It’s just another ordinary day, you’re driving somewhere and thinking about nothing of any importance. Then out of the corner of your eye, you see a vehicle hurtling towards you. Your senses scream at you to do something, while at the same time you realise there’s no time to react…
You wake up in a hospital bed, with several tubes stuck into different parts of your body.
It’s a few months since the accident, your car has been replaced and your body has been mended, but something just doesn’t seem quite right.
You avoid driving to the part of town where the accident occurred. You have lost interest in visiting a couple of friends because it means driving across town.
You’re having trouble sleeping so you’ve started having a few drinks each night before bed, but that isn’t helping.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is commonly seen in war veterans, emergency workers, survivors of disasters like floods, tornados, earthquakes, or victims of sexual assault or violence.
A simple fender bender type of car accident doesn’t usually result in serious injuries, but some car accidents are extremely traumatic.
Therefore, it should not be unexpected that 22% of car accident victims suffer from PTSD.
In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, your focus is on repairs to your vehicle, the rearrangements you might have to make to get to work and other places without a car. Plus of course, you may have injuries you are physically trying to recover from.
Your mental health and emotional wellbeing are unlikely to be your number one priority after a car accident. You may not even be aware that you’re having any mental health issues until much of the other details around the car accident have been fully dealt with.
PTSD from a car accident is not just about having a few emotional ups and downs. It requires thorough treatment and a recovery plan. Most injuries will heal over time, but the psychological trauma of a car accident can take even longer to recover from. That’s why, it’s important to seek the help of an experienced personal injury attorney, you may be entitled to compensation which can help pay for medical bills.
When someone suffers PTSD, they often struggle to understand these new emotions that they may never have experienced previously. Because of this they may be fearful of talking to others about feelings of helplessness and may not feel able to tell their partner or closest friends, or even a doctor.
If you know of someone who has been in a serious car accident, you should pay close attention to how they recover in the weeks afterwards, and look out for symptoms of PTSD.
These symptoms include all or some of the following:
- Dissociation. Daydreaming, zoning out, or eyes glazing over, acting differently, using a different tone of voice or different gestures, or suddenly switching between emotions or reactions when the car accident is mentioned
- Avoidant behaviour. Not driving on a highway or at night, or refusing to even get in a car at all, avoiding people who were in the car with you, avoiding the location where the accident happened, resisting talking about the incident
- Detachment and alienation. Avoiding anyone or anything that reminds them of the trauma they experienced.
- Hypervigilance and hypersensitivity. Intense negative reactions to ordinary sights, sounds, or touch, and fits of anger over little things
- Intrusive thoughts. Flashbacks or recurring nightmares of the accident.
Finally, PTSD doesn’t always occur alone. It can pop up along with other conditions such as:
- Depression and anxiety
- Mood swings and instability
- Alcohol abuse
- Drug abuse
- Agoraphobia – a fear of being in situations where escape might be difficult or where is unavailable if things go wrong
- Vehophobia – fear of driving
- Memory problems and an inability to focus
Car accidents can have severe psychological consequences for drivers and occupants alike, but insurance companies tend to ignore the issues that cannot be seen. They will often try their hardest to deny how you say you are feeling. They’ll try to downplay the seriousness of PTSD and that it doesn’t deserve any compensation.
PTSD symptoms like depression, anxiety, and other symptoms can cause you to miss work, withdraw from daily life, and damage your ability to function. It’s unfair to shoulder financial burdens on top of the emotional distress you’re already suffering.
A car accident attorney can handle the details around compensation and go into battle with the insurance company. This leaves you to focus on getting better and learning to cope with or eliminate your PTSD symptoms.
Adam Mulligan did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.
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