The effects of a car collision can last long after the crash happened. Between healing from injuries and paying medical bills, it may feel like the effects of the crash will never resolve.
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is one of the potential long-lasting effects of a car crash. PTSD is a mental health condition that can develop after a person experiences or witnesses a traumatic event.
Not surprisingly, car crashes are one of the leading causes of PTSD.
How Common is PTSD?
According to the National Center for PTSD, about 9% of car accident survivors will develop PTSD. PTSD can be a debilitating condition, affecting a person’s quality of life, relationships, and ability to function.
An estimated 3.6% of U.S. adults had PTSD in the past year; the lifetime prevalence of PTSD was 6.8%, based on data from National Comorbidity Survey Replication (NCS-R).
Symptoms of PTSD
The symptoms of PTSD can vary. “Symptoms may include severe anxiety, where a person may be unusually jumpy or react strongly to particular triggers,” note accident lawyers at Rosenthal Law, “and depression from believing that they can’t continue with life because of their injuries.”
Other symptoms of PTSD can include:
- Intrusive memories: Intrusive memories can include flashbacks of the crash, nightmares, or recurring thoughts about the event.
- Avoidance: A person may avoid activities, places, or people that remind them of the crash.
- Negative thoughts and emotions: Negative emotions can include guilt, shame, anger, or sadness.
- Hyperarousal: A person may feel on edge, easily startled and have difficulty sleeping.
If you or someone you know has been in a crash and is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek help from a mental health professional.
Factors that Can Influence PTSD
It’s not always the severity of the crash that determines whether PTSD develops, but rather a victim’s perception of the event and their ability to cope.
There are a variety of factors that can increase the risk of developing PTSD after a collision. Some include:
- Severity of the accident: A more serious accident, where severe injuries or death occurred, may increase the risk of PTSD.
- Personal injury: If a person was injured in the collision, they may be more likely to develop PTSD.
- Perceived threat: If a person felt their life was in danger during the crash, they may be more likely to develop PTSD.
- Lack of support: A lack of support from family and friends can increase the risk of PTSD.
- Previous trauma: A history of trauma can make a person more susceptible to developing PTSD after a car crash.
Treatment for PTSD
PTSD can be treated with a variety of therapies. Common therapeutic approaches to PTSD include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) and medication.
- CBT is a type of therapy that helps a person change their thoughts and behaviors related to the traumatic event.
- EMDR is a type of therapy that involves guided eye movements while a person recalls the traumatic event.
- Medication can also be used to manage symptoms of PTSD
Additional Ways to Cope After a PTSD Diagnosis from a Car Accident
In addition to seeking professional help, there are some things a person can do to cope with PTSD after a car accident:
- Talk about it with trusted peers: It can be helpful to talk about the crash with a trusted friend or family member. Talking about the experience can help a crash victim process their thoughts and emotions.
- Practice relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can all be helpful in reducing anxiety and promoting relaxation.
- Stay active: Exercise can help reduce symptoms of PTSD by promoting the release of endorphins, which are natural mood boosters.
- Practice self-care: Eating well, getting enough sleep, and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation can all be helpful in managing symptoms of PTSD.
- Seek support: Joining a support group for car accident survivors or seeking support from a mental health professional can be helpful in managing PTSD.
Recovery from PTSD is possible. With the right treatment and support, a person can learn to manage their symptoms and live a fulfilling life.