Driving-related anxiety in recently deployed service members: Cues, mental health correlates, and help-seeking behavior

Heidi M. Zinzow, Johnell Brooks, Erica B. Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent military operations have involved repeated trauma exposure while driving vehicles. Combat deployment and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have been associated with risky driving practices, increasing the likelihood of fatalities and problems adjusting to civilian life. However, no studies have specifically examined the role of driving-related anxiety, including common cues and mental health correlates. This study conducted structured interviews with 46 recently deployed service members. Interviews assessed the prevalence of driving-related anxiety or hyperarousal (anger or irritation) in relation to civilian driving scenarios, combat exposure, post-traumatic stress symptoms, depression symptoms, and help-seeking behavior. The majority of participants reported high driving anxiety or hyperarousal in response to scenarios involving close proximity to other cars. Driving-related anxiety was positively correlated with PTSD and depression. Although PTSD and driving anxiety were positively associated with help seeking, only one-third of soldiers sought help for driving anxiety and most sought help from informal sources (i.e., friend and battle buddy). The findings underscore the need to address driving-related anxiety in combat-exposed service members with mental health symptoms, with a particular focus on specific anxiety-provoking situations. Furthermore, interventions that reduce stigma and improve access to formal care could improve help seeking and treatment for these problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e357-e361
JournalMilitary medicine
Volume178
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013

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