for avoiding car accidents will be driving more than people who have a significant fear of car accidents. So it seems that fear works and that maybe mental health isn't everything.

Personally, I don't mind dying in a car accident. It's the possiblity of being paralyzed from the neck down that makes a fear of highway driving seem more rational, esp. with the U.S. gov't statistics. In comparison, my frequent but not compulsive handwashing seems less rational since my chances of dying by infection are much less than dying in a car.

(edited)
 

Daniel

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A quick, 4-minute collection of BBC listener responses about driving phobia, recorded in 2002:

Listeners' Letters: Driving Phobia - BBC Radio Archive

My favorite listener response was from the last listener who said that driving phobia regarding motorways (highways) is a term that is overused and it shows how far we have come as a technological society that mindlessly believes there's nothing strange with driving at high speeds.

Anyway, the journal articles at PubMed say that driving phobia is common among the general population and that (not surprisingly) CBT is an effective form of treatment.
 

texasgirl

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This is a very interesting discussion. I used to love to fly - I had a job once where I flew almost every day. Then one day I was in a near crash (with foam on the runway, fire engines, lost engine, the whole nine yards). In any case, I flew home the next day without incident (including any real fear). But the NEXT time that I flew, I started hyperventilating. It has since gone downhill from there and now when I fly I have to be medicated or I can't do it. Although I personally am not afraid of driving, I, too, have developed since then an inordinate fear of my family getting hurt or killed in a car accident, which I wasn't afraid of before. Don't have any solutions to offer, just my own personal observation.....
 

Daniel

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foam on the runway, fire engines, lost engine, the whole nine yards

Seems like a typical flight :) As you know, flying is safer than driving, so it must be strange to have your personal experience conflict with general truth.
 

Daniel

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BTW, I found a post in another forum about a failed engine that happened just a week ago:

PDX-SJC Lost engine on Flight 406 12/19

Supposedly, a failed engine, though an emergency and a scary experience, is not likely to cause an accident. So I may have been presumptive to say that your experience conflicted with the fact that flights are safer.

Personally, I once flew to Miami from Gainesville (University of Florida) rather than risk driving for 5+ hours on the highway and my family thought I was crazy for spending the money. It seemed at the time that I was screwed no matter what I did.
 

texasgirl

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The whole experience was pretty interesting in that no one screamed. In fact there was total silence on the plane. (made even quieter when the pilot shut down the faulty engine I might add 17,000 feet up in the air!). I have tried to talk myself out of the phobia, using all the regular arguments about flying being safer than driving etc., which works until the first bit of turbulence. Then all my self talking goes out the window. I even thought one time that I could just get off the plane in the air! (no rationality there, for sure :dimples: ) In any case, medication helps. I do fly now and then, but have turned down jobs that require plane travel because I really can't handle it.
 

stargazer

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Again, I didn't see any of the responses until I was mysteriously notified only of Texasgirls's reply above. Wish I'd been here earlier, as this is all very interesting, but it's a lot to take in at once.

I think that, as Dr. Baxter is saying, the key here is that she's *obsessing* over the fear, again and again without allowing her mind any rest-bit. The fear itself is not irrational, as people do die in accidents, of course.

through these eyes said:
I wonder if its anything to do with loosing her boyfriend? I used to ring people up all the time if I hadnt heard from them, use to think they had been hurt in accidents or something, use to feel something was wrong, still do it now but not as much, tryed to gain control of it, the reason I did it was because I lost a very close friend of mine some years ago.

I think this is part of it, yes. She's afraid of losing her boyfriend, as she had lost her previous boyfriend, partly because he couldn't handle how obsessively she called him, checked up on him, worried that things were going awry, and so forth. She's gotten better now, though.

She even theorized that she is afraid of success, and unconsciously trying to figure out some way to sabotage the relationship. It's getting pretty complicated.
 

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