Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after any trauma. For example, people involved in a serious motor vehicle crash are at an increased risk for PTSD. Car accidents are a common cause of psychological trauma, especially when severe injuries or fatalities result from the collision.
If you live with ongoing negative changes to your mental health after an accident, you have nothing to be embarrassed about, and help is available. Continue reading to learn what you should know about crash-related PTSD.
What does PTSD Look Like in a Crash Survivor?
PTSD affects people in different ways but commonly causes intrusive memories, avoidance, and adverse effects on thinking, mood, and emotional health. Symptoms include:
- Ongoing general anxiety or uneasiness
- Feeling scared of driving or being in a vehicle
- Avoiding thinking or discussing the crash
- Excessive worry
- Unprovoked anger
- Sleeping concerns
- Feeling disconnected
- Intrusive thoughts and memories of the accident
In addition to some or all of these psychological symptoms, PTSD sometimes causes these physical symptoms as well:
- Increased heart rate
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Muscle tension
- Other pain and soreness
You can learn about the symptoms of PTSD in-depth from Mayo Clinic.
If you have had any of these symptoms for a month or more, or they are severe enough that they interrupt your everyday life, you should discuss them with your doctor or mental health professional. Your insurance claim or lawsuit may cover your care for PTSD if your doctor agrees that it resulted from your crash.
What Triggers PTSD?
External stimuli often remind a crash survivor of their accident, worsening their PTSD symptoms. These stimuli could include:
- Visiting the crash scene
- Seeing another accident, ambulance, or another related sight
- Smelling smoke or vehicle fluids
- Seeing first responders or other people involved in the crash
If there are triggers, it may make it more difficult to return to driving or even traveling in a vehicle with someone else. In some cases, people with PTSD may avoid driving on the interstate, accelerating over a certain speed, or undertaking particular actions behind the wheel.
These triggers may also cause:
- Intrusive thoughts about the accident
- Scary memories from the crash
- Nightmares or other sleep disturbances.
Other Crash-Related PTSD Effects
Some people with PTSD report feeling guilty, withdrawn, depressed, or uninterested in their favorite activities, but experiencing a trigger may also:
- Lead to angry outbursts
- Make them “on edge” or easily startled
- Cause extreme tension and anxiety
A physician can diagnose and treat PTSD. You can talk to the doctor treating your car accident injuries about your PTSD symptoms and the next steps to take. In addition, you could seek a mental health professional for more information.
PTSD Is Common in Those With Chronic Pain After a Crash
Crash victims who experience chronic pain may be at increased risk for PTSD related to their accident and injuries. According to Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, one study found that almost 70 percent of 229 motor vehicle collision survivors with PTSD also reported chronic pain due to the crash.
Those who continue to experience physical effects from their accident may also have ongoing psychological concerns. Therefore, you should discuss your pain levels, any limitations, and the mental health effects of your injuries with your treating physician.
Hiring an Attorney Can Help You Recover Compensation
Many car accident victims do not want to discuss their case and go through the insurance claims process. Doing so may trigger their PTSD and cause anxiety. They may even avoid getting medical care or dealing with their PTSD. However, this is a mistake.
Working with a car accident attorney can allow car crash victims to pursue compensation while focusing on healing from their physical and mental injuries. Their lawyer would handle developing and filing their claim, so they did not have to relive the accident and experience triggers throughout this process. Having a legal team on their side can reduce stress and give them more time to get the medical care and support they need.
There is only a limited time to sue following a crash. Generally, the statute of limitations is two years in a personal injury case under Ohio Revised Code Section 2305.10. However, exceptions do exist that may shorten or lengthen that deadline.
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