Imagine you are driving to the grocery store on a lazy Sunday afternoon, when your mind begins to wander. A few thoughts cross your mind and a couple of moments pass by. Suddenly, you snap back into reality completely stunned, wondering how you haven’t crashed the car. The traffic lights, the stop signs, the other cars – disregarding any of these could have led to a disaster. You pass a bicyclist on your right and think, I could have hit someone. You think about this for a few minutes and then drop the idea. Certain people however, cannot simply drop it.
Once the idea of a hit and run enters their mind, they begin to believe that they’ve partaken in one, thereby confusing their imagination with reality. These individuals struggle with a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) called hit and run OCD. Hit and run OCD is different from other driving phobias, due to the obsessive rituals performed afterward. According to licensed psychologist, Steven Seay “people with OCD may engage in a variety of physical or mental checking behaviors when driving. They may make excessive use of mirrors or visual checks to make sure that they haven’t hit someone or caused an accident” (Seay, 2012). A person with this form of OCD would return to the scene of the “crime” as a form of reassurance. On the other hand, they may avoid the trigger area altogether.
These behaviors do not end on the road however, as these individuals check newspapers and other forms of media in order to ensure no one was hurt. These behaviors are rooted in the fact that “the person begins to doubt themselves and question whether or not they checked enough [times] or perhaps they missed something” (Seay, 2012). Their uncertainty of this one occurrence tends to negatively disrupt their life for a significant period of time. Interestingly enough, “people with [this form of OCD] tend not to focus so much on whether they actually killed somebody, but more on whether or not they will be caught, punished, and publicly humiliated”(Weg, 2011). In other words, they fear having to deal with the immense consequences, both physical and emotional, of a hit and run.
An online testimonial shares the story of a woman named Katie who suffers from hit and run OCD. She recalls her experience with the disorder beginning as she was driving next to a bicyclist, which provoked the idea of a hit and run. With the thought in her head, her anxiety began to rise. She felt the urge to turn around to ensure that the bicyclist was unharmed, but she knew that she didn’t hit him. “I refused to turn around. I mean, after all wouldn’t I know if I hit someone?” (The OCD Stories, 2017 ). Nevertheless, her sinister thoughts persisted, weaving a tale that was contrary to the reality of the situation. Katie later inspected her vehicle for damage, trying to dissuade the voice in her head, but instead found a new scratch on her car. It was most likely a coincidence, as drivers rarely inspect their car for damage unless prompted to. However, Katie’s obsessive behaviors emerged. She ruminated on the scenario trying to find proof of her innocence. She constantly checked the news waiting for someone to report a hit and run. These behaviors overwhelmed her for an entire month as she lived in fear of the possibility of the police knocking on her door at any minute.
Lastly, as with many other forms of OCD, these repetitive behaviors persevere until the individual is led to utter exhaustion and distress. The thoughts associated with hit and run OCD can waste minutes, or even up to hours, of a person’s day, as they search for reassurance. Many people don’t realize they have a disorder and so they struggle in silence. The battle between logic and the obsessive thoughts persists until the individual is unsure what to believe in anymore.
Houston OCD Program. (2014, March 12). Hit-and-Run OCD. Retrieved from https://houstonocdprogram.org/hit-and-run-ocd/
The OCD Stories. (2017, July 11). It started as a thought of hit and run [Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://theocdstories.com/ocd/it-started-as-a-thought-of-hit-and-run/
Seay, S. J. (2012, February 18). Hit and Run OCD. Retrieved from http://www.steveseay.com/hit-and-run-ocd/
Weg, A. H. (2011, July 16 ). The Many Flavors of OCD. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/living-ocd/201107/the-many-flavors-ocd