Shattering glass, the squeal of tires straining to stop, screeching metal, the slamming of two vehicles like a bomb going off, combine with the sudden fear that this may be the last moments of your life. Suddenly, years of safety and medical technology combine and you’re safe. You survive the crash, but you’ll never look at a vehicle without pangs of that incident. This isn’t an uncommon or hyperbolic examination of the feelings people experience after an accident. When we live through a traumatic event, there’s a likelihood that we may develop Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD is a mental disorder that occurs where a victim has suffered or witnessed a traumatic, stressful or fear inducing event. PTSD is historically known as “shell-shock” and may occur after any disturbing incident. F.H. Norris in an article called, “Epidemiology of Trauma: Frequency and impact of Different Potentially Traumatic Events on Different Demographic Groups” claims that motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of PTSD since the Vietnam war (J Consult Clin Psychol. 1992;60:409–18.) Since people experience traumatic events differently, symptoms can come to the surface in a various ways. However, there are four main types of symptoms that indicate a person is affected by PTSD: Numbing, Intrusion, Arousal and Avoidance. Numbing is a symptom where the victim emotionally distances themselves from the world around them. This can result in feelings of depression, hopelessness or an inability to feel emotions. Intrusion occurs where the victim experience a recurrent memory of the event. A person may demonstrate Avoidance of people, places or other stimuli associated with the trauma. This may lead to a development of social phobias, panic or anxiety. A person may also experience Arousal, which is a constant alertness, causing hyper-vigilance, sleep disturbance, paranoia and an inability to focus. Severe PTSD may combine symptoms including hallucinations, paranoid thoughts, and thoughts of hurting oneself or others. One issue associated with diagnosing PTSD is the time to manifestation. For some people PTSD can manifest within hours of the event, but other may not experience symptoms for days, weeks, or even years later. Even where a person developssymptoms within a period immediately following an accident, new symptoms can present later on. One of the most significant findings is that those who already suffer from depression or anxiety disorders are more prone to PTSD. PTSD also requires individualized treatment. Factors such as a person’s symptoms and their physician create a wide variety of options for those seeking help. Some people are able to treat the disorder with medication, others with therapy and other with
confrontation of the behaviors/situations they avoid. Unfortunately, such treatment can take as little as six to twelve weeks, but may take longer. Physicians recommend that persons experiencing PTSD symptoms, following an accident, should seek a consultation and get whatever help they need. Furthermore, if an accident arises, affected persons must seek an experienced attorney who will fight for proper compensation for all costs associated with treatment. In some cases, it may not be in one’s best interest to settle immediately, as PTSD symptoms may take a lng time to fully manifest after an accident. In those late manifestation cases, understanding the necessary treatment can take time. In the end PTSD is not a problem with an easy solution. LIke many mental disorders, it is not readily apparent like a cut or scrape. However, the injuries are equally serious and must be treated by trained professionals. Matthew A. Dolman, Esq., is a Florida brain injury attorney who limits his practice to serious injury claims only.