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Anxiety Disorders and Public Transport

By: Jennie Kermode - Updated: 22 Jan 2019 | comments*Discuss
Anxiety Disorder Public Transport Travel

Getting out and about when you have an anxiety disorder can be very difficult, often as direct result of problems with public transport. This is compounded by the fact that other people will generally be unaware of your problem and may not be very sympathetic. What can you do to enable yourself to travel and enjoy the same freedoms that other people do?

Preparing to Go Out

For many people, the hardest part of going out is summoning up the courage to do so in the first place. This affects people in different ways, so in order to deal with it you'll have to look carefully at your past experiences. Do you usually cope better when you go out impulsively, before you've had time to get stressed about it; or when you plan your trip to minimise the possibility of things going wrong?

If you know you need to go out on a particular day but find that you get more and more stressed as the time approaches, it's best to do it as early as possible. Going out early, as long as it's before or after rush hour, also means that public transport will be less crowded. Reassure yourself with the thought that once you've made your trip it will be out of the way and you can relax.

If it helps to plan, a good thing to focus on is flexibility. Choose a route with lots of stops and think about alternative ways to get home if you find you can't cope. You might also find it useful to consider other safe spaces, such as public toilets, where you can go quickly if you need time to deal with stress. Knowing you have escape routes will reduce stress and mean you're much less likely to feel the need to escape once your journey begins.

Dealing with Phobias

Phobias about particular forms of public transport are not uncommon. They're not always entirely unreasonable, because things do occasionally go wrong, so you shouldn't be angry at yourself for feeling the way you do. That said, it's extremely unlikely that anything will go wrong, and if your phobia is getting in the way of your life, you need to do something about it.

It's easier to maintain a fear of something if you don't interact with it very often. The more successful interactions you have, the easier you will find it to get things in proportion, emotionally as well as intellectually. Try taking short trips with friends who can look after you, or going to transport museums where you can explore vehicles when they're not moving.

If public transport is difficult because you're afraid of being hemmed in by people, try travelling at quieter times to gradually build up your tolerance. Don't be shy about taking a seat at the front of the bus. They may be reserved for elderly and disabled people, but an anxiety disorder is a disability, and it's no less serious because it's psychiatric.

Dealing with Panic Attacks

If you experience a panic attack whilst using public transport, the best thing to do is to get out at the next stop. If you can use taxis, always keep enough money for one and keep a number in your mobile phone. Alternatively, if you can't walk home, call a friend or family member and ask them to come and get you. Some people find that just walking a short way gets the panic under control, after which they can catch another bus or train.

An important thing to remember is that having a panic attack on public transport doesn't mean it was triggered by that situation. Except where post traumatic stress disorder or severe phobia is involved, panic attacks are unlikely to be triggered by your surroundings. They are much more likely to happen due to internal factors like changes in your blood sugar. Don't think that because you panicked there once you can't ride a bus again.

Rush Hour

Travelling in rush hour is stressful for anyone and the best thing to do is to avoid it. If you can't, it can help to think about ways of armouring yourself against the press of people. Some people find it easier if they wear big coats, even in summer. Others carry comfort objects, such as pressure toys that can be hidden in a pocket and squeezed to relieve anxiety. Staying close to an exit generally helps to minimise stress even though you can't use it whilst the bus or train is in motion.

Travelling with an anxiety disorder is hard work and you should always take the time to congratulate yourself when you manage it. The good news is that, with practice, it will get easier, and you can go wherever you want.

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I know this is an old thread but I was wondering if you could help me I'm due to go on a train this year ,last year I had a bad experience on one where the door I was going to embark from was out of order and the next one I tried wouldn't open ,it set my anxiety off 10 fold and I had to bang on the window until my fists bled and press the emergency button, as I say my anxiety was completely through the roof as I couldn't get off and the next stop was 50 miles away . I want to go back on but this has scared me.
Lj - 22-Jan-19 @ 8:04 PM
@Tysha99 - it takes time and you taking good care of yourself. My friend had anxiety and managed to overcome it by doing things such as stopping drinking alcohol and cutting out gluten and feeding himself healthily. We are what we eat. The fact you had a vitamin deficiency that brings on anxiety shows this. My friend is fine now. It takes a healthy lifestyle, plenty of sleep and over time it will get better. But you have to do it by baby steps <3
SaphV - 17-Jul-18 @ 10:48 AM
I had my first panic attack on the bus. A month later i was diagnosed with a vitamin deficiency (extremely low) which brought on anxiety. My health has since increased & now that I’m ready to go to work the fear of getting back on the bus freaks me out. Last week for the 1st time i rode the bus with a friend. All the way to the station meanwhile i could feel my anxiety trying to take over. I went to take the bus back by myself & as soon as i stepped on the bus i felt my body change so i stepped off on fear of an anxiety attack. I don’t want to be put on meds but i need to get over this. Any suggestions to make a bus ride better for me so i May get back and forth to work. Also yesterday in church i felt the anxiety trying it’s best to overcome me but i kept my composure and handled it well. I think it was the overwhelment of too many people. I’ve been in the House basically almost 2 months. But now I’m ready to get back to what my life use to be. Please help
Tysha99 - 16-Jul-18 @ 3:49 PM
Ems- Your Question:
Hi I have never asked for advice on forums before but feel very stuck and not sure what to do. I have to o away next week with work and it will mean getting trains and being on my own all week. I suffer severe anxiety and panic attacks. I am already terrified not eating or sleeping. I really want to go and try and battle my fear but it’s nt a quick train journey it’s ocer 5 hours away with connections. However the thought of getting a doctors sick note and giving it to my boss also terrifies me. What do I do?

Our Response:
Your only option is to speak with your employer directly regarding this. Hopefully, your employer will empathise with your situation and take on what you are saying. However, you don't say whether travelling is a relevant/expected part of your job, which may mean you would have to think of a method around this issue.
DisabledTravelAdvice - 9-Nov-17 @ 12:44 PM
Hi I have never asked for advice on forums before but feel very stuck and not sure what to do. I have to o away next week with work and it will mean getting trains and being on my own all week. I suffer severe anxiety and panic attacks.I am already terrified not eating or sleeping. I really want to go and try and battle my fear but it’s nt a quick train journey it’s ocer 5 hours away with connections. However the thought of getting a doctors sick note and giving it to my boss also terrifies me . What do I do?
Ems - 8-Nov-17 @ 7:30 PM
@Krina73 - it's a vicious circle isn't it? IBS is caused by worry and stress, so when you stress about getting it, it makes it worse!! Have you been to the docs? I find diet plays a massive part in helping and I'm veggie. Eating chickpeas is a definite no- no! Libby.
ETI88 - 15-Jun-17 @ 10:27 AM
I never used to suffer at all with any sort of anxiety until a couple of years ago. I suffer from IBS well I think that's what if is, and I was in the train and my stomach started to get cramps and there was no toilet so I started to panic, I had to get if the next stop really quickly and rush to the loo I ran into the men's as I wouldn't have time to get to the ladies, but I didn't really make it in time and it was very embarrassing I kept everything hidden so people were unaware but since that day I panic and before I head out to work I get these anxiety attacks which makes my stomach cramp and I have to get a taxi to work which costs a fortune I just wish I could travel on public transport again
Krina73 - 13-Jun-17 @ 8:42 AM
My auntie will not get into a car taxi or travel in public transport she had had therapy by some expert ..... but it did not work someone mentioned hypnosis where would I find an expert in th reply,out area for advice thank you
Taz - 9-Mar-17 @ 6:31 AM
I panic that I won't know where to get off the bus
Kat - 5-Dec-16 @ 6:04 PM
@Illinca - I had a social phobia of going on the London underground. It just started out of the blue from nowhere and it wasn't like I had any other stress in my life. Anyway if it was busy or crowded I would have to get off and then wait for the next train and repeat until I got to my destination (it wasn't very time effective, especially at rush hour). The thing is you know that you can always get off and it will take a second so tell yourself this and if you can sit/stand near the door. Listen to music - I always found that wearing headphones or distracting myself by reading a book helped and both together even better! Take a bottle of water with you it's amazing how this helped calm me if I felt suddenly claustrophobic. <3
*0*0SusieW - 6-Oct-16 @ 1:44 PM
Hei, I have a problem for a month or two with traveling by bus. My anxiety comes from the thought of not being able to get off the bus whenever i want and i feel stuck there and the awerness of a confined space. I know it sounds ridiculous because why would you want to get off before the station? But that is just how i feel. I never had problems with public transportation before so i don't really know where it comes from. Anyway, i am struggling with this and wanted to share it with you since you seem like an understanding public.
Ilinca - 5-Oct-16 @ 6:58 PM
@Brandon D - I really feel for you as anxiety is a very difficult issue to deal with. I know as a family member of mine suffers badly with it. Panic attacks seem to just come from nowhere. It always seems odd to me that one day you can be fine, other days suffer dreadfully. Through this I always believed there must be another reason for causing anxiety. I will give you a few tips which helped her and now she is so much better than she was ever previously from the point of suffering panic attacks on a daily basis to now having only the occasional one. 1) Do not drink alcohol (ever) or caffeine (both are stumulants and the last thing someone needs with anxiety is a stimulant). 2) Cut gluten out of your diet. There have been massive leaps in research that prove diet is linked to mental health issues. We tried many different diets, but the one that has had the biggest positive effect is cutting wheat and gluten from the diet. Try it just for a week and see if you improve. But you need to make sure you cut it out of everything and gluten is in a lot of products from bread to beer. In the meantime, a lot of anxiety is anticipatory, the initial fear grows in size and feeds on itself, this 'anticipatory' anxiety is always worse than the actual event itself. I'm sure you have worried like mad about doing something, and then sometimes you do the thing you fear and it wasn't as bad as you thought. I can totally understand why and how you feel this way, it is an evil bullying illness. Please try the gluten-free diet and see, I would be interested to see if it has an effect. The positive effects we visible in my daughter from day three and she has not suffered to the same extent since. I'm not stressing it would work for everyone, but it's certainly worth a try. Good luck.
Jules - 29-Jun-16 @ 12:44 PM
I have been dealing with anxiety for a very long time. Its so bad that a lot of the times taking the bus is completely out of the question and I find myself walking for almost 2-3 hours at a time. I have a meeting I had to get to so I followed a few tips I read on help forums -Planned my trip ahead of time -gave myself extra time in my travel to take time in between buses -Had books and other things to distract me -Have had friends with me at times Even with all these help tools I found myself in a panic attack where I broke down due to sweats/dizziness/and as weird as it sounds an irritable bowl. I spent an hour on the platform curled in a ball crying as my head spinned my heart felt like it was ready to beat right out of my chest and extreme chest pains. This anxiety doesn't just happen on buses but in extremely crowded areas such as malls / amusement parks and special events such as the water front festival and the bread and honey. Im currently on assistance and this anxiety is seriously affecting my ability to obtain and maintain a job which is putting myself and my family on a chopping block where we could soon be loosing this help. What other steps can I take , Ive talked to doctors and have had anxiety medication but that still doesn't help. I try to face my fears and take it small steps at a time but it feels like im so stressed out because of this issue that it is negatively impacting my health causing severe stress. Drugs are bad and I would never advise anyone to do drugs but I find that some times if I smoke a "little" marajuwana before I get on a bus or go into a growded area that it actually helps but this isn't a fix to my problem as it is illegal so im constantly trying to find other ways to deal with these issues. I am always open to suggestions from others who suffer from the same issues I am having because who knows you might have a way to deal with these issues that I don't know of or haven't been suggested or found online. Thank you to everyone who takes the time to read this and help with suggestions.
Brandon.D - 28-Jun-16 @ 2:18 PM
Rhi - Your Question:
I always get panicky when the bus/train/car im in goes really fast. Everyone else around me is perfectly fine but I just get so scared and wondered why this happens. It never used to happen but now I just wish that buses and trains had seatbelts like cars do.

Our Response:
As specified in the article, phobias about particular forms of public transport are not uncommon. Sometimes as we get older and have more realisation of the world around you, we can become a bit more aware and cautious of what we consider as dangers such as speed, heights etc. It is perfectly normal to feel this way and it can be just a passing phase. However, if you begin to have acute fears about travelling on public transport, I suggest you visit your GP, who may refer you for some CBT counselling.
DisabledTravelAdvice - 14-Aug-15 @ 2:43 PM
I always get panicky when the bus/train/car im in goes really fast. Everyone else around me is perfectly fine but I just get so scared and wondered why this happens. It never used to happen but now I just wish that buses and trains had seatbelts like cars do..
Rhi - 13-Aug-15 @ 9:20 PM
Yes i have a problem with how fast the bus or train is going. People sitting around me seem to be unaffected and they read, and get up to the loo etc undeterred and I sit paralysed and nearly choking with fear of crashing! I would like to know how i can at least lessen this debilitating effect.
corinna - 23-Jul-14 @ 11:07 PM
I get transportation anxiety but it's not mostly about the people on the bus, it's about how fast the bus is going and whether it will get into an accident. Anyone else have this problem with the motion of public transport?
Nikki - 13-Apr-11 @ 8:29 PM
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