Home Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy The Psychological Aftermath of Car Accidents: Coping Strategies and Support Systems

The Psychological Aftermath of Car Accidents: Coping Strategies and Support Systems

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Being involved in a car accident, no matter what your injuries entailed, can have a major impact on your life. A car accident causes trauma, not just to your body physically but also to your mind. The emotional and mental impact of an accident is very real, but fortunately, there are some things that can help you process and cope as you deal with the aftermath. 

Consider professional support

There are so many emotions associated with being involved in a car accident in any way, and rest assured that everything you might be feeling is likely very normal. You may experience a range of emotions or feel different emotions at different times. A professional counsellor or therapist can be a great resource to help you work through your emotions, and give you actionable tips, tools, and steps to work through these things to keep your mental health strong. 

For some people, the mental aftermath of a car accident can cause post-traumatic stress disorder and include challenging symptoms such as intrusive thoughts, difficulty sleeping, disconnection, severe anxiety, and more. It’s important for anyone experiencing these types of symptoms to consider seeking professional support. 

Lean on safe family and friends

Most of the time, your family and friends are there to love you, help you, and support you through the challenges life brings. Sometimes this isn’t the case, and if you have toxic or unsafe friends or family members, they won’t be the best people to turn to for support. However, if you have friends and family members that you feel safe sharing your emotions and feelings with, consider leaning on them as you cope and process. Safe people will be able to listen without criticism or judgment, empathise with you, validate and affirm your feelings, provide wise advice (if you want it), and have your best interests at heart. If you are okay with being vulnerable and have trustworthy people in your life, this difficult time is one where they can provide you with support that can really help. 

Try not to judge your feelings and allow yourself to feel what you feel 

Many times, we ignore, judge, or stuff our own feelings, and that can lead to multiple emotional and physical symptoms. After a car accident, there may be a range of different emotions that people feel, including anger, grief, sorrow, worry, fear, anxiety, stress, and many more. Allowing yourself to feel, accept, and work through the emotions can help you come out stronger on the other side. You may work through these by talking to professionals, friends and family, writing or journaling about it, or some other practice.  

Keep in mind that the body actually remembers trauma

Today, trauma-informed specialists have more knowledge than ever before and have been able to recognise scientifically that the body not only remembers physical trauma, but emotional trauma as well. This means that the emotions you may feel during the aftermath of a car accident may be “stored” in your body. Triggers associated with different aspects of the accident, or things that remind you of what can happen, can result in a physical as well as emotional response. Be gentle with yourself as you are working on coping and processing. 

Good self-care is critical in the aftermath of a car accident

Although you may be going through a lot after the accident, it’s important to prioritise self-care. This means not going to follow-up visits, physical therapy, taking medication, or other necessary medical care related to the incident, but also ensuring you are taking care of your health by eating healthy meals, drinking plenty of water, and getting enough rest. You’ll also want to take time for things that promote relationships, reduce stress, and give you mental peace. Try doing things that you enjoy, even if they are simple things like watching favourite programmes, listening to favourite songs, or reading a new book you’ve been wanting to read. Take time for yourself to reflect and rest. Consider mindfulness activities or things that work to reduce stress. All of these seemingly small things can go a long way in helping you cope and process with the physical and emotional impacts of the accident.   

Getting high-quality legal help can give you peace of mind 

Dealing with a car accident can involve so many factors, but there are also professional legal teams available to help. A trustworthy firm that specialises in aspects such as personal injury and car accidents, like Mitch Grissim & Associates, can help you get the legal advice you need. This will ultimately help you get peace of mind as you work towards a fair resolution for the incident.   

Consider a defensive driving course

One of the common aspects associated with being involved in a car accident is fear of getting back into a vehicle or driving again. A defensive driving course can give you confidence and may help you feel more safe and resilient when getting back on the road. Consider taking a defensive driving course online or in-person when you feel ready.  

Get back to being you after an accident 

There are many different ways you can cope and process after a car accident. While the mental impact is very real, by being proactive, seeking support, and getting the medical and legal help you need, you can come out of it as a stronger person. With the right resources, you can get back to being you and thrive again.

Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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