October 30, 2020
Living With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder After a Car Accident
Despite the Canadian government’s effort to improve road safety to minimize the incidents of motor and pedestrian accidents, the number of fatalities and injuries continued to increase. From 2017 to 2018, the number of motor vehicle fatalities increased from 1,856 to 1,922, while the number of serious injuries went down from 10,107 to 9,494.
A car crash accident can affect one’s life in many devastating ways, including serious injuries and expensive medical treatment and rehabilitation. The costs for treatment and potential income loss are not the only burdens. The injuries themselves can affect a victim’s life following a serious car accident. Additionally, serious injuries do not only impact the physical, sufferers may also experience psychological trauma at the time of the incident or in the days following it. These feelings often include:
In some cases, patients cannot stop thinking about the accident and keep it replaying the incident in their minds. Over time, these feelings eventually become too overwhelming that they affect the quality of life. While others recover quickly from their injuries without symptoms of emotional shock, recovering from trauma and anxiety may seem difficult for car accident victims, even after the injuries have healed.
Is It Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?
Overwhelming feelings can result after a car crash, but they diminish over time. In some cases, those feelings stay and become stronger, changing the way victims think or act. If these feelings affect an individual’s everyday life, it could be a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But what does a PTSD attack look like? Here are some of its common symptoms:
- Consistent, general feeling of uneasiness
- Fear of undergoing medical tests or surgical procedures
- Excessive anger, worry, and irritability
- Difficulty sleeping or having nightmares
- Recurring memories of the accident
The association between motor-vehicular collisions and PTSD depends on the victim’s response to the incident, type of crash, as well as the financial, social, and legal issues that occur. The way people process the accident usually plays a role in how they deal with the emotional trauma symptoms. This means how they deal with the trauma depends on how they form an autobiographical memory of the event. The risk of PTSD increases if the memory of the crash is disorganized or fragmented.
How PTSD Affects Emotional and Mental Health
Motor vehicle crashes are considered as among the top causes of death and injuries not only in Canada but in different parts of the world, as well. Many victims focus on treating physical injuries and pay less attention to the emotional and mental health effects of the accident. It is important to keep in mind that car crash survivors are not only physically traumatized but are also emotionally and mentally injured. Unlike physical injuries, emotional and psychological trauma can be hard to identify as victims tend to behave normally at first. If the memory of the accident starts to replay over and over in their mind, if they have recurring nightmares about it, or if they experience restless nights, it’s important to contact a therapist immediately for an evaluation.
Fortunately, not all survivors of a car crash incident are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder. A survey reported that only about 1 in 10 victims described the collision as “traumatic” are at risk of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). While some successfully recover after a few months, others report chronic PTSD symptoms that affect their psychological and physical recovery.
- Avoidance Behaviour – A road traffic accident victim may develop an avoidance behaviour since they perceive that the incident could have endangered their life. It can be as simple as refusing to drive, take the highways, or not wanting to ride in the car.
- Suppression of Thoughts – The suppression of emotions and thoughts can have long-term consequences. Although many would think that it is a healthy way to move on and forget the unfortunate event, it may cause affected individuals to lose their emotions altogether or change their outlook in life.
- Hyper-Nervousness – If a person develops PTSD, they react nervously to situations that would not normally bother them. They may experience increased heart rate, respiration, and sweating when confronted with certain events, causing them to panic.
- Ruminations About the Trauma – When they ruminate about things, those with PTSD focus on the negative. It affects thinking patterns as well as the ability to regulate mood. This can turn into a cycle that holds affected individuals from moving on. Eventually, rumination can cause depression in people with a traumatic injury.
- Anxiety – When a person becomes traumatized after a car accident, it causes them to become extremely anxious. They often experience terrible anxiety by simply hearing a horn honk, screeching brakes, or anything that could remind them of the event. This fear response causes their mental system to always be alert.
- Dissociation – Dissociation causes those with PTSD to interpret certain situations as a threat, causing their feelings to freeze or emotions to shut down. It makes them feel like they’ve lost their ability to fight or flee in the face of a threat.
- Re-Experiencing – People struggling with PTSD may find themselves re-experiencing the devastating car crash incident in different ways, including flashbacks, visual or auditory memories, and nightmares. This often occurs at night, making it hard for them to sleep peacefully.
- Withdrawal – Numbing their emotions could cause affected individuals to withdraw from others. Emotional withdrawal can have a negative impact on their everyday activities, including family gatherings, and interfere with their social and professional commitments.
Dealing With Accident-Related PTSD
Accident-related PTSD can have devastating effects on a patient’s life, but there are several things that can be done to help relieve its symptoms. Here are some simple tips on how to get over trauma:
- In addition to talking with family and friends, patients should speak with their healthcare provider or therapist. Talking about their feelings will allow them to develop a more effective treatment plan.
- Sufferers must work to resume their daily activities. It’s important for them not to let depression and anxiety control their life. Staying active and exercising regularly can make a huge difference. However, they must speak with their doctor before taking part in different activities.
- Patients must learn how to be defensive drivers. Driving or riding in vehicles might be nerve-racking after the accident, but practicing defensive driving can help prevent the risk of future road traffic accidents. They must drive wisely and carefully, always wearing their seatbelt and never texting or calling while driving.
Every motor vehicle accident victim deserves a full recovery from physical, emotional, and mental injuries. At Michelle Linka Law, our trusted personal injury lawyers in Richmond Hill can help you or your loved one gather and present all essential evidence to prove your case and receive the most favourable outcome possible. Our car accident lawyers in Richmond Hill, Durham, Whitby, and Toronto will give you a no-obligation one-on-one consultation. Give us a call today at (416) 477-7288.