“Ask Dr. Neuman”

Advice Column

Hello Doc,I wrote to you before as I have social anxiety and driving phobia.

by | Oct 18, 2014 | Ask Dr Neuman

Q: Hello Doc,I wrote to you before as I have social anxiety and driving phobia. I tried to become less anxious, but today i failed the road test, as I was worried about making mistakes and made one after another.How to get rid of performance anxiety…I can drive on known streets pretty well, but if i am taken to an unknown location, I cant figure out what to do because of my anxiety.(BTW, I have driving phobia/anxiety for aleast 25+ years)
– Sally

A: Not uncommonly, someone taking the drivers’ test for the first time is nervous and botches it up. The same is true for any sort of performance, such as giving a lecture. It is unusual to keep botching up over and over again. The driver usually relaxes as she begins to assume ahead of time that she will fail still one  more time. At that point there is nothing at stake. An example of this was a young man who performed very badly on job interviews. After he had failed at about seven or eight of them, he began to relax. He knew that he would be no worse off the next day no matter what; and no one would treat him any differently. He finally was accepted for the job he had been looking for after a year of being turned down.

Once in a great while, someone botches up a performance repeatedly even though he/she has had plenty of practice. There have been major  league ballplayers whose careers were ruined when they could not make everyday plays on the field. I remember a second baseman who could not reliably throw a ball to the first baseman–and even a catcher who had trouble throwing the ball back to the pitcher. The only treatment for these situations is for the player to come to terms with the worst case scenario. It’s true that he may be forced out of baseball if he can’t overcome this problem–but that is a worse case, and even then life goes on. People can relax when they can come to terms finally with repeatedly botching up. They need to keep in mind that they can recover their aplomb suddenly, and then these failures become an amusing rite of passage, rather than a crippling embarrassment.

I would encourage you to persist. It sounds like your failure to pass a driving test has affected your self-confidence in general. Spend a lot of time practicing on different roads. Sooner or later they all look alike. It is likely that you will get past this obstacle even after all  this time. Taking lessons again may help.
– Dr. Neuman