Car accidents are the leading cause of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in the general population. PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced a traumatic event, such as a serious accident, natural disaster, assault, and other tragic events. 

In today’s blog, we will discuss the impact of PTSD in depth. We hope this blog helps you understand what you might be going through after a car accident. 

The Effects of PTSD

People with PTSD live with intense, disturbing thoughts related to the traumatic experience that can last years after it has ended. 

Sadly, you may relive the event through nightmares, feel perpetual sadness, anger, or fear, and feel estranged from your loved ones. Additionally, you might avoid situations that remind you of the event. 

Continue reading to learn about PTSD as it relates to car accidents.

Risk Factors of PTSD

While anyone can experience PTSD, there are risk factors that increase your chances of developing symptoms. Those factors include:

  • If you dissociate during or right after the traumatic event occurs
  • If you have a family history of psychopathology
  • If your emotions are high (for example, if you’re afraid, feel helpless, or feel horror, guilt, or shame)
  • If you have a history of prior trauma
  • If you don’t have social support after the traumatic event occurs
  • If there is a perceived life threat to yourself or others
  • If you’ve experienced prior psychological adjustment problems 

If any of these symptoms seem familiar to you or are present in your family history, it’s a good idea to seek medical care, especially if you’re concerned that you may be experiencing PTSD. 

What Are the Symptoms of PTSD?

You could go your entire life without experiencing PTSD, only to have it suddenly attack you when you least expect it. This is true regardless of your family history or past medical issues. It’s essential to pay attention to how you feel in the days following your car crash.
If things feel like they’re returning to normal, and you are comfortable getting behind the wheel, you likely aren’t experiencing PTSD symptoms. But if you notice any of the following symptoms, we recommend seeking medical care.

Symptoms of PTSD fall into the following four categories, and they each vary in severity, from mild to severe.

  1. Intrusive thoughts, such as frequent, involuntary memories that you can’t control. Flashbacks may be so realistic to the point where you believe you are re-experiencing the event. It’s not uncommon to have nightmares that feel so real that you wake up in a panic, not realizing it was a nightmare.
  2. Avoiding reminders of the traumatic event may include people, places, and activities that bring on distressing memories. You might go out of your way to avoid returning to the location where the car accident happened.
    This could mean taking a longer route to usual destinations to avoid the reminder. You might also resist talking about what happened and how you feel about it, as this forces you to face what happened.
  3. Negative thoughts, including distorted beliefs about oneself or others, ongoing fear, guilt, or anger. Furthermore, you could experience less interest in activities you previously enjoyed. For example, dinner with friends could be a weekly occasion in which you are no longer interested.
  4. Reactive symptoms, which may include irritability, outbursts, and acting recklessly; this is due to trauma triggering the body’s fight-or-flight response.
    When in fight-or-flight mode, the body reacts quickly with little to no thought involved. It’s a reaction instead of a response. Additionally, you may find it difficult to concentrate or fall asleep. It’s not uncommon for people with PTSD to toss and turn all night. 

Understanding PTSD After a Car Accident

Fear goes away for most people in a car accident after a few weeks or months. However, those with PTSD experience a negative shift in how they think or act. For example, someone involved in a collision who didn’t have PTSD may feel ready to drive again in a few days.

On the other hand, an individual with PTSD may avoid driving altogether. If you avoid going out, have shaky hands each time your hands are on the steering wheel, or scream whenever a car comes too close to you, you should seek professional treatment. 

Tips to Help Improve Your Well-Being

We recommend you do the following to cope with your feelings after an accident:

  • Get professional help: A psychiatrist can help you manage your PTSD using therapy techniques, which include cognitive processing therapy, eye movement desensitization, and reprocessing therapy.
    Once you seek the appropriate treatment, you can begin to recover. Without that treatment, you might continue to struggle.
  • Reach out to your loved ones: Go over the details of your accident. Express how you felt and acted during the accident and the days after it. 
  • Exercise a few times a week: Do a few light exercises that don’t interfere with your injuries multiple times a week. Follow your doctor’s recommendations for what exercises are safe to do.
  • Be a defensive driver: Once you’re ready to get back on the road, you can lower your risk of future accidents by practicing defensive driving. Remember to drive carefully, wear your seatbelt, and avoid distractions while behind the wheel. 

Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson Is Here for You

Recovering from a car accident is never easy, especially if it results in physical and mental pain. One of the experienced personal injury attorneys at Flickinger Boulton Gooch & Robson can help you receive the compensation you deserve while you focus on healing. 

We have offices in West Jordan and Provo with a team of lawyers with over 150 years of combined experience in personal injury law. We understand the trauma you’ve been through and are here to fight for you.

Schedule your free case evaluation today, or call us at 801.500.4000 for more information.