If you have ever been in a car accident, you are well aware that the experience can be traumatic. There’s a lack of control and a fear of the unknown that can leave those involved in a panic. Even days after the accident, you may find it difficult to drive without being reminded of your tragic experience. For most people, any negative feelings about getting back on the road will fade away over time. But for others, the fear of another impending accident may consume them.
For some who are unable to move on from the trauma of an accident, the worry may interfere will their day-to-day functioning. If you are having trouble dealing with the emotional distress of an accident, you may be experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Although PTSD is typically associated with military trauma, PTSD stemming from a car accident can have an equally persistent and disabling effect. Motor vehicle accidents, especially those involving life-threatening injuries commonly lead to PTSD. The effects of PTSD after an accident are just as real as any physical injury or any other mental health issues. If you think you may have PTSD following a motor vehicle accident, speak with an experienced car accident lawyer.
What Is PTSD?
As mentioned, PTSD is usually associated with military combat; however, the disorder may develop in individuals who undergo any type of trauma. PTSD is a medically recognized mental health condition that frequently impacts individuals who have suffered a traumatic experience. Any type of car accident can serve as a traumatic experience for some people.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, approximately 1 in 11 people will be diagnosed with PTSD during their lifetime. People with post-traumatic stress disorder often have difficulty coping with the stress related to a traumatic event. Oftentimes, they find themselves replaying the event or obsessively thinking about the trauma. It is unlikely that individuals experiencing PTSD will be able to recover on their own.
Typically, treatment for PTSD requires psychological therapy and rehabilitation. Symptoms of PTSD may not show up immediately. In fact, a trigger or other event may induce accident PTSD months after the initial trauma. The delay in symptoms and unanticipated triggers can make it difficult to recognize the symptoms as PTSD. If you or a loved one has been in a serious accident, watch for symptoms that may indicate PTSD.
Common PTSD Symptoms
Each individual’s brain uniquely reacts to trauma in a variety of ways. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association, the diagnosis of PTSD generally occurs after someone experiences symptoms for one month following a trauma. Common symptoms of PTSD include:
Obsessive or Recurring Thoughts
One of the most common symptoms of PTSD is the inability to move past the trauma. When a car accident leads to PTSD, the victim may have recurring thoughts about the accident. Recurring thoughts may happen spontaneously or be prompted by certain triggers that remind individuals of their accident experience.
The inability to escape traumatic thoughts can interfere with a person’s ability to participate in everyday events. Persons who suffer from PTSD may avoid places or events that remind them of the accident. PTSD can disrupt victims’ sleep schedules, which can make it difficult to function as they normally would. Victims of PTSD commonly experience insomnia, sleep disturbances, and nightmares.
People affected by PTSD often experience changes in their mood. Frequently, changes in an individual’s mood will alert their loved ones that something isn’t right. However, no two individuals will manifest the same symptoms or react to those symptoms in the same way. For some people, PTSD may cause a depressed mood and avoidance behaviors. For others, they may display irritability or aggression. People with PTSD may also have heightened anxiety or be easily startled. In addition, guilt is another common symptom.
When the brain experiences extreme stress, it may disrupt normal functioning. Cognitive changes may be difficult to recognize. If you are experiencing PTSD, you may find it challenging to remember the event of the accident or have difficulty recalling details, generally. PTSD can also make it difficult to concentrate or cause self-destructive behavior.
PTSD doesn’t just go away on its own. Treatment can greatly reduce the symptoms of PTSD. Studies have found success with several different types of treatment. Treatment options may include:
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Exposure therapy
- Group therapy
- Alternative treatments, including yoga or meditation
PTSD and Co-occurring Injuries
PTSD often coexists with one or more mental health conditions. Frequently, underlying mental health conditions mask the symptoms of PTSD. A qualified mental health professional can determine whether someone’s pain and suffering and determine if it’s more than one condition. Common co-existing conditions include:
- Substance Abuse: Substance abuse is particularly common in individuals suffering from PTSD. The American Addiction Centers reports between 50 percent and 66 percent of people with PTSD will also simultaneously struggle with a substance abuse issue. Drugs or alcohol are often used to numb or temporarily alleviate the symptoms of PTSD. While drugs and alcohol may provide temporary relief, they can worsen symptoms and increase the risks of developing additional compulsive behaviors.
- Anxiety: Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety, and manageable levels of anxiety are normal. When anxiety reaches a level that causes interference with your everyday life, it is not normal. A person may experience generalized anxiety, or anxiety related to specific issues, such as social anxiety or other phobias.
- Depression: A recent study found that approximately 50 percent of people with PTSD will also be diagnosed with major depressive disorder. While the symptoms of both disorders are similar, not all people who have PTSD will suffer from depression. Symptoms of depression include sadness, loss of interest, difficulty concentrating, and suicidal thoughts.
- Sleep issues: The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) reports that trauma and sleep problems often go hand-in-hand. Someone who has PTSD may have difficulty sleeping or suffer from nightmares. Additionally, the NSF suggests that the darkness and stillness of the night may increase anxiety which can interfere with sleep.
Get the Help You Deserve
Psychological issues are just as serious as physical injuries. But often, they don’t get the attention they deserve. If you have been in a traumatic car accident, your injuries matter. While money won’t erase the trauma, it can help you get the treatment you need to begin to heal. Don’t ignore your symptoms and don’t let others convince you your injuries are not real. An experienced personal injury attorney can help connect you to the resources you need. If you have questions or need help after an accident, contact an experienced car accident attorney.
Brauns Law, P.C.
3175 Satellite Boulevard, Bldg 600
Duluth, GA 30096