Estimates state that globally, as many as 50 million people become injured or disabled in traffic accidents every year.
2.3 people in the United States become injured or disabled as a result of road incidents.
But traffic incidents don’t only cause disability and injury but are also a leading cause of death. In fact, 37,000 people in the United States die every year due to car accidents.
Physical injury isn’t the only result of road incidents. Developing PTSD from car accident is actually very common.
PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, symptoms often present themselves after someone has felt a threat to their life. A bad car accident can do that to an individual.
As a result, many physicians suggest that any patient who has been in a serious accident receive a psychological evaluation after the incident.
Besides physical healing, many survivors of accidents will have to face years of psychological counseling and work to repair mental harm.
Who Is Most Likely to Develop PTSD After a Car Accident?
Some individuals may experience life-threatening injuries after a road incident and show no signs of PTSD. Others may walk away from a more minor incident exhibiting symptoms of severe trauma.
To find out if individuals have PTSD, many doctors look at the patient’s history.
Those who have a history of anxiety or depression are the most likely to develop PTSD following a road incident. This is because their brain is already susceptible to anxiety, and PTSD often makes it worse.
Survivors of car accidents who have a history of other mental health issues are also more likely to develop it. This is because, for many, they are already predisposed to PTSD, but don’t go on to develop it until there is an inciting factor. The car accident could be the trigger that sets them off.
People who have jobs that expose them to trauma are also more likely to have PTSD following an accident.
Such jobs that expose people to trauma include nurses, doctors, EMTs and people who deal with violence or illnesses daily. The car accident may exacerbate existing symptoms or compound on the trauma that they are already exposed to in the workplace.
Those who don’t have a strong family support system or a network of friends may also develop PTSD following a car accident. This is because they may have to process the trauma all by themselves, which can, again, exacerbate symptoms.
What Type of Car Crashes Cause PTSD?
If the individual in question already had PTSD from another event or suffered from anxiety, almost any kind of car crash can make their issues worse.
While any type of accident can cause PTSD, there are some that are more likely to traumatize those involved than others. These include accidents in which the individual felt as though they were in real danger of losing his or her life or if someone perished in the accident.
PTSD is also more likely if the individual suffered severe physical injuries. This is also true if the injury placed the individual in the hospital or the injuries are life-changing.
If the individual saw a loved one die in the accident, this can cause immense psychological trauma. This is particularly true if the accident was very gory or if the individual saw loved ones in an altered or bloody state before death.
Even if a loved one did not die, but was badly injured, this can also cause trauma to others who were in the accident. Witnessing particularly violent scenes, even if they did not end in death can be mentally scarring.
This can also compound the fear that something might happen to the person who was injured in the accident with them.
If someone not related or known to the individual passed away from the accident, this can still cause symptoms of PTSD. Again, this is particularly true if the other party perished in a violent way as a result of the accident.
Thinking that you were at fault for an accident can cause psychological trauma. For example, if the individual was driving a car, lost control and killed a pedestrian or someone on a motorbike this can cause severe psychological scarring.
What Are the Main Symptoms of PTSD From Car Accident?
Symptoms will vary from individual to individual, but most have one common theme: debilitating anxiety.
Individuals may begin to suffer panic attacks. The trigger may be memories of the car accident or riding in a car. For some, the panic attacks occur, and then start to cycle.
This happens if the person has a panic attack relating to the car accident, but then becomes so afraid of having another panic attack that they then have a panic attack.
Other symptoms include the refusal to get into a car, or extreme fear surrounding riding in a vehicle. The individual may also feel anxious around the site of the car accident, and if it was local, may work to avoid where it occurred.
The individual may also develop a sense of foreboding, as though something terrible is about to happen. They may also worry that something terrible is going to happen to someone else or feel unsafe in areas they once regarded as such.
If another person was injured or killed in the car accident, they may begin to worry that they might never see that person again or that the person will once again become injured.
Less Obvious Symptoms of PTSD
It may seem like PTSD is a straightforward diagnosis. If the symptoms occur following a car accident, many people may assume this means that the person’s fears will focus on cars and car accidents.
This isn’t always the case, and signs and symptoms can be less obvious.
Some people with PTSD can experience outbursts of anger or mood swings.
They may also become withdrawn or have difficulty interacting with people after the accident. They may also choose to stop speaking to others who were also in the accident, even if they are family members or good friends.
The individual may also have trouble remembering parts of the accident, such as what lead up to it or what happened directly after. This can be a way the brain protects itself from trauma and unwanted thoughts.
There also may be trouble re-integrating into life after the accident. This can mean they are not showing up at work or school, or don’t want to talk to people in social situations.
The individual may also have trouble breathing, sweat a lot, feel irritable or angry and may have a faster heart rate than normal. While some of the described symptoms seem scary, they are common for people with PTSD.
Are There Other Factors After an Accident That Can Make PTSD Worse?
We already discussed factors that can make someone susceptible to PTSD even before an accident occurs. But what about those that can make someone prone to post-traumatic stress disorder after the accident has occurred?
Some people may experience trauma and psychological issues for a very short time after the accident and then return to life as normal.
Other people will have a very hard time doing so, which can relate to several things.
Those who take a long time to recover from physical injuries are more likely to have PTSD symptoms than those who do not. This also means that those who have more severe injuries are more often prone to post-traumatic stress disorder.
For example, if someone loses their leg in an automobile accident, this can cause a fair amount of post-traumatic stress.
Compared to someone who sprained their wrist in an accident, the injury can leave a fair amount of psychological scarring.
As mentioned above, if the individual doesn’t have a strong support system, this can also affect how fast he or she not only gets back to normal life but if they also suffer from PTSD.
What Can I Do If I Develop PTSD After an Accident?
See a counselor if you think you might have PTSD from a car accident. They can help provide you with some of the tools you need in order for you to begin healing from the event. If you don’t know of a counselor to get in touch with, speak to your physician.
You can also contact a lawyer to see if you are entitled to any compensation from the accident, and the psychological damage you have suffered.
So, Can You Get Post Traumatic Stress Disorder From a Car Accident?
The resounding answer to this question is yes, you can develop PTSD from a car accident. This can affect all aspects of your daily life and make it difficult to resume normal activities.
If you or a loved one have experienced PTSD from a car crash, check out our website for more information on your rights and the possible compensation available for your injuries.