Angst: Expert advice on your problems

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The Independent Culture
I have a fear of driving that seems to be getting worse rather than better. As a mother and part-time worker I find myself, for three days of the week, having to ferry children to school and drive to the supermarket. I dread having to make new journeys and fake excuses for not doing so. My fear got worse after the birth of our youngest child last year, and it has been increasing since. I have had refresher lessons and am told I drive perfectly well, so I don't know what to do. The fear is affecting my whole life.

Yours is a familiar story and you can be fairly sure the anxiety is not about driving but about something else that is going on in your life. It may well be linked, as you suggest, to your baby's birth. You may find it helpful to know that I have many such cases on my books who have been cured. We have a self-help pack you can send for which discusses the nature of panic and fear, and outlines ways of confronting them. The important thing for you is to get yourself on to the roads as often as possible because this way you will become desensitised. Panic is often caused more by thinking about the thing you fear than actually doing it. It would probably help if you asked a friend to come out with you as support. Behavioural therapy would probably help - but you might like guidance from us first, to see if you can conquer the driving anxiety yourself. You may be a nuisance to people wanting to go fast, but you are not a danger on the road - so ignore any drivers who make you feel nervous and inadequate. It is their problem, not yours.

The Phobics Society, 4 Cheltenham Road, Chorlton cum Hardy, Manchester M21 9QN (061-881 1937).

My partner is 32 years old and I am 28. We have been together for a year and our relationship is warm, intimate and funny. My boyfriend finds it amusing when other males flirt with me, but when women behave that way with him I start feeling jealous and insecure. It has got to the point where I worry about our next night out together.

Have you talked to your partner about some of your fears? It seems you need his reassurance. What do you know about his past relationships? Does he want you to feel insecure as his way of controlling how close you get to him? There is nothing intrinsically wrong with flirtation: the problem here seems to be your fear of the loss of his love. Were you abandoned in any way as a child? For example, were you sent to boarding school? Did you spend long periods in hospital away from loved ones, or have you had a parent leave home? What could this potential loss represent to you? Try to enjoy the fun you do have in the relationship without suffocating what you've got and losing it all by acting out your feelings. Try reading a book called Loss by John Bowlby; if things do not improve, you might seek help from a specialist counsellor.

Fiona Green, psychotherapist (071-580 9223).

I am a traveller and have been for some years. I do not mess up people's property, steal or use drugs; I just like moving around the country and living a free life. I always get permission to stay on people's land, but I have heard that the Criminal Justice Bill will make it possible for me to be ejected by a local council even if I do have permission. Is this true and is there anything I can do about it?

The information you have is correct. If the Bill goes through the Commons the right to travel around the country is to be curtailed. If you are ejected from land, the police have the right to confiscate and destroy vehicles being used as homes and possessions, and they can charge you for the 'service'. Under the new Bill, councils would have no responsibility to provide sites under the Caravan Sites Act of 1968. We have not heard much about this in the press, but the impact of the Bill on travellers would be serious. We are an organisation campaigning against the Bill, but we are also setting up an information service - for travellers, squatters and people who want to protest but are worried about the way that right, too, is being curtailed - in case the Bill goes through.

Freedom Network, 372 Coldharbour Lane, London SW9 8PT (071-738 6721).

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