Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can stem from any traumatic event. Although commonly associated with military service members, the majority of PTSD cases consist of auto accident survivors. Typically, physical injury is the primary concern after an auto accident, with no regard for the psychological injuries that may have occurred. However, both types of injury can significantly impact and/or permanently alter a person’s life; if not appropriately treated. After an auto accident, it is normal to feel guilt, grief, helplessness, shock, etc. However, these emotions may be problematic if they worsen or do not go away over time.
Factors That Contribute to the Development of PTSD
- Having Existing Trauma Prior to the Accident
- Having Psychological Adjustment Problems
- Lacking Social Support
- Pre-Existing Mental Illness
- Feelings of Guilt or Shame
Symptoms of PTSD
- Avoidance Behaviors
After surviving a traumatic event, such as an auto accident, you may find yourself avoiding, situations, objects, or people that remind you of it. Trauma survivors may even avoid talking about the experience or their emotions regarding the experience altogether; in order to avoid reliving the event. However, avoidance behaviors will only strengthen the fear response associated with certain stimuli.
- Intrusive Memories/Thoughts
Those suffering from PTSD may experience intrusive thoughts which can manifest in several ways; most commonly they manifest as flashbacks or detailed dreams of the event. Flashbacks are described as an extremely vivid vision where the person feels they are reliving the event all over again.
- Changes in Emotional Reactions
Those experiencing PTSD symptoms may have difficulty controlling their emotional response. Seemingly small issues may cause an explosive reaction in someone experiencing these symptoms; they may also behave in a self-destructive manner.
- Negative Changes in Thinking and Mood
The driver of the vehicle may experience feelings of shame, guilt, paranoia, and/or self-doubt, especially if any passengers sustained injuries. Passengers may struggle to trust other drivers and may feel fear when on the road.
- Emotional Numbing
PTSD can cause you to feel detached, anti-social, and may cause dissociation.
Many people who experience PTSD have trouble sleeping and focusing during waking hours. They may also experience feelings of paranoia toward other drivers, and hypersensitivity to their surroundings.
Treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder will vary, as each individual is unique. As a result, there are medicinal aids that will help alleviate the symptoms, as well as therapeutic options. Therapy aims to help the individual work through their issues in order to overcome them.
Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT)
Cognitive Behavior Therapy teaches individuals how to calm the mind and relax the body; helps the individual change certain behavior patterns, often relieving PTSD symptoms. Typically, the length of time a person will spend in CBT depends on the circumstances of their accident. For instance, if a fatality occurred, it is likely the individual will be enrolled in therapy for a longer period of time.
This treatment is typically paired with CBT. This type of therapy strives to provide comfort, advice, and encouragement to those dealing with PTSD or PTSD symptoms.
What to do if you are Experiencing These Symptoms
If you are experiencing symptoms of PTSD, and you find that they are not going away, you should seek the advice of a medical professional. Psychological trauma can cause as much damage as a physical injury, and should not be ignored. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms.